The Essential To-Do List Before Moving Out of an Apartment

Moving can be exciting and overwhelming. There’s so much to do! Before you’re elbow-deep in packing peanuts, let’s make sure you are taking all of the necessary steps to move out of your current apartment. You want an easy transition to your new place, and you want to do everything you can to try and get your security deposit back, so let’s review what you need to do before you move out of your apartment.


To know exactly how much notice you need to give before moving out of your apartment, check your lease. Apartment communities can require notice of 30 days, 60 days, or even 90 days, so make sure you check this well in advance. If you don’t give proper notice, you could lose your security deposit or be held responsible for several months’ rent. The delivery method should also be specified in your lease. Usually, a written notice is required (use this notice to vacate template if you’re not sure how to write one).


If you paid first and last month’s rent in addition to a security deposit when you moved in, be aware that the security deposit and last month’s rent are different, even though the amounts might be the same. The security deposit covers any damages to the apartment. The last month’s rent, which you paid when you signed the lease, means you won’t owe a final payment at the end of your lease term. Even though the amounts may be the same, your security deposit can’t be used to cover your last month’s rent.


Your renters insurance should move with you, but you’ll want to contact your carrier as soon as possible about your upcoming move. Be aware that your premiums may be adjusted based on your new apartment. Depending on your policy, you may have 30 days to contact them about your move, but it’s a good idea to do this as soon as possible. Some renters insurance will cover belongings during a move, so now is a good time to review your policy and ask questions, as well.


Two weeks before you move, call your utility providers and schedule your turn off/turn on dates. You want to turn the utilities off at your current apartment the day after you move out (to avoid the electric and water being shut off while you are trying to move boxes — especially in the summer). This is also handy if you want to do a last-minute vacuum after all of the boxes and furniture are out of the apartment. Schedule the utilities to be turned on at your new apartment the day before you move in (so you’ll have electric and water when you are moving in). 


In order to get your security deposit back, you’ll need to undo any damage you caused in the apartment. That lovely photo collage over the couch, for example, likely left lots of holes in the wall that will need to be filled. If you painted a wall, you’ll likely have to paint it back to its original color (unless you made other arrangements with your landlord). If you switched out light fixtures, blinds, or drawer pulls, all of those need to be returned to the originals. Look for any pet damage, dings or scratches that weren’t there when you moved in, and stains on the carpets.  If you can fix it, do so. If you can’t, be aware that it will likely come out of your security deposit.


You want your apartment to sparkle, so get out the mop and broom and get busy. Try to get your apartment as close to its original move-in condition as you can. Some normal wear and tear is to be expected, but make it your goal to erase the year (or years) you spent in the apartment. If you aren’t sure you can tackle the cleaning yourself, you may want to consider hiring a cleaning service to get your apartment in tip-top shape.


Once your apartment is sparkly clean, take a few pictures! Not for the memories (although a selfie or two might be nice), but just in case you need proof of the apartment’s condition. If your landlord spots something after you move out, you can refer to your pictures to see if it is something you overlooked or if it possibly occurred after you vacated the property.


Your apartment community may need advance notice if you will have moving assistance, whether that’s in the form of extra people and trucks or a moving company with a van. If you live in a gated community, check with the property manager about how to get people in and out. Some apartment communities may leave the gates open when a resident is moving in or out, so be sure to ask ahead of time. If movers will have to park along the street, the apartment manager may have to notify the city, so it’s especially important that you give them plenty of notice.

If you live in an apartment with an elevator, ask your apartment manager about scheduling elevator time or possibly using the service elevator.


Once your apartment is clean and empty, schedule a walk-through with your landlord. Your landlord may arrive with checklists: the one you filled out together during your move-in walk-through and a new one you’ll fill out during your move-out walk-through. Try to be there for the move-out inspection, if possible. This way you can discuss any issues on the spot and agree to any necessary repairs, eliminating any unwelcome surprises when it comes time to get your security deposit back.


You can do this at your local post office or online at Be sure to give your new address to anyone who might send you mail, from your bank to your employer to your grandma. If you have a roommate, they will also have to fill out their own change of address form.


Find all of your keys. If you gave one to your mom so she could water your plants or let your dog out, be sure to get it back. If you have separate keys or cards for the security gate, swimming pool, mail room, or fitness center, locate those as well. Be sure to return all keys and cards to the property manager or landlord when you are completely finished with the apartment. If one is missing, you will likely be charged to replace it.


Whether you are moving to a new state or down the block, having a new home is always exciting. Hopefully, you were able to transition easily from your old apartment into your new one by following these suggestions. If you are still looking at apartments, this new apartment checklist might help you find the perfect new place.

Your Guide to Apartment Utilities

When touring an apartment, it’s critical to discuss both the rent and the apartment utility costs with your property manager or landlord. Apartment utilities can be difficult to calculate – costs are dependent on region, usage, age of home, appliances, providers, and a credit check – but they should be included in your budgeting plan.

