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Renting Stage 4 - After You've Signed the Lease

Updated 5-12-2023

This Expert Adulting Module Will: 

  • Help you remember often-missed items so they don't come back to bite you

  • Offer ideas to help keep you physically & financially safe & happy in your new rental

Most Important Things to Understand

  1. It’s important for you to carry out your responsibilities as described in the lease agreement – both for your happiness while living there and to get any refundable deposit returned.

  2. It's also important to take steps to protect yourself - both physically & financially - as you start your life in your new rental

  3. After you sign the rental agreement, but before you move in, is the time to get your accounts set up for electric, gas, water, trash, internet, rental insurance, etc.

Finish Line Ahead Sign
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Questions For You to Answer

(see info below for how)

  1. Do I know what my lease says and am I doing my part?

  2. Have I made my new place as safe as possible?

  3. Have I transferred / started all the services I need?

Renting Module Format

To help you find, qualify for, and enjoy your new rented apartment or house, I’ve mapped out all the steps involved and then broken them into 4 Renting Stages to make them easier for you to understand & work on:


Stage 2 - Finding the Rental You Want
Stage 3 - Understanding the Lease / Rental Agreement
Stage 4 - After You've Signed the Lease (this page)

Step by step

BEFORE Your Move-in Day 

You can make your move and move-in day go much smoother by doing these things before that big day! 

STEP 1:   Check out: Moving Out of a Rental 

Expert Adulting Moving Out Webpage

I know, I know. It says “moving OUT” but all the information on how to make the process of moving easier applies to moving IN also. 

STEP 2:   Set Up Your Utility Services

Once you know your move-in date, it’s time to set up, or transfer, accounts for any utilities that you are not paying for through your rent. Utilities may include electricity, water / sewage, gas, trash / recycling, internet, etc.

The landlord / property manager should know what electric, gas, trash & water companies serve your new rental from working with previous tenants &/or being familiar with the area. If they don’t know, check out the Public Utilities Commission (PUCo) website for your state. To find potential internet providers, search “internet providers for NEW ADDRESS.”  

Utility services

Call each utility. Tell them that you will be moving into NEW ADDRESS on MOVE-IN DATE and you’d like to get your account set up so it starts on that date. This way you can do any paperwork and pay any deposits beforehand so everything is working when you move in. You won’t be charged for any usage prior to your move-in date.

STEP 3:   Purchase (or transfer) Rental Insurance (& any other insurance required by the lease)

If the place burns, is struck by a tornado, floods (broken pipes happen all the time), etc. you will not get any money to replace YOUR stuff unless you have your own rental insurance policy. Like the utility services, just let them know what date you want the policy to start or be transferred.

Apartments on fire

ONCE You Move In 

You've made it! You've moved into your new rental! Congratulations! Most of the work is behind you now but there are still a few more items to wrap up this process with a neat little bow. 

Red bow

STEP 1:   SAFETY CHECK! (BEFORE you sleep there the 1st time please)

Better to be safe than sorry. Recommendations: 

  • Check to make sure you have smoke detectors that work.

  • Check to make sure you have carbon monoxide detectors and that they work.

  • If the door locks were not replaced or re-keyed, make sure you have a way to physically prevent someone with a key from coming in (a security bar under the door knob, a rubber door stop turned backwards, a door chain, etc.)

  • Make sure any patio doors and the ground-floor windows (at least) can be securely locked. 

  • Learn where the main electric, gas, and water turnoffs are and how to use them.

Door chain lock
Smoke detector
Door wedge holding door closed
Bar holding door closed

STEP 2:   Thoroughly Inspect the Place 

To make sure you are not held responsible for anything that was already broken or damaged when you moved in, it’s time to do a thorough inspection and document what you find. 

  • Check out every corner, cupboard, lock, faucet, door, stove burner, etc. and MAKE A LIST of anything you find that is damaged or broken.

Torn screen
Leaking faucet
Lightbulb - Tip

TIP:  Taking a picture of the damaged / broken item will give you a visual record of what it was like on the day you took the picture (since digital photographs are automatically dated). Keep these pictures until the end of the lease in case you need them to prove you didn’t cause the damage.

  • Decide which (if any) problems you are willing to live with and which ones you want the landlord to fix and note that on your list. (Landlords sometimes provide a move-in inspection form you can use instead of a list.)

  • MAKE A COPY of the completed list / form for yourself and keep it safely with your lease (so you have a copy in case you need to prove something in the future).

Copy machine
  • Give your list / form to your landlord within a week of moving in (or whatever timeframe is written in the lease). It’s important to get this to them quickly so you are not held responsible for damage that was done before you moved in.

Piggy Bank - ways to save money

MONEY SAVING TIP:  Check the furnace filter and replace it if needed.  A clogged furnace filter will cost you more on both your heating and cooling bills (and it will be unable to do its job of cleaning the air).

Furnace filter being replaced

STEP 3:   Update Your Address

Within about a week of moving into your new place, you will need to update your address with all the organizations that use it. Here is a list of the most common ones to get you started: 

  • U.S. Postal Service - so all your physical mail gets re-routed to your new address (you can also update your voter registration here!)

  • Your banks – some charge fees if they are not notified within a month

  • Your credit card companies (update them all so you don’t have to remember which zip code to put in for the credit card verification at the gas station 😊)

  • Amazon

  • Delivery services – weekly meal delivery, pet food delivery, on-demand food delivery, etc. 

Boxes delivered to front porch
  • Your employer – your tax rates may change depending on the cities, counties, &/or school districts you are moving from and to

  • Companies that hold any retirement accounts you have (401K, 403B, IRA, Roth, pension, etc.). 

  • Your cell phone company

  • Your car insurance company

STEP 4:   Re-Read Your Lease / Any Documents They Gave You

Lease w highlighter.png

Once you’ve settled in to your new rental (and are not as stressed) you may want to read the lease again so you can be sure to follow its "rules" and avoid any unwanted consequences.

If you don’t follow the terms of the lease, they can kick you out. Even worse, you will likely still be responsible for the rent even though you no longer live there and suffer the consequences if you don’t pay it. It’s usually easier to just follow the rules.

STEP 5:   Take Care of the Place 

Be sure you, your visitors, and your pets keep the place, as close as possible, to the shape you got it in - especially if your security deposit is refundable and you would like to have that money returned when you move out.

Some Real-Life Stories

Woman talking with maintenance man

Take Care of the People Too!

     Landlords, rental office workers, and maintenance people can make the life of a renter better or worse. Knowing this, many renters have chosen to take steps to make sure their relationship with these people is friendly and respectful. They give a friendly wave and say "Hi!" every time they see one of them. They take the time to talk with and learn about them and then look for ways to make them smile (e.g., a flower, a joke they'd like, a suggestion on where to find something they've been looking for). They sometimes bring a treat into the office for the staff to share on a Friday afternoon. The idea is that they treat the people well and it usually results in them being treated well in return. 

     People who have done this have told me stories of:​

  • being put at the top of the maintenance list when they had an issue rather than having to wait for days (I mean, really, who would you rather do something for? The person who is friendly and respectful and brings you donuts or the old grump who only complains?) 

  • receiving a phone call asking if they were ok rather than an eviction notice when they forgot to pay the rent one month 

  • getting some leniency in paying their rent when something out of their control happened and left them temporarily strapped for cash

  • having a property manager voluntarily stay late to receive a really important package that was running late on a Friday night 

     What could your story be? 

What To Do Now

  1. Find your own answers to the Questions for You to Answer.

  2. Review the Most Important Things to Understand.

  3. Enjoy your new rental!

  4. Share and what you’ve learned with your friends & family​

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