What you need to know to rent an apartment in the USA

By 22 July 2019 Video lessons 2 Comments
rent an apartment in the USA

If you move to the United States, you’ll need to be able to do certain things right away, like rent a car, open a bank account, and rent an apartment.

What can you expect? How should you do it?
What strange potential mistakes should you be aware of?

Let’s go!

1) How do I find an apartment?

To find an apartment in the United States, you should know what you’re looking for.
Do you want to share an apartment with roommates? (If you share your apartment with Americans, it’ll really be a test of how well you can understand real American English!)

Are you looking for a small, one-room apartment such as a studio or an “efficiency apartment”?

Or a large house for yourself?

Once you know what to look for, you can look for the right place. It might be “furnished” and come with furniture, a bed, a sofa…

Or it might be unfurnished instead. Often, in that case, it still comes with a kitchen stove, a fridge, air conditioner, and sometimes a dishwasher.

There are many ways to go apartment-hunting, too.

One of them is by getting help from a real estate agency. They’ll take care of many things for you, and they might have the best offers on the market. However, you’ll need to pay them a fee if they find you an apartment.

Some real estate agencies also require you to pay “subscription fees” in advance, even if they don’t find you anything.

You can also look online for a place to stay!

Many websites can help you, such as roommates.com. Another very popular American website for this situation (and for many other problems) is Craigslist.

Expat blogs are good resources, since the people who wrote them have been in your shoes before!

Finally, you could also check out the Facebook group for expats in your area, there often are good tips and offers. And you can ask questions there!

A third obvious way to find a good apartment is simply… to look for a sign that says “For Rent” in front of a house and call their number! It’s simple but it works.

You’ll likely need some polite expressions for email in English if you prefer to enquire by email, but it’s a good idea to revise tips to telephone in English too. Sometimes, it’s just quicker to call, especially if offers are quickly taken in your area.

Finally, the property manager or the agency might ask you to fill in a rental application, so they can see if you meet the criteria for a good renter.

They’ll probably also want to look at your Credit Score, which is a rating of your credit history, to see if you’re reliable with monthly payments.

You can improve your credit score by signing up for a credit card, using it for purchases, and always paying your balance on time. Don’t let your credit card debt build up, and you’ll create your good credit score over time.

2) What do you pay for?

When you’re renting an apartment, you’ll need to pay the rent and utilities: water bill, electricity…
They’re sometimes included in the rent, sometimes not.

Ask about the late fees that might apply if you’re late paying rent.

Before you move in, the landlord or property manager will probably ask for an advance payment of roughly three months rent.

This will pay the first month of rent, the last month, and a security deposit.
They’ll give the deposit back when you leave, if the apartment is still in the same state as when you came in.

Finally, in the US, home insurance is often the property manager’s responsibility.

3) What do you sign?

When you rent an apartment, you’ll sign a lease. It’s a contract between you and the landlord. It’s often set for one full year, though one-month renewable leases also exist.

Before signing a lease, you should ask all the questions that you have. For example:
– What’s the security like, in the building?
– Is the building going to be renovated?
– Are pets allowed? What’s your pet policy? 

You may want to revise my tips on how to be polite in English too! So you don’t sound too demanding. Of course you have a right to ask all the questions, but politeness is still important.

If you’re sharing a house, all roommates have to be on the lease.

And if you want to leave before the end of your lease, you’ll need to give a 30 to 60-day notice in advance.

Renting a house or apartment can feel intimidating, but if you want to feel more serene in the process, it’ll also be important to improve your general fluency in English, so you’re comfortable with all the questions and answers before you sign anything!

Now, tell me…
What would you ask an American landlord before signing a lease?
Write it down in the comments! It’s a great way to practice, and share with the world.

If you’re a busy professional who needs to level up your fluency, but you find it difficult to do alone, let me help you, with Master Real American English.

It’s a 3-month coaching program in which my team and I empower you to express yourself fluently and naturally, so that people focus on your professional skills & expertise, not on your level of English.

For more information, go to this page where you can apply to join this program today.

Thank you for learning with Speak English with Christina, and I’ll see you next time!

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