Immigrants

10 min read

May 13, 2021

The Immigrant's Guide to Renting in the US

Renting an apartment is one of the top priorities of every newcomer to the US. Follow our in-depth guide to get started.

After a lot of planning and hard work, you've finally arrived in the United States. But now, it’s time to begin the process of renting an apartment. 

Apartment hunting as an immigrant can be an expensive and time-consuming process, especially if you have never lived in the US before. From searching for an affordable apartment and researching the neighborhood to providing documents and reading the lease, there's a lot to think about. 

In this guide, we'll show you the ins and outs of renting an apartment in the US so that you can get ready to move in right away.  

Can a Foreigner Rent an Apartment in the US?

Absolutely. 

With minimal restrictions and numerous accommodation options, a foreigner can easily rent an apartment in the US. A landlord cannot deny your rental application based on your country of origin, religious status, or age. 

Processes and contracts don’t tend to change whether you’re an immigrant or a US citizen. However, as an immigrant, you might need to furnish additional documents to prove your financial stability.  

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5 Top Tips to Rent an Apartment as a Foreigner in the US

Explore Your Options Online  

With sites like Rentberry and Zumper, renting an apartment in the US has become easier than ever before. 

These platforms allow you to directly contact the landlord, check out the apartments with the virtual tour feature, and submit a custom offer. Plus, you can e-sign the rental agreement to seal the deal, saving you valuable time and paperwork.

While the internet has made the process quicker, it has also opened the door to scams that attempt to dupe people into paying security deposits on rentals that don't exist. So, be wary of fraudulent ads while searching for an apartment in the US. 

Set Your Budget

Looking for a beautiful place is one thing, but affording it is another. 

Renting an apartment in the US isn't cheap. But setting your budget can help you find a place that doesn't leave a hole in your wallet. This is a great way to narrow down your search and ensure that you stay within your means. 

So before you start your apartment hunt, figure out how much you're comfortable spending on a new rental. The typical rule of thumb is to spend 30% of your gross income on rent. 

While building out your budgeting checklist, don't forget to include moving expenses, parking fees, internet and mobile bills, and other utilities like electricity, heating, gas, and water 

Don't just create a budget; stick to it. If writing every expense might seem a little tedious, apps like Mint and  PocketGuard can help. 

Research Your Neighborhood 

To find the perfect apartment, you have to find the ideal neighborhood — especially if you're moving to a new country. After all, no one wants to live in an area where they don't feel safe and comfortable. 

Researching a neighborhood before you move can save you a lot of headaches later on. Take a walk around the area to find out if the neighborhood has basic amenities and activities like libraries, restaurants, swimming pools, and parks. 

Sometimes, the best way to get a feel for the area is to talk to your prospective neighbors. If you want, you can even talk to the local police to get a better picture of the neighborhood's safety and any unobvious problems associated with the area. 

Consider Your Parking Options

One crucial aspect that many first-time renters often overlook is the parking situation. There's nothing worse than arriving at your place to find that there is no parking spot available in your locality and that you have to park on the street, three blocks from your apartment. 

So if you're a car owner or are considering having a car, ask your landlord about the parking policy right away. You can ask questions like: 

  • What kind of parking does the building offer? 
  • Where do visitors or guests park? 
  • How much will parking cost? 
  • Does the parking lot get full in the evenings? 
  • Can I lease my parking space?
  • How many parking spaces am I allowed?  

Be sure you know all the parking rules unless you want to start off on the wrong foot with your neighbors. 

Read the Lease Properly 

Signing a rental lease for the first time will give you all the feels: excitement, joy and a little nervousness. However, many renters avoid reading the agreement and rush into signing the thing, rather than understanding all the legal language. 

A lease is a legal contract between you and your landlord. So, take the time to read it carefully as you never know what can come back to bite you later. Plus, you'll know what to expect when you move in. 

Make sure the lease includes all the crucial information about the property and the landlord. It should also tell you the monthly amount due, when it is due, the pet policy, modes of payment transfer, late fees, and so on. 

Documents Required to Rent an Apartment in the US

Whether you are a foreigner or a local, the process to rent apartment in the US is quite similar. The major difference lies in the number of documents you need to present to the landlord. 

 If you're a non-US citizen, your prospective landlord will want to assess your ability to pay rent before offering you a lease. Here's a quick rundown of what you'll need to provide: 

  • Proof of ID, such as your passport or driver's license.  
  • Proof of employment, such as an offer letter from your current employer. 
  • Bank statement(s) that prove you have enough savings to pay rent for a few months. 
  • References from previous landlords, if any. 
  • Proof of immigration status. This gives your landlords an idea of how long you're planning to stay in the United States. For example, if your documentation permits you to stay for another six months, you won't be able to fulfil the requirements of a 12-month lease. The landlord will have all the valid reasons to reject your application. 

How to Rent an Apartment in the US with No Credit History

A solid credit history is crucial for renting an apartment. Landlords often check your credit report or ask for credit references before approving your rental application. 

However, if you are an immigrant without a US credit history, here are two tips to get approved for your first apartment. 

Provide Proof of Income 

Your landlord wants to know if you have a stable income that will adequately cover the rent. So, submitting proof of your income can be an excellent alternative for your credit.

Get a Co-signer

Ask a friend or family member with a healthy credit history to co-sign for you. However, understand that if you fail to pay your rent on time, your landlord could contact your co-signer to clear your debt. 

FAQs: Renting an Apartment in the US

  1. Do apartments come with Wi-Fi? Apartments don't usually come with Wi-Fi. You have to get your service set up through an internet provider. However, some landlords offer Wi-Fi service that is included in the rent or is chargeable to the renters as a part of utilities. 
  1. Are pets allowed in apartments? This depends on the pet policy of the apartment you want to rent. If you have a furry friend or plan on getting one, make sure to check whether the building is pet-friendly. If so, clarify what pets are allowed and the weight limits on the pet. Most apartments will also require a pet fee or deposit to cover any damages your pet may cause. 
  1. Can I make changes to my apartment? If you want to add a personal touch to your apartment, like painting your walls or installing new windows, you'll have to ask your landlord first. Also, make sure to get permission in writing. 
  1. Is renter’s insurance required? Some landlords will require you to have renter’s insurance before approving your application. Every landlord doesn't need this. However, you should strongly consider having one to cover the cost of your belongings or valuables that might get lost or damaged due to fire, vandalism, or burglary. 
  1. How do maintenance requests work?  You never know when an immediate repair may arise. So, find out how your landlord deals with these maintenance requests. Check if maintenance is available 24/7 and what the average turnaround time is for repairs.  

Renting an apartment in the US as an immigrant requires a lot of planning, expenses, and work. However, finding a place isn't difficult, but finding a place that you love and that ticks all of your boxes is a one-of-a-kind feeling.

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Aishwarya Aggarwal
Aishwarya Aggarwal is a content writer passionate about helping brands create value-packed content that connects and converts. When not writing, she finds solace in dabbling with the beauty of colors on a white canvas.

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