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Welcome to the USA ~ Do you Know How to Lease an Apartment?
by Toulas Scorpento

Ask any who~s emigrated from another country, and they~ll
tell you that the most exciting ~ and confusing ~ time in
their life was when they moved to America. In addition to
the promise of freedom and all that comes with it, there~s
also the fear and insecurity of attempting to blend into a
society where everything is foreign ~ even the process of
securing a place in which to live. For newcomers to the
country, there~s often a struggle with the specifics that
may seem simple or common-sense to those of us who are
natural citizens.

Whether you have just moved the United States, or plan to
move here shortly, there are procedures you should be
familiar with when you attempt to lease an apartment. First
of all, the owner of the property is known as the landlord.
You will be paying him or her a monthly fee to live there,
which is known as the rent. If you have any problems or
concerns, you should immediately report them to your
landlord. Any questions you have regarding your lease,
(which is the document that spells out the terms of your
rental), or anything related to your living conditions or
the property itself should be reported to the landlord.

A landlord, before he will rent an apartment to you, will
want to know your social security number and proof of
employment. Your visa can be used in place of the social
security number, and most landlords will accept a pay stub
to prove that you have a job. If you~re unemployed, a
andlord will not rent to you unless you can provide a
co-signer, who will accept responsibility for the payment
of your rent each month if you can't pay it.Most properties
also require an application fee, but this policy will vary
(and so will the fee) from property to property.

Leases are offered for set periods of time. It depends on
the property and the landlord's rules. Most leases are for
one year, because landlords don't want to go through all
that trouble every couple of months. But there six month
lease periods do exist as well. The object behind the lease
is that you are obligated to stay in the apartment for the
term of the lease. Be sure you are clear on the terms of
your lease, and understand all of the fees that are related
to the lease. A landlord is not obligated to renew your
lease, so if you find a nice, reasonable place, you may
want to have as long a lease as possible. But find out if
there are any penalties involved in breaking a lease. For
instance, if you are transferred out of the area, or change
your marital status, you may be stuck if you signed a long
lease. You may have to pay part of the balance of the lease
or the rent until the apartment is rented again.

Utilities are sometimes included within the cost of the
monthly leasing fee (rent), but not always. Make sure that
you can afford to pay for your own utilities in addition
to the rent, if these are not included as part of the
package. Utilities include items such as gas, electricity,
phone service, cable TV service, hot water, heat, air
conditioning and any other service that goes beyond the
leasing of the actual apartment. In most cases, deposits
will have to be put down for each of these, which can be
fairly costly, and then monthly payments will need to be
made in order to continue the services. If you feel that
you can afford to pay for each of these items on your own,
then you~ll be able to maintain an independent style of
living. Otherwise, you might consider getting a roommate
(someone who lives with you and shares the expenses).

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