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Renting an Apartment

Apartment rentals are usually the first step in the process of joining an American community. When you rent an apartment you will be the “tenant” and the person or company you rent from will be the “landlord”. State and local law will regulate the relationship between you and the landlord. There might even be a special court in your area just for landlord-tenant disputes. You will sign a legal document called a “lease,” which states the rights and responsibilities of both sides. In many cases, however, the law will differ from the terms of the lease. The law will usually control in such a case.

Apartments can be found directly through advertisements, through word-of-mouth or through apartment brokers. The apartment broker might charge you a fee or the landlord a fee, depending on the locality. Make sure there is no misunderstanding about who pays the fee. As to affordability, the general rule is that no more than 25% of a person or family’s monthly income should go for rent, though this is not always possible given the high costs of real estate today. People who live in expensive cities may have to pay up to half their monthly income for rent.

What to Look For in an Apartment. When looking for an apartment, pay attention to many of the minor factors (other than neighborhood, size of rooms, price) that will affect your enjoyment of the apartment. Are things falling apart? Is a paint job needed and will the landlord pay for it? Do the windows work properly? Are there laundry facilities in the building? What about security? Is there a doorman or a reliable buzzer-intercom system? Are pest control and extermination services provided on a regular basis? Is there a regular superintendent or building staff to take care of repairs? Are the mail boxes secure?

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