[ The Money Side of Lifeā„¢ ]

On Your Own: Moving into rental bliss

By Christal S. Bunch on January 24th, 2008 •

So you've decided to find yourself and strike out on your own--an independent person alone in a wide, wild world. You've moved out. While you may not actually be alone, and your neck of the woods may not be that wild, you may still have some stuff to learn about living on your own. For renters, mastering moving essentials from the start can save you serious coin in the long run.


If you have never rented, the logistics can be confusing. Who pays for maintenance? Can you paint whatever you want? Most of this information will be in your rental agreement. If not, or you still have questions, get in touch with your landlord.

Keeping copies of rental agreements and other documents detailing terms and conditions of your residency is essential for periodic reference. These will prepare you with documented facts for potential disagreements with your landlord. Be sure each roommate has a copy for their use as well. For legal advice and tips on rental issues, search "renting" and "rental agreements" at nolo.com.


It's great having roommates to liven up the house and keep rent cheaper for everyone, but be sure to choose them wisely. Remember these things before choose just anyone:

  • If a roommate breaks the terms of your lease, it can potentially become your problem. For example, you may be penalized for a roommate not paying rent on time. Commonly, all signing tenants are responsible for each other's wrong doings.
  • Be aware of your roommate's rent-paying history. Also, ask if they will have a steady job or source of income.
  • If you're concerned about roommate relations, consider drawing up a roommate agreement beforehand, so that you can force action from roommates if necessary. Visit tenantresourcecenter.org and University of Michigan housing department for sample agreements.

Having trouble finding someone to split the rent with? Check out roommates.com, roommateclick.com, craigslist.org, or even the Facebook Marketplace. To stay on the safe side, when considering living with someone you don't know, ask for personal and professional references.


When you move in, you'll have to sign up for any utilities, such as gas and electric, that aren't included in your rental agreement. Consider these points before making any calls:

  • Ask your landlord which utility companies cover your apartment and if there are any alternative options. If utilities were not previously turned on, you may accrue start-up fees for utilities such as gas and electric--these can run into the hundreds of dollars. If that's a burden, check with local providers before signing up about a letter of credit to help waive utility start-up costs.
  • Take advantage of move-in promotions. Digital bundles that group telephone, television and Internet service into a single price can save big bucks down the road. Bundle packages usually reflect a discounted rate, so be prepared for an increase after the promotional period ends. For info on bundle deals in your area, check out digitallanding.com.

The place you're moving into probably has some insurance coverage. However, you should take it upon yourself to cover your personal belongings. Case in point: The dishwasher begins to overflow with water and detergent onto your kitchen floor. An extra few bucks each month for rental insurance (some plans costing as little as $10 per month) could cover any of your stuff that gets damaged (the landlord's insurance should cover damages to your unit, but not necessarily your belongings). For more information, visit netquote.com or esurance.com.

The Bottom Line

Of 28,000 new-construction apartments in the U.S., the average monthly rent in the first quarter of 2007 was $934. There's more to take care of than just the rent, however, to make your first rented place livable.

Sources: findlaw.com; freeadvice.com; pickocc.org; realestate.msn.com; meetup.com