Everything you need to find a dream apartment.

Finding any rental unit is a challenge, no matter where you live. Finding a good one can almost feel like too much to ask from the universe. But if you arm yourself with a little pre-wisdom, you can avoid some of the more gaping potholes on the road to rental bliss. And look, we sell renters insurance. So, unfortunately, we’ve seen leases go wrong. But we’ve also learned a lot about how to rent an apartment the right way. Here’s a list of five of the most nutritious tidbits we’ve picked up along the way.

1. Landlords hate empty apartments.
If you walk in, and there’s no furniture in the place, that means the property manager isn’t making any money from it. That puts you in a pretty good bargaining position. On the other hand, if it has been empty too long, it could mean something’s wrong with the place. Either way, there’s a story. You just need to listen for it.

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2. Your six degrees of rental separation.
Maybe you’re hunting for rentals yourself, or maybe you’ve got an agent giving you a hand. But the more eyes and ears you’ve got scouting the city, the better. Deploy your army of friends for rental recon and increase your chances of success a hundredfold. Maybe even extend a little finder’s fee for their effort.

3. Night and day are as different as night and day.
If you see a place you like during the day, make sure you return at night when everyone is home from work. That way, you get a better idea of the traffic, the real noise levels, who your neighbors might be and how hard it is to find a parking spot. You’ll likely only be in your place at night, so make sure that’s the version of the apartment you’re checking out.

4. Details, details.
It can be uncomfortable with an agent or a landlord breathing down your neck, but take your time with this little rental inspection checklist

✔ Check the water pressure and temperature. 
✔ Flush the toilets. 
✔ Make sure all the outlets work. 
✔ Make sure your phone gets good reception in every room. 
✔ What about the windows? Do they have exposure to the sun? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? 
✔ Check the cabinets for small holes or droppings that might indicate the presence of little, uninvited, furry guests. 
✔ If it’s winter, make sure you think ahead and know about the AC situation. If it’s mid-summer, make sure you know the heating situation.

Not all of these details need to be make-or-break when choosing your rental, but knowing stuff is always better than not knowing stuff. Be sure to document the condition of the space. There might be some wear and tear or timely upgrades your landlord can address before you move in. Otherwise, you can use some of that information to save money at the bargaining table.

And yeah, there might be some things that make you walk. But better to discover those things now than a month into your lease.

5. Moving in winter sucks. So do that.
If you live in a city with real winters like NYC or Chicago, you know moving in the winter can be brutal. It’s icy, messy and cold — nobody in their right mind would choose to do it. Which is exactly why you should. Rentals are in low demand during the winter, which means your chances of finding a deal when a place is vacant is much higher. Generally speaking, if you can do things the majority of other renters can’t or won’t, it puts you in the driver’s seat. Buy low, sell high and all that.

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6. The problem with pets.
Pets rule. Not all landlords agree, but sometimes there are ways to soften a hard no-pet policy. There might be a damage deposit with a monthly fee. Other times you can add to a security deposit.

If the place is pet-friendly, make sure you check the details of the policy in advance. Things could get unfriendly with your wallet in a hurry.

This is the moment when we point out that we custom-designed an insurance policy for your furry, scaly and flappy friends: Don’t forget to Toggle On℠ Pet Parent℠ before moving in. It covers up to $500 beyond your security deposit for damage to your residence caused by your pet. It also includes up to $100,000 for injury caused by your pet to another person. Say Fido takes a chunk out of your best friend, you’re covered.

In fact, show the Pet Parent coverage to your landlord early on, and they’ll love it. Always flash those A+ adulting skills.

7. In other tenants we trust.
We’re not saying the landlord would be dishonest, but there’s a decent chance he or she doesn’t live in the building. Check with another tenant when it comes to things like utility averages. A current tenant will be happy to have a good neighbor in the building and won’t have anything to lose telling you the truth about the place.

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Photo by Avi Naim on Unsplash.

8. Come ready to sign the lease.
Bring a folder to every appointment with everything a landlord might need to run a credit history and approve your rental application immediately. Include the following:

  1. Proof of monthly income — your two most recent pay stubs should usually do it.
  2. Your two most recent bank statements.
  3. Driver’s license, passport and birth certificate — you probably won’t need all of them, but why take the chance?
  4. If you can get a recommendation from your past landlord or landlords, do it and bring it. In writing.
  5. References. Professional and personal (your mom doesn’t count). Be ready with their addresses and phone numbers.
  6. If your place has a parking space, you’ll need your car’s registration and proof of insurance.
  7. Your résumé.
  8. Your rental history. Be ready with addresses, contact names and phone
    numbers.
  9. And last but definitely not least, bring your checkbook and make sure you’ve got enough money for your application fee, your first month and last month and a double security deposit.

*Bonus move:
Get renters insurance from Toggle® ahead of time. If you are renting, get a Toggle policy now. It will travel with you to your new place (as long as it’s the same state). We are portable like that. Show your future landlord you’ve got your Toggle coverage sorted, even before you’ve signed the new lease agreement. Not only will it make you look all serious and responsible, but Toggle can also cover you on moving day — a time when the chance for damage and loss is extremely real. If you don’t get that apartment, no worries. Your Toggle policy isn’t attached to any one rental property and will travel with you across town to the next one.

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