Moving into a new place? Our outline walks you through the steps of moving in and notes precautions you should take to protect your rights as a tenant.

Rental Applications and Credit Reports

  • You can attach references from previous landlords or employers.
  • If the landlord asks for a credit check, he/she can find out details in your history over the past seven years. According to Nolo’s 3rd Edition of Every Tenant’s Legal Guide, the credit history check might include information such as:
    • Late or delinquency in paying rent or bills, including student or car loans
    • Convinctions, and in some states, arrests
    • Previous evictions
    • Involvement in lawsuits, such as a personal injury claim
    • Whether you have filed for bankruptcy in the past 10 years
  • The landlord may charge up to $37.57 (as of 2006) to cover costs for obtaining information about you, such as obtaining your credit report or checking your references
  • A landlord may never charges more than his/her out-of-pocket costs.
  • The landlord must return any unused portion of the fees.
  • Sometimes, if you used a second party to search for the apartment or house, the party may choose to charge a finder’s fee. Finder’s fees are illegal if the person or company charging the fee is associated with the landlord.

Holding Deposits

  • Any money collected to “hold” a rental unit for a tenant prior to move-in must be applied to the rent or security deposit or be refunded.
  • However, if a tenant changes his/her mind about moving in, a landlord may keep a portion of the holding deposit.
  • If a landlord rents the unit to another tenant, he must return your entire holding deposit.

Documentation and Walk-Through

  • Prior to move-in, you should ask for a walk-through of your apartment/house with your landlord; your landlord is required by law to comply. Find witnesses if possible, and take photographs. Make sure you carefully document the condition of the apartment.
  • Keep a record of all important documents and records. If you reach a agreement with your landlord, put the agreement down on paper.

Looking Over the Lease

In addition, carefully look over your lease or rental agreement. Visit our Rental Agreements section for more information.

Additional Documents: