Congratulations on renting your first apartment! This is a huge step for many people, and even more so if this is your first time getting a place on your own. When I was 22, I made the very same decision, but I ran into a couple of blunders that I wish I had been aware of at the beginning. So, to save you from all the trouble I had to go through, I’m sharing my top 4 tips when it comes to renting your first apartment.

1. Think about what kind of environment you’d be happiest living in. There are a lot of questions you should ask yourself when you’re apartment hunting. You want to make sure that the place you eventually end up renting is a place that you can go home to and feel relaxed and peaceful.

That’s why it’s important for you now to decide exactly what type of environment would be most suitable for you. Would you prefer living in the city or away from the city center? Is it important for you to live close to work? Do you want to live in a pet-friendly building? Once you’ve got an idea of where you’d like to be, it’ll narrow down your choices and make apartment hunting that much easier!

2. Plan out your budget. Renting an apartment can be quite costly! It isn’t just about how much rent you’re going be paying your landlord every month. In the first month, you may be asked to pay a security deposit (equal to one month’s rent) to the landlord in case you damage the apartment, and a pet deposit if you’re planning on bringing a furry friend.

In addition,  you can visit  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/09/realestate/commercial/jody-l-kriss.html if utilities aren’t included in the cost of your rent, you’ll be responsible for paying your gas, hot water, electricity, and Internet/cable bill every month. If you have a car, you should also ask if parking is free. Make sure you’re aware of what utilities are and aren’t included before you sign the lease, so that you can budget how much you’ll be spending per month for rent and utilities.

3. Read all the terms and conditions of your lease before you sign it. Ultimately, it is your responsibility as a tenant to be aware of the rules set out in your rental contract. Are there any visitor restrictions? Any rules in regards to noise level? How long is your rental contract? How much notice are you supposed to give your landlord when you want to end your lease? Is subletting allowed in your apartment complex? These are all things that should be laid out in your lease.

4. Take photos of the apartment the day you move in. Before you move any of your furniture into the apartment and get settled in, get out your camera and take photographs of the entire place. Make sure you take the time to survey any damage in the apartment. If you see any scratches, dents or bumps anywhere, take photos! This will save you a lot of money and hassle in the future if your landlord ever accuses you of creating the damage

Another way to document the damage in the apartment is to make notes of any problems on a piece of paper, and then have the landlord sign off on it. Then, make a photocopy for each person.  I really can’t emphasize enough how important this step is.  That’s how we can prevent when renting,because it’s now one of your Properties. I have seen friends lose their entire security deposit just because they didn’t know to document any damage beforehand, so don’t let that happen to you.