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Renting Apartment in US as International – All you need to know

So finally you have got your visa, and are almost ready to land in U.S. or have already landed. Feeling excited?? I am sure you are. But in-between you might be bit concerned about one of three basic need of life from food (Roti), clothes (Kapda), and House (Makaan). For food, there are plenty of options available everywhere and also, I know many of you still have carried those bottles of pickles(achaar), few pack of noodles (maggi) or your all-time favorite snacks with you. For Clothes, needless to say, majority of you have spent most of your time from last days of travel in shopping malls only. What I am here talking about is your House, although rented but still your new abode here in U.S. Initially for few days you might be living by accommodation provided by your employer. But then, you have to move in your rented home. Finding a good one to rent is very important task as it not only affects your finances but also your day-to-day life and social environment. I have tried to address few of queries you might have while finding your new habitat.

What should be my budget?
Try to analyze how much you will make each month after taxes and insurance and incorporate how much money you expect to spend on food, supplies, entertainment, car and other useful and unexpected expenses. Although during initial settling days, your expenses would be greater and you will learn about your expenses as you live; Wise men suggest that rent should not to exceed 25-30 percent of your monthly income. So, always make sure you can afford.

Where to search for accommodation?
If you have friends, ask them, they can tell you better picture. Else, in this techie-world, internet is the savior. There are number of sites you can visit to shortlist good options for you. Few popular ones are ‘realtor.com’, ‘zillow.com’, ‘apartmentguide.com’, ‘rent.com’, ‘apartment.com’ etc. You can also get information on how to rent an apartment from the “Apartments” section of the Yellow Pages, newspaper or ‘Rental Guides’ which are available at the grocery stores or gas stations.

What is an apartment or house lease?
A lease is a contractual arrangement calling for the lessee (user/renter) to pay the lessor (owner) for use of a property for a period of time. Apartments can be leased for short-term (1 month) or long-term (6 months or 12-month). Month to month lease tend to be costlier than long-term lease (6 or 12-month lease).

Why is apartment lease is so important?
The lease sets forth the rights and responsibilities of both the landlord and the tenant. Once the parties sign the lease both are legally bound by its terms. Therefore, one must always read and understand a contract before singing and obtain a copy of it for future reference.

What’s included in lease? What are important points I should focus on lease document?
A comprehensive lease includes information about renter, landlord, rent, details about rental property, apartment utilities, amenities and facilities on premises, etc. Though one should read the whole document, the main things one should clearly understand are listed below:

  • The beginning and the expiration date
  • The rental price, due date, late charges and other penalties
  • Information about your security deposits and damage deposits
  • What are the reasons for which your landlord can terminate your lease contract?
  • Methods to terminate the agreement prior to the expiration date and if any, charges will be imposed for moving out of your apartment before the expiration date?
  • Are there any responsibilities on your head for repairs and such?
  • Is subleasing allowed?
  • If you have to buy additional renters insurance?
  • Is there a policy about guest visitors?
  • Rules and regulations such as pet rules, parking rules, noise rules and whether or not breaking such rules can be grounds for eviction.
  • Is pest control provided and how often?

What are the additional costs and things I need for leasing?
You may have to pay one or two month’s rent as security deposit. This deposit will be given back to you after you leave the property. This security deposit is like insurance for the landlord. If you leave still owing rent or with damage to the place, the landlord can deduct the costs from your security deposit. Some amount around $10 to $15 as key deposit. Since, you will have to fill out a rental application, there could be charges for that as well.

Also, they are required to check your credit history. If you don’t have credit history, they may ask for work history. If you don’t have that too, additional deposit has to be submitted. Apart from deposit on the apartment itself, you might also need to pay a fee to have your electricity turned on, water security, cable and internet hooked up, etc.

What do I need to do before moving in?
The day you move in, walk through (inspect) your rental property with your landlord.   Ideally, you should not sign a lease before inspecting the unit. Test everything, damages, dirty areas or anything that needed repairs, write them down and have the landlord sign your inspection. This way, when you move out, the landlord can’t say you caused the damage and deduct the cost of repairs from your security deposit.

What should I look for in the house or apartment during walk through before leasing ?
The most important is any damage, wear and tear to property or its fitting and equipment. The common checklist includes:

  • Pipes – be it gas, water or anything else, check for leaks.
  • Sink faucets, shower heads and water – make sure both cold and hot water really comes out of the faucets and the shower head with a decent pressure.
  • Check the toilet if it flushes properly and thoroughly.
    Open and inspect all the closets and cabinets.
  • Turn the faucets on and off.
  • Check all appliances, lights and electrical units to make sure that they work.
  • Check the windows to see if they open, close and lock properly.
  • Inspect the walls, especially the common walls (shared with adjoining apartments), for noise.
    Pay attention to any off-smells or loud noises.
  • Ask about the security measures the landlord has installed.
  • Especially inspect for bed bugs during first few days of moving, they are a serious problem here.
  • (Please don’t press or pull fire alarm assuming it won’t work or just to check, everything works well.)

What are main points to consider while selecting a good accommodation?
When searching for a potential apartment, consider the things that you need first prior to the things that you want or like to have.

  • Location:  If you don’t own a car or if you want to avoid traffic and daily long distant travel, choose your apartment in close proximity to either your office or to public transportation. Safe neighborhood is of course a great concern. Having accommodation near grocery stores is an added advantage.
  • Amenities: Compare the rent and amenities offered by different landlords. Usually they have listed their offered facilities on their website or ad scan.
  • In apartment utilities: All apartments are furnished with a dishwasher, a refrigerator and cooking range. Few have microwave and attached washer-dryer too. Else, they have laundry room in the premises but sometimes carrying a big bag of laundry does look a lot of headache. Check for garbage disposal expenses too.
  • Premises facilities: The rent of an apartment goes up with facilities like a clubhouse, fitness center, swimming pool and tennis courts etc.

