Escaping the Rental Woes

James Ahrens

The day a student moves out of their parents’ house or out of the dorms to start out on their own can be an exciting or dreadful experience. Generally an apartment is a good idea but the rental process can be as stressful as living with mom and dad, and there are a few things to keep in mind during the transition.

Checking credit scores is an important first step. Web sites like can give a person an idea whether renting is even an option. A potential landlord will consider past delinquent utility accounts such as electric and phone bills. On-time payments establish a good rental history, and will reflect positively on a tenant in the future.

Young adults must make sure they understand costs and learn to account for expenses on a monthly basis so planning for expenses is easier. They should consider where they want to stay: the neighborhood, city and what that area costs. A good housing locator can be found at

Housing and Credit Counseling Inc. held a lecture at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library to help families and students understand the basics of moving into an apartment for the first time. The lecture is part of HCCI’s Guide to Planning and Security series. Teresa Baker, a tenant and landlord counselor with HCCI, said students can get into sticky situations.

“We get many calls from students after school starts in August because they’re having issues with roommates [or] they didn’t read the lease before they signed it,” said Baker.

Prioritizing is natural, but often overlooked, and tenants must understand that “needs” are different from “wants.” Initial costs are common.

Looking at an apartment before moving is important, and prospective tenants should inspect for plumbing or electrical problems that are required by Kansas law to be fixed. Roommates should figure out who will buy what so that ownership is assured if one roommate moves out. Andrea Espinosa is looking at going back to school and eventually moving out of her mom’s house. She was at the lecture with her mom.

“I wanted to come because I thought it would be helpful,” said Espinosa, who wants to live on her own and finish her degree.

Reading a lease is essential. According to HCCI, “A lease is a legally binding contract between you and the landlord that lists rules and responsibilities.” Tenants need to watch out for additional clauses in a leases that may tighten his or her wallet. Understanding an entire lease is important, so taking it home to digest is a good idea.

The most important part of renting an apartment is the lease. A lease is a binding agreement. It is important to pay rent on time and in full. A landlord can only enter a rental property with 24-hour notice.