Apartment Leases: The Signing Process


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For many people, an apartment lease is the first legal agreement they are signing in their life. How exactly do you go about signing for an apartment and make sure you are protected? While the process may seem daunting, it is pretty straightforward as long as you arm yourself with the right knowledge and resources.

Apartment Lease 2

uCribs’ multipart series on apartment leases will guide you through everything you need to know about an apartment lease. Here, you will learn what happens before, during and after you sign a lease to make the process slightly less stressful.

1. The Apartment Hunt

Finding a suitable apartment is the first step. It is not as simple as making a budget; there are many factors to consider beside cost. Living in an apartment gives you flexibility, but you must decide what is important to you. Are you living with a roommate? Will you share a room? Do you want to live near the sports complex? The Greek life? Restaurants? Nightlife?

You can use Google, Craigslist, and Facebook to aid your search, although this will be time consuming. uCribs allows you to sift through many listings and compare cost, location, floor plans, etc. simultaneously. You can also contact your school’s housing office and ask for off-campus resources. Once you have your top five apartments, you are ready for the next step.

2. The Roommate Search (optional)

If you need to find a roommate(s), you can post an ad of Facebook and Craigslist. Be sure to start looking months in advance. Again, your school’s housing office may be able to help you.

Once you have your roommate(s), make sure they will also sign the lease. If they do not, you will be liable for the entire rent if they decide not to pay.

3. The Showing

Go through your shortlist of apartments and schedule a personal tour of each one. You can schedule a tour through the apartment’s leasing office. This step is absolutely essential. Make sure you see the actual unit you will be living in and not a model unit. This is your time to ask questions. Our apartment showing checklist is a handy guide for the kinds of questions to ask. Bring a notepad so you do not forget any details.

Compare the positives of negatives of each apartment. Do not decide on a place on the same day, no matter how much you love it. This will be a long commitment, so be sure to sleep on it. Once you pick an apartment, it is time to move on to the next phase.

4. The Application

Once you are sure you have picked the right apartment, you will need to fill out a rental application at the leasing office. The manager will give you the application along with other necessary paperwork. You and your roommate(s) must give a lot of personal information, so be sure to bring:

  • Personal Identification
  • Social Security Number
  • Income Verification. Depending on how you are paying, you will need to bring your past three pay stubs, that of your parents, your student loan note, or a bank statement.

The leasing agency may run a criminal background check and credit history on everyone who will be living in the apartment. Be prepared to pay a rental application fee.

One you have submitted the application; it is time to wait. The vetting process may take a few hours to a few days. Once you have been approved, you are ready to sign the lease.

5. The Lease Signing

“You’ve been approved!” Now it is time to get to the leasing office. The leasing agent will go over the lease with you. Be sure to read through the entire document. Do not let the agent rush you! It is your right to read the fine print and take as much time as you like. The lease will have many pages with a lot of information and each page will require your signature so it is proven that you have read each page. Before you sign, be sure to read the rest of our apartment lease guides to understand what to look for (and be aware of) in the document.

Once you are aware of everything in the lease, it is time to sign the dotted line. After you sign, you will be given a copy of the lease for your records.

6. Pay Your Deposit and First Month’s Rent

Typically, a landlord will require your security deposit and first month’s rent up front, although this could vary greatly. Once the lease has been signed and these have been paid, it is time to move in!

The process from start to finish of signing your first, or even your fifth, apartment lease can be very stressful. Being armed with the knowledge beforehand can make the process smooth and straightforward.

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Miranda is a senior at the University of Virginia studying Biochemistry and  Economics double major with a minor in Technological Entrepreneurship. At UVA, Miranda has lived both on-campus and off-campus. In her spare time, she coaches soccer and composes music. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and MindSumo.

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