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Renting your first place can be exciting, but also expensive. Planning for and knowing the costs involved can prepare you so there are no surprises when you start looking. There are the obvious costs involved; monthly rent and utilities, but there also may be startup costs. These can include application fees, place and utility security deposits. Getting your first place can be challenging, but following the checklist below will provide you with a roadmap!

Printable Checklist




Understanding Renting and Credit

Landlords/property managers and utility companies want to make certain that potential renters have the ability to pay rent. Evaluating this ability is accomplished through employment verification, background checks, credit checks and possibly financial account verification. These checks are looking at your responsibilities, whether it’s being employed, managing a checking account or paying your bills on time. Since this is probably the first time you have needed a utility in your name (electric, gas, etc.), the utility company may require a deposit or a parent to co-sign. If you have not established any credit, a parent may also need to co-sign the lease.

These are factors considered when renting a place to help determine your ability to pay on time:

Employment History
Financial Account History
Established Credit History
Payment History


As a way to establish credit, a TCU Visa® Platinum Credit Card can be very beneficial when used responsibly. Using a credit card to make purchases can build your credit when payments are made on time. If you miss payments, your credit can be negatively impacted for years to come.

Reviewing Your Budget and Staying on Track

Get started by reviewing your budget. Know what you can afford each month, determine what essentials you need to purchase now, and which ones you can save for and purchase later. Start by researching local places to get an idea of monthly rental costs, security deposits and average utilities so you can establish a monthly plan. Once you have a plan, determine if having a roommate is an option to share in the costs. Generally your rent should be no more than 25-30% of your monthly income. Once you have determined your budget you can start viewing places in your price range. The costs can seem endless, which is why planning ahead is important when you move into your first place. Use all of the available tools below to help meet your goals:

Use M3TM (My Money Manager) to review and make budget adjustments to reach your new goals. Include all your monthly bills; rent, utilities, phone, internet, cable, car, insurance, gas and of course groceries. Stay on top of your payments due with Bill Reminders under FinanceWorks™ Alerts & Options.
Your TCU Checking Account and TCU Debit Mastercard® that earns a rebate will make necessary apartment purchases quick and easy.
TCU Everyday Savings makes saving money automatic when you use your TCU Debit Mastercard® for purchases. TCU rounds up the amount and transfers the difference into the Savings Account you choose. Watch your savings grow quickly! Also check out the Mastercard® Smart Shopper Features.
TCU Internet Banking not only gives you access to your accounts, but you can pay bills, set up transfers and sign up for eStatements.
Mobile and Text Banking is a fast and secure solution to get your account information when you’re on the go, and keeps you connected to your finances!


Determine the Best Location to Live

Determine the best place to live in relationship to your work, grocery stores, family and friends. Consider the further you are from your daily commute, the higher your transportation costs will be. However, if in a metropolitan area, the further out you are may result in a decrease in the cost. You may want to consider public transportation options to help reduce costs.

Is parking close, is covered parking an option, what costs are involved?
Are there any safety and security concerns; i.e. is the area well lit, is the area well kept?
Do you have a pet? Do they allow pets? Is there an additional cost or deposit?

Deciding on the Place

Make appointments to view several places and take pictures to remember all the details. Don’t feel pressured to make an immediate decision. You want to make the right decision for you.

Is the place furnished? If not, consider the costs of what you will need to buy. Is everything in good working order?
Will you be paying for utilities separately? If yes, what is the average monthly cost?
Is parking included? If not, what is the monthly fee?
Does the place have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors? These are required by law.
How are maintenance emergencies handled; “no hot water”? Who do you call and what is the response time? Who is responsible for lawn care or snow removal?
If possible talk to other renters; you may be able to learn a lot from their experiences.

Reviewing the Lease

A lease is a legal written contract allowing you to use the specified property for a specific time and cost. Consider having a family member or friend that has had lease experience review the lease agreement with you. Because a lease is legally binding, you want to make sure you understand all of the conditions of the lease before you sign.

Leases can be monthly or for a period of time; i.e. 6 months, 12 months, etc. The lease will list your responsibilities as a tenant.
Ask for a copy of the lease agreement so you know what is and is not expected of you. Make sure you take time to review it. Is the lease a month to month or longer? If you needed to break the lease is there a penalty?
Some leases may have special instructions or exceptions concerning “promotional rates” if offered, or a “transfer clause” for business relocation. These are just a few things to be aware of and to look further into if they apply to your situation.


Protect your Investment

Your landlord’s insurance does not cover your valuables; it only covers the building structure. Renter’s insurance protects you and your valuables from unforeseen situations like fire, theft, and water damage. It may be worth the cost of insurance to protect your personal property. Contact TCU Insurance Agency for more information.

The Move, don’t forget… to change your address

Teachers Credit Union
United States Postal Service
Department of Motor Vehicles - Driver’s License
Insurance Company
Cell Phone Provider
Student Loan Provider
Magazines or other subscriptions


TCU Learning Center



©2013 Teachers Credit Union. *This account is offered under the terms and conditions of the TCU Student Checking Account. New members are subject to a $7.00 membership fee and $5.00 initial share deposit. Other fees may apply as described in the common features. See TCU Everyday Savings Terms and Conditions for details. See TCU Debit Mastercard® Terms and Conditions for details. Standard text messaging rates apply. TCU Agency, LLC is a subsidiary of TCU. Insurance products are offered through various approved carriers.


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© Teachers Credit Union.   New members are subject to a $7 membership fee and $5 initial Share deposit. Any links to external websites are links to alternative sites not operated by TCU. TCU is not responsible for the content of the alternate site. The privacy and security policies of the alternate site may differ from those practiced by TCU. TCU does not represent you or the third party if you enter into a transaction with the third party.


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Teachers Credit Union, Lender NMLS #686706