You can rent an apartment at 18, but you'll need to meet the landlord's requirements, which typically means showing you have a steady income so that you can afford the monthly rent or putting up a significant security deposit. As long as you can demonstrate that you can afford the apartment, a landlord will rent to you even if you've just turned 18.
If you want to get an apartment at 18 you'll need to have enough savings to cover your move-in costs, a stable income, and a good credit score. If you aren't working or don't have a credit history, you'll likely have to find a co-signer or guarantor.
- Set a Budget
- Find the Right Apartment
- Fill Out a Rental Application
- Wait for Approval
- Sign the Lease
- Move In
1. Set a Budget
The first thing you need to do to get an apartment at 18 is to set your rent budget. Be sure to remember that rent isn’t the only expense you’ll be paying if you’re living on your own. So, factor in all your living expenses, including utilities, Wi-Fi, food, and other essentials. Most experts recommend spending no more than 30% of your income on rent. So, use that metric to decide how much you can realistically afford.
2. Find the Right Apartment
Once you’ve set your budget, you can start looking for apartments. Depending on where you live and your price range, you may have many options to choose from or very few. Start by identifying which neighborhoods you want to live in and look at all the available options. If you stay patient, eventually, you’ll find an apartment that works for your situation.
3. Fill Out a Rental Application
When you’ve found the apartment, ask the broker or landlord to send you their rental application. The application will ask you for some basic information about yourself and your current employment. You will also likely be asked to submit documents to verify your income, such as pay stubs, an employment letter, and tax returns (if you have any).
4. Wait for Approval
The landlord will review your application and either approve or deny it. They cannot deny you solely based on your age, but they can deny you if you don’t have enough income or credit history to satisfy their requirements. To help persuade them, you may try to get a guarantor or someone with more established financial credentials that is willing to cosign the loan. Or you can also offer to pay some rent upfront (if you can afford it).
5. Sign the Lease
If the landlord accepts your application, they’ll want you to sign a lease agreement. Make sure to look it over carefully and understand what you’re agreeing to before signing. A lease is a legally binding contract, and if you don’t honor the terms, you could face severe consequences, including legal action. So, double-check to make sure you understand all the terms and that there are no surprises.
6. Move In
Once you sign the lease, all that’s left to do is move in. You will be allowed to move in on the date that your lease starts. The start date is typically the 1st of the month unless the landlord agrees to allow you to begin the term early in exchange for prorated rent. After the lease signing, make sure to find out when you’ll be able to pick up the keys and start moving your stuff into the unit.
1. A Job So You Can Pay Rent
The first thing you’ll need before you can get an apartment is a job so that you can pay rent. Depending on where you live, there may be different requirements for the amount of income needed. For instance, in New York City, landlords require that you make 40x the rent to qualify. However, the conditions are laxer in other places. But, unless your parents will be paying your rent and cosigning the lease, you’ll need a job to afford an apartment.
2. Money for a Security Deposit
Before you start applying, save some money for a security deposit. A security deposit is a refundable sum of money the landlord will keep making sure you abide by the lease terms and don’t damage the apartment. When you sign the lease, landlords typically want at least the first month’s rent and a security deposit. So, make sure you save accordingly.
Since you likely don’t have a lengthy employment or credit history, you may need references to vouch for your character and sense of responsibility. If this is your first apartment, you can’t get a reference from a previous landlord. But you could ask a teacher, an employer, or a community leader who has firsthand knowledge of your honesty and integrity.
4. Possibly a Credit Check
Typically, a landlord will want to check your credit to verify that you’re financially responsible. But if you’re only 18, you may not have had time to build your credit. So, it may help to apply for a credit card and start making payments on it before you apply for an apartment, so you have some credit history.
5. Money for a Utility Deposit
Keep in mind that rent isn’t your only expense if you live independently. You’ll also have to pay for utilities to access things like water, heat, and electricity. When you create an account with a utility company, they may ask for a deposit in case you fall behind on your payments. So be sure to budget for that as well.
Even though you can get an apartment at 18, it's not always going to be a good idea. It all depends on your situation. You may not have a choice if you are leaving home to go to school or if your parents are not willing or able to support you any longer. But it is a significant financial commitment and can be tricky if you don’t have a long employment history or solid credit record.
If you can live with family or friends until you’ve established your finances a bit, it may be better to do so. But it’s certainly possible if you are gainfully employed and willing to take on the responsibility.