When you’re looking for your first rental property to go to college, it’s all too easy to get overwhelmed. Fortunately, if you heed a little advice, you can find a good place without a hitch.

Be Clear About Rental/Credit History Requirements

If you’re like most students, you probably haven’t had the chance to establish yourself in the areas of income, credit history and rental history. Some property managers will require you to put down a larger deposit as a result. Others will ask for both first and last month’s rent in advance. Still others will want you to get a co-signer. Don’t wait until the last minute to find out what your top properties will want from you. If you do, you might put yourself in a position where your application gets denied and you’re rushed to submit paperwork elsewhere.

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Prepare Your Application Well in Advance

Most rental properties begin accepting applications well before the end of the lease year to ensure they fill as many upcoming vacancies as possible. Subsequently, if you don’t want to lose out on your top property choice, plan to submit your paperwork a minimum of 2 to 6 months in advance. If your college is in a small city, is classified as a commuter school or is in a region where many non-students want to be, the demand for housing will be higher. In these cases, getting your documentation to the appropriate leasing agent 8 to 12 months ahead of time should be your goal. Go to Bridgfords.co.uk or similar providers to find out what’s standard for areas you’re considering.

Create a Thorough Record

Good rental agents will provide you with a copy of all documentation related to your housing arrangement, including your lease, inspection report and deposit receipt. However, they rarely provide photographs of the property as is when you move in. Take pictures of every room from different angles and keep them with the other paperwork. If you have requests or concerns, always put them in writing, putting a copy with your leasing records. If you fail to do this step, it is easy for conflicts to occur and much harder to prove your position.

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Know Your Rights

The assumption from first-time student renters usually is that a rental agency, as an organization, has more power. Just like the agency, however, you have legal rights. A good agency will provide a summary of those rights for you when you move in, but you should also be able to learn about your rights through your college or the housing board for your town or city.

Don’t Be Shy–Ask and Negotiate

Even though a rental agency may present you with a basic package and standard lease, you often still have some wiggle room to sweeten your deal. For example, the property manager might agree to lower your monthly rent a bit if you agree to a longer lease term. Nothing is set in stone until both you and the rental representative sign the lease agreement. At the same time, don’t fall for the notion that ignorance is bliss. If you’re not clear on something or have more questions, ask! You’ll be better prepared to make an informed decision when you get answers, and the way the leasing agent responds to you will give you a good feel for the interactions you’ll have through your lease term.

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Insure Your Stuff

Floods. Fires. Broken pipes. Theft. The list of events that can ruin your belongings as a renter goes on and on. It’s wise for anyone to get renter’s insurance when this is the case, but it’s especially important for you as a student because your funds likely are so limited, making it harder to replace goods if they’re lost or damaged. Not only that, but when you know damage or theft will be taken care of quickly, you’ll be better able to maintain your focus on school and not worry if disaster strikes.

Stick to Your Budget

It’s tempting to look for properties where luxury is the rule of thumb, but amenities come with a price. As a student, your best bet is to find a safe, clean but frugal apartment, keeping in mind that the goal of the property is to support your study. If “extras” truly matter that much to you, consider getting one or more roommates. You’ll have to share your place, but you’ll be able to split the cost of rent and utilities, and you’ll still have more room and privacy than you normally would if you opted for a dorm.

As a student and first-time renter, it’s easy to be blown over by the possibilities and rules that come along with getting your own place. If you prepare in advance, however, understanding that you have both rights and flexibility, you can get a place that’s comfortable, in your price range and in line with your school needs.

 

Hayden Gallagher earns a living in property rentals and likes to share his tips and insights on securing the best deal with an online audience. He is a frequent contributor for a number of different websites.