How to rent an apartment or a house?

What is rent?

You rent an apartment or a house when you pay money every month to the owner to live there. The money you pay is called "rent" or "rent."

What is a lease?

A lease or rental agreement is a contract that you sign to rent an apartment or a house. A rental agreement says:
  • How much will you pay for rent and when will you pay it?
  • How long will you rent the apartment or the house.
  • What happens if you do not pay by the set date?
  • The rules that you must comply with.
  • Other costs that you have to pay.
The contract will indicate if the costs of public services are included in your rent. If services such as heating and water are included, the owner of the property will pay those bills. If the services are not included in your rent, you must pay those bills. Public services can be expensive.

How long is a rental agreement?

The rental agreements can last one year or more. If you do not plan to stay in the apartment or house for a year, look for a short-term or monthly rental. 

If you move before the end date of your rental agreement, you are considered to have broken the contract. You may have to pay a sum of extra money. Read your rental agreement to see how much money you will have to pay if you move before the end of the rental agreement period.

What is a security deposit?

A security deposit is a sum of extra money that you pay only once when you rent an apartment or a house. The security deposit is not part of the rent you pay every month. The security deposit could be equal to the amount of a month's rent.

The owner of the apartment or the house is called the owner. The owner keeps his security deposit until you vacate the property. Most of the time, when you vacate the property, you recover your deposit. But you may not recover your security deposit if you:
  • It causes some damage in the apartment or house.
  • He leaves before the lease ends.
In most states there are laws that establish the amount of money an owner can charge as a security deposit. In most states there are also laws that establish in which cases the owner can keep his security deposit. For example, if you move before the end of the contract, you could recover your deposit if the owner finds the person who replaces it.

What do I need to rent an apartment or a house?

When you submit an application to rent an apartment or a house, you will need:
  • Information about your employer and your income.
  • An identification, for example a driver's license, to make a credit or background check.
  • Information about the places where he lived before.
  • You may also need money to pay:
  • Your first month of rent.
  • A security deposit.
  • An extra rent amount if you have a bad credit history.
  • Deposits for electricity, heating, water or other public services.
  • A credit or background check.

Do I need to have a good credit history to rent an apartment?

Usually, the owners check your credit to see if you pay your bills by date. If your credit history is not good, or if you do not pay your bills by date, some homeowners may not rent your home or may ask you to pay more rent in advance.

What does the owner have to do?

The owners must comply with certain laws. For example, almost in most states or cities there is a law that states that a homeowner for rent must provide hot water and make certain repairs. The agencies and organizations in your state (only available in English) can tell you which laws are in effect at your place of residence.

What happens if I can not pay rent for an apartment or house?

Some apartment owners offer lower rents for people who do not have a lot of money. To apply to access a subsidized apartment, contact the administration office of an apartment building. You can search for subsidized apartments on the website of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development at

There are vouchers for public housing and housing options, also called Section 8 vouchers available for:
  • Families without much money.
  • Elderly people.
  • People with disabilities.
  • There may be a long waiting list for these programs. 

What do I have to do if a landlord wants me to transfer my security deposit?

Do not transfer the money. There are some dishonest people who lie saying that they own a home and pretend to have apartments or houses to rent. These dishonest people try to trick others into transferring money. Making a transfer or money transfer is the same as sending cash. After sending the money, you can no longer recover it.

Should I "rent with option to buy"?

Rent with option to buy means that the owner of your home accepts that you can buy the house or apartment later. The owner agrees the price. And then you pay him a sum of extra money every month.

But after paying a lot of money, you may find that you do not have a good enough credit to buy the house. Dishonest owners may also have difficulties in making it too difficult to buy the house. You could lose all the money you have paid. Rent with purchase option is not a good idea.

Instead of renting with an option to buy, consider saving your extra money. And use your savings to buy a house later. For more information on how to save money, read how to make a budget .

A lease or rental agreement is a contract that you sign to rent an apartment or a house. When you sign a rental agreement, you are giving your word that you will comply with the rules set forth in the contract.

The owner of the apartment or house must also follow the rules set forth in the contract and must comply with the laws. If you believe that your landlord is breaking the law or is breaking your contract, there are people who can help you.

What should I do before renting an apartment or a house?

Read the rental agreement before signing it. When you sign a rental agreement, you agree to do what it says. You may not understand everything the rental agreement says. Find a trusted person to help you read the rental agreement.

The owner could make promises. Verify that they are written in the rental agreement. After signing the rental agreement, get a copy and keep it.

What happens if a landlord does not want to rent me a home because of my credit check or background?

If you have a bad credit history, you will have to show the landlord that you can pay the rent. The owner could ask you:
  • Show you the payment receipts or the summaries of your bank account.
  • That you pay a higher security deposit.
  • Pay the first and last month's rent before moving.
  • Landlords must tell you if they will not rent a property because of your credit history information or background report. Owners should also tell you if they will charge you more money due to the information in your report. This is called an adverse action notice.

In the adverse action notice you must be informed how to contact the organization that created the credit report or the background report. If you request a copy of your credit report within 60 days, the agency must give it to you free of charge. You have the right to question the information you think is wrong and try to correct it.