You’ll likely have to reach out to local utility providers if you’re moving into a home that doesn’t include utilities, or if the apartment doesn’t contract out to any particular company. Utility bills can fluctuate throughout the year because of seasonality, and you may end up paying more for the same plan without doing the right kind of research.

Use our extensive apartment utilities guide for all of your apartment utility questions. We know you have some, so continue on you wondering minds!


Are you moving out of state? You might be in a panic knowing that you need to start searching for utility providers in another state. Stressing is overrated – you can find utility providers in your new location with just a quick search on the Internet!

Some apartment communities may have a set list of utility vendors that you have to use. If they don’t, you’re free to choose your own providers. A long-distance move is a big deal that requires careful planning. Let’s go over the general types of utilities most commonly found in apartments.

Water & Sewer

Your water and sewer usage are measured by a meter. Your water and sewer bill can either be billed to your individual apartment or to the apartment community. Apartment communities that are given the bill will split the total amount by the number of households on the property. Residents will then add the distributed amount to their next rent payment.

According to Statista, a family of four pays on average $70 a month for water, with each family member using approximately 100 gallons. Learn to conserve water by shrinking your usage at home!


Just like water, an apartment dweller’s electricity usage is measured using a meter. Heating and cooling units use more power than any other home appliance, including a water heater and washer/dryer. There are numerous ways to save on your energy bill. You can then use those savings to fund something special for your home, like a living room set!

NPR reports that a house uses an average of 908 kilowatts each month. At a cost of $0.12 per kilowatt, the average electric bill will run $109. Your bill, of course, may be more or less dependent on the size of your apartment, the number of appliances (and their age), and if you have a roommate.

Natural Gas

Does your apartment use natural gas? Most natural gas companies measure a customer’s usage with the therm metric. You can view your annual usage trend on your gas bill, so you can track which months have a heavier usage than others.

The average price of a therm is $1.05, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Renters will see more therms in winter because of heating the apartment, whereas the summer months will have a decrease in gas usage but a spike in electric (due to cooling). 


Your trash expense is generally included in your rent unless your apartment has valet waste services. You typically don’t get to choose the provider. Trash pickup companies are contracted by the apartment community and residents pay a monthly fee.

Renters tend to pay between $25 and $35 a month for valet trash, according to Property Manager Insider.

Internet, Cable, and Phone 

You can easily create and set up your Wi-Fi, cable, and phone plan from inside your apartment. Allconnect allows you to research the best plans for your budget.

These utility costs vary greatly depending on the Internet speed, phone, and cable plans you go with. Think about bundling all three for greater savings. An average bill can be upwards of $250 in some cases, so put your investigation skills to work (everyone has them) and bundle! Bundle real good.


Safety is a top priority for renters in an apartment. Talk with your property manager about installing a security system in the unit.

Home security services like ADT can go for $30 a month, and may or may not include a service fee for the equipment.


Creating a budget for your apartment utilities is similar to budgeting for an apartment. You’ll want to save a small amount of your paycheck to go towards your utility budget. The apartment utility bills won’t be the same price each month, since the total cost factors in usage, inflation, rental equipment, service fees, and seasonality.

If you’re beginning to set up utilities in your home, a local provider may check your credit history to see your prior bill payment history.

During your search, you’ll see that a lot of utility providers include an easy-to-use utility cost calculator on their website. Renters may want to look for an apartment with utilities already included for convenience – and everyone likes convenience! The benefit of choosing a utilities-included apartment is that you don’t have to pay for an additional service – it’s already incorporated into your rent price!


Seasonality affects your utility bills. Hot and humid outside temperatures will make you blast the AC inside your apartment. Cooler weather might make your home too cold, making you reach for the thermostat to increase the heat. Slash your utility bills, and be the defender of your 600-square-foot fortress, with these savings tips!


You can definitely save on your spring utility bills. Opening your windows and letting in a cross-breeze can help lower your electric bill. Also, put in a maintenance request to have your AC filters changed. According to the Department of Energy, frequently changing the filter can decrease energy consumption by 15 percent.


Keeping the blinds closed and curtains shut can block out unwanted heat in your home. Turning on the ceiling fans will lower your home temperature by a couple of degrees, affording you the opportunity to turn off your thermostat temporarily and still stay cool. 


Fall is an excellent time to seal off any openings that may leak out air, which could increase your gas and electric bills. Weather this time of year is typically pleasant, and opening the windows can keep your home temperature regulated.


Winter is cold – there’s no doubt about it – and you need to keep warm without cranking up the heat. Keep your heat bill low by opening up the blinds to let the sunshine in. While it’s understandable that you want to wear the comfiest clothes in your apartment, bundling up a tad with socks and long sleeves can help you save money.

Do you have a fireplace? Well, use it! You’ll be able to keep the thermostat low and let the warm, crackling fire heat your home. Sounds cozy!


Managing money and bills with roommates can be challenging. You might have that one roommate who likes to sleep with the TV on and run up the electric bill, and another who enjoys the comforts of a long (ahem, very long) and hot shower.

