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5 things you should know when renting your first apartment in the U.S.

While finding an apartment and filling out the necessary paperwork to apply are significant aspects of the apartment-hunting process, there are several other aspects immigrants need to do before they can even think about moving in. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration reviews what these are.

1. Sign a Lease to Protect Your Rights – Assuming that all the paperwork checks out and the landlord agrees to rent out the property, the next thing immigrants will have to do is sign an agreement, or what's referred to as a lease. This is a document that outlines the terms in which the tenant that's renting the property agrees to and also lays out the commitments of the landlord.

2. Repairs, Term, and Responsibilities – By signing a lease, tenants agree to keep the home in good shape, pay their rent in a timely fashion and stay in the unit for a particular period of time. The length is usually a year, but it's not uncommon for rent agreements to be shorter. In return, the landlord agrees to do their part, such as making sure repairs are taken care of and ensuring the property is in good working order, the source indicates.

3. Paying a Security Deposit – Once both sides sign the lease, tenants may then be asked to pay a security deposit. These are fees that landlords charge to tenants right before they move in to their units. Basically, a security deposit ensures the landlord will be compensated should they experience losses due to the tenant, such as paying for damage or as a way to pay for rent that the tenant may have neglected to pay. Security deposits are typically equal to one-month's rent, the source indicates.

4. Getting Your Security Deposit Back – While security deposits may be an additional expense immigrants were not aware of, this money is typically returned to to tenants whenever they decide to move out. However, the landlord may decide not to reimburse the tenant if they had to pay for repairs that resulted from the occupant's tenancy.

5. What Expenses are Covered – Finally, while rent usually covers the cost of living in the apartment, it sometimes includes expenses for other things. Rent may include the cost of utilities, such as gas, electricity, heat, water and trash removal. However, some landlords may require that the tenant pay for these expenses separately. To find out, USCIS advises immigrants to ask their landlord about what rent includes before signing an agreement.

Finding a place to live is a crucial part of immigrants' experience in the U.S. It will help give them the peace of mind they may need so they can work and send money home to their families.

Helpful links:

Department of Housing and Urban Development: Fair Housing – It's Your Right
HUD's Public Housing Program Apartment-hunting Guide

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