What are other points to consider while selecting a good accommodation with child?
If you have school going child and you wish to send him/her in public school, consider getting accommodation in your preferred school district. Children need to go in school that falls in jurisdiction of their residence. However, rent of very good school district can be on higher side. Additionally, if you have high energy kids who love to jump and run around in the whole apartment, then upper level floor is definitely not a good option for you. Consider getting first floor (ground) or townhome (if pocket allows) only. Else, their noise level (due to jumping and running) can be disturbing for few folks living on your lower floor and you could end up shifting in other accommodation in middle of your lease term.

Also, don’t feel rushed to sign a lease for the first place you see. Visit a few, clear your doubts and you will surely find the place that is perfect for you. This was regarding leasing whole apartment just for you, next we will discuss about things to care while subleasing.

Are there any other things that I have missed ?  Share your thoughts

image credit : https://global-insight.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/keys-1317389_1920-730×898.jpg


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  1. Dear Ruchika and Saurabh,
    I request you to put an article related to To -Do list or important things to carry while travelling for first time on H1b. I know there is one article related to it. But a quick summary of what important things to take with like kitchen appliances to carry and what all important things to carry to make most use of 23*2 =46 kg * 2(me and spouse)=92 KG+20 kg (infant). For a Novice like me I would love to hear your suggestions and experiences related to packing. Also Suggest some section on website to put some TO-do list of packing with kids….Important things to carry would be great.

    Thanks in Advance.

    • Hi,
      For kitchen, you can carry flat bottomed cookware items like tawa, cooker, pans and other light weight kitchen utensils as per usage excluding electronics. Rest you can carry other household items as per your immediate needs but in small quantities. Don’t carry too heavy bed sheets, just one or two light weight as they are better here. Winter clothes depending on destination and your regular clothes including few Indian clothes for your wife.
      For baby, pack at least a month stock of baby food/formula (just in case your baby needs time to adjust with new formula), medications and diapers (you can distribute in all bags as weight fillers). Rest don’t buy any more of baby toiletries from India, get what you already have as they are better here. You won’t get quick dry sheet here and pacifiers are also bit different, just in case your child use them. Baby warmers are better in India.

  2. Good Read…few additions..
    -Realtors – There are two types of realtors, one who takes broker fees from tenant and the other type of realtors are the one who doesn’t take any money from the tenant instead they will charge the landlord. the broker fees typically will be One months rent (pretty difficult to negotiate)
    Please Note: in certain states u don’t have to worry on the broker fees, but if you are leaving in and around of NY, NJ etc. then its very difficult to find a no broker fees based realtor.

    -Amenities – Please do remember, few places will be having only induction based coils for cooking in which majority of the Indian vessels (Cooker etc, coffee pan etc.) will not work. “This is for people who are bringing vessels as i have seen many of them come here and suffer”

    -Utilities – Majority of the house the utilities (Gas, Electric and Water) will be part of the rental amount but if you take typical apartments or condos, the tenant has to pay the utilities for that keep an additional of $100 for 2 people

    Move-in Fees – If you are selecting an apartment, then many places will charge you for moving. Please try to negotiate the amount, but if you have don’t have any trucks or huge move-in goods then do not pay. Usually 80% of the fees will be refundable and 20% the management will retain due to the cost that is involved during move in time (Eg: they cover the lift interior with an rubber pad, walls in the pat way will be covered and so on)

    Handicap without INTERNET: Try to figure out if the house as pre-installed comcast or any other service provider connections, if yes, then the moment you move in you can directly call the service provider and get the internet connection up within 20 minutes – Please Note: Do not forget to buy a router_Modem device before u enter the house. this will cost you approx $60 – $150 with a co-axial cable of 12 meters.
    If there is no reach from the service provider, you have to call them and wait for 3-5 business days in order to get the internet connection. You can keep a budget for internet starting from $40 unlimited with 250Mbps up till $75-$80 with some crazy speed. at the end of the day your intake speed will be around 3 to 8 Mbps.

    Initial Setup – try to find out ikea or value city kind of stores. i would prefer ikea, where in you can get some good/decent furniture. Please Note: All the products/prices in the store or web is for self assembly, incase if you like to take their assembly service then u have to pay for delivery + assembly starting from $130 to many more.
    I would prefer if you have a friend who has a car, take their help and get the stuffs to ur place and assemble it. Typically for a Bed or sofa or wardrobe, you need 2 people to assemble it and trust me its fun.
    Recently i assembled a sleeper sofa alone and it took me like 5 hours.
    this all depends upon the weight and size of the product.

    Day 1 sleeping: On a temporary side, you can pick a bed frame wither from walmart or amazon for $80 and get a mattress on top of it (8 or 12 inch). As usual the mattress cost is expensive and the price ranges between $220 till $1000 depending upon comfort. Also don’t forget to check out options on memory foam mattress where u can get a deal for $200 for a queen size.

    Hope the information is helpful, please buzz me for any other details. would be happy to help you if i have knowledge on it.

    Cheers and Good Luck.

  3. Dear Redbus Team,

    I would like to filing a H1B visa from singapore.
    I have 9 years experienced in UNIX – System Consultant Professional in Information Technology.

    kindly advise me
    I would like to get advise. when I can start now.


    • Kamalahasan,

      You should start approaching employers close to Oct-Nov. By Jan, you should finalize on an employer so that your petition can be applied in April 2017.


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