ATL Apartment First-timers Guide 101

Published by Cierra Ward on

ATL Apartment First-timers Guide 101

Apartment hunting (and living) is not as easy as it looks. Cierra Ward | Avant-Youth

The amount of people moving to Atlanta has increased in recent years. In turn, the price of housing has gone up significantly, especially in more gentrified areas like Buckhead and Midtown.

I moved to Atlanta in August 2020 and started looking for apartments by the end of October. I had the impression that you pay rent for an apartment–and that’s it. 

Boy was I wrong.

While I was applying for apartments, I learned a lot of things that came as a surprise to me. As an independent 21-year-old woman living alone, I thought to create a guide that’d help other young people like myself. 

This guide is specific to Atlanta, so if you are a newcomer or are in the market for an apartment, I hope this helps.

Where to Live and What to Consider

When moving to a new city, it’s important to look up the areas that you possibly want to live in. Things you’ll want to consider include the noise, crime rate and the walkability score.

I started the process by doing a simple Google search of, “good areas to live in Atlanta.” The search yielded many results. I clicked on this link that shows you the top eight places to live in Atlanta. Keep in mind that these places are more on the expensive side since they are in the city and it’s gentrified.

Next, I visited this website. I was able to view the crime rate, nosiness and other features of the area I mentioned above. I found that because there’s more traffic and people closer to downtown Atlanta, crime rates were a little higher compared to the outskirts of the city.

Rent is one of the biggest things you should be looking into. Most apartments in Atlanta will determine your eligibility to live there based on if your income is at least three times the rent. 

For example, if the rent for the place you’re researching is $1,200, you’d have to make at least $3,600 a month. Like crime rates, rent is higher in areas closer to downtown than on the outskirts of Atlanta.

To look for specific apartment complexes, their pricings and other features, explore this website.

Expenses to Think About Other than Rent

While rent is paramount, you also have to think about utility payments. The main utility costs for an apartment include water, power and trash services. 

If you’re a local student living in either an on-campus or off- campus housing complex, the landlord will pay your utilities while you worry about the rent. If you are not a student, you will be looking at separate utility bills. There are some apartments out there that include utilities; however, the rent will be more on the expensive side since the utilities are included.

Your utility bills will not be the same every month. It will depend on how much of each you use. For my apartment, my water bill ranges from $30 to $60 while my power bill ranges from $70 to $100 per month. My landlord pays for the trash services [thankfully].

Another thing to consider is whether you will be living alone or with roommates. 

When living alone, you will be paying everything yourself, so you have to budget accordingly. 

Living with roommates is easier because you all split the bills, which relieves the financial burden aspect. BUT, be cautious to only live with people you trust and can rely on, because if your roomie or roomies can’t make payments, you may have to cover their costs depending on the lease agreement y’all sign. Be sure to also make that both you and your roommates sign the lease, not just yourself.

What You Need to Apply

Now that you have picked the place you want to apply to, you’ll need a few things before you can do the paperwork:

  • License, ID card or passport/visa
  • Social Security Card
  • Application fee (can range from $30-$100 depending on the apartment)
  • A W2, two recent paystubs or an employment letter from your job to verify income
  • Optional: A recommendation letter from a previous apartment complex (depends on the apartment)

The Application/Approval Process

Once you have all of your documents in order, the next step is the application. The application will be done in-person or online based on the apartment complex you choose.

For this part of the process, you will be filling out documents asking for your basic information like name, address, email, etc. There will also be documents asking about your employment history for the past six months to a year. Lastly, you will need to fill out a form that requires you to include your asset information. Assets include any checking or savings accounts, bonds, car ownership and any real estate.

Make sure to fill out these forms completely, or else the approval process will be slowed down.

Now your application is ready to go through the approval process. The apartment complex will run a credit check to see if they can trust you to make rent payments. Once it comes back good, your application will be forwarded to the compliance department.

Compliance will be checking your application to ensure you have filled everything out accurately. They will also do the employment verification by contacting your employers. Finally, they will contact your old apartment complex (if you previously lived at one) to see if you made payments on time and make sure you were a compliant resident.

After compliance has marked your application as good, you are now ready to sign the lease. 

Most apartment complexes will have you come in to sign the lease before or on your move-in date. These legal documents will explain and solidify how much your rent will be, how it can be paid, any late fees and what date they will occur on.

Before you sign any leasing agreement, look over it thoroughly.  I also recommend that you have a lawyer look over the terms so you are not entering something that’s unfair or you can’t get out of. Landlords and corporations including apartment complexes like to make money at the end of the day. If you don’t have a lawyer on hand, you can have a family member or trusted friend with knowledge about contracts look at it. 

The leasing contract will also include information about the amenities your apartment has and how you can use them, contact information, and different forms to protect you and your leasor.

Move-In Time

Once you have viewed and signed everything, you are ready to move in! 

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Cierra Ward

Cierra Ward is a recent graduate from the University of Central Florida with her bachelor’s in Electronic Journalism. She is originally from Jacksonville, Florida, but plans to travel the whole world before she settles somewhere. Besides telling unique stories of people, her passion is dance, which she has participated in since she was three years old. An interesting fact about Ward is she has a first-degree black belt in Taekwondo.


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