Draft a roommate agreement to make sure everyone is paying their fair share of apartment utilities. If it’s in writing, everyone in the household can know exactly what’s expected of them. Make it clear how you’ll split the utility costs. Is one person collecting the money? State exactly who that someone is in the roommate agreement.

Two common ways to split money is by dividing the total cost evenly, and the second way is to portion out the cost based on income. My preferred method is the first because it’s a less complicated approach. Whichever way you end up choosing, sharing the bills with roommates definitely helps relieve some financial burdens. 

Apartment utilities are never going away. Hopefully, this article helped to answer some of your questions about them. Whether you stay in your apartment long term or move after a year, you’ll run into utilities again in your next place. After all, you need stuff like water, electricity, and gas to live comfortably, right?

Coronavirus, Homelessness, & Housing

Over 2,000 organizers, advocates, housing and homelessness service providers, reporters, and legislative staff attended last week’s national call on “Coronavirus, Homelessness, and Housing” hosted by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) and the Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) on March 30. The call featured updates from congressional leaders, including Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), as well as updates from federal, state, and local advocates and service providers working to assist people experiencing homelessness, low-income households, and members of marginalized communities, all of whom are disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. A recording of that call is here.

Wisconsin Homestead Credit

The Homestead Credit is a state of Wisconsin tax benefit for renters and homeowners with low or moderate incomes. It is designed to lessen the impact of rent and property taxes.  Eligible people who do not file Wisconsin state income taxes may still claim the Homestead Credit

Am I eligible for the Wisconsin Homestead Credit?

You may be able to claim the homestead credit if:

  • You occupied and owned or rented a home, apartment, or dwelling that is subject to Wisconsin property taxes during 2019; and
  • You were a legal resident of Wisconsin for all of 2019; and
  • You were 18 years of age or older on December 31, 2019; and
  • Your household income was less than $24,680 for 2019; and
  • You meet one of the following conditions:
    • You (or your spouse, if married) had earned income during 2019; or
    • You (or your spouse, if married) are disabledor
    • You (or your spouse, if married) are 62 years of age or older at the end of 2019.

What counts as household income?

Household income includes all income reportable for tax purposes, plus certain nontaxable income, less a deduction of $500 for dependents who lived with the claimant for at least six months of 2019. If you were married and lived with your spouse during all of 2019, you must combine your income and that of your spouse to determine your total household income. Examples of nontaxable income that are included for this purpose include Social Security, Unemployment Compensation, child support, IRA contributions, and nontaxable scholarships.

How much can individuals and families get back from the Homestead Credit?

The amount of credit depends on income and on the amount of rent or property taxes.  The maximum Homestead Credit is $1,168.

Does the Homestead Credit affect eligibility for welfare benefits?  Do welfare benefits affect eligibility for the Homestead Credit?

The Homestead Credit does not count as income in determining eligibility for benefits such as W-2, Medicaid, Food Stamps, SSI, or public or subsidized housing.

Some welfare benefits can reduce the Homestead Credit. The benefits that affect the Homestead Credit include Wisconsin Works (W-2), county relief, and Kinship Care.

Detailed information for calculating the amount of the credit is provided in the instructions to the tax forms. You can find information about the forms you will need to claim these credits on the How to Claim Tax Credits page.

Calling About an Apartment

Image: Marília Castelli / CC BY 3.0

This worksheet is designed to help you determine whether an apartment would be appropriate for you and, if applicable, your family. The questions about screening are important because many landlords charge an application fee to screen for criminal history, credit history, and rental history. If you know in advance the “tolerance level” of the landlord (that is, whether the landlord will rent to people in your situation), you can decide if it would be worth paying the fee and applying for the apartment.

On this worksheet you will find:

  • tips to help you with the call
  • a telephone script
  • charts to fill out and take notes on during the call
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Dane County Housing Needs Assessment

Major Findings from 2019 Assessment

  • Household income, number of households, and population in Dane County have all grown at an average rate of 1.3 percent per year from 2010-2017. Jobs in Dane County have grown 1.7 percent per year. However, the number of housing units has only grown 1.1 percent per year. There is a real shortage of all types of housing units in Dane County. Rents have grown 2.3 percent per year on an average annualized basis.
  • Despite producing over 25,000 net new housing units in Dane County (2006-2017), Dane County under-produced more than 11,000 housing units relative to household growth.
  • Vacancies for multifamily rental units in the “core” urban area (Madison, Middleton, Monona, and Fitchburg zip codes) remain below 5 percent.
  • Overall owner-occupied housing prices in Dane County have tracked the growth in housing prices in the nation, region, and state.
  • Except for the lowest income households (those making less than 30 percent of AMI), the number of extremely-cost-burdened owner households has declined, marking a recovery from the housing and foreclosure crises of 2007/08.
  • For renting households making less than half of median income, the number of extremely-cost- burdened households has increased in numbers. However, when measured as the percent of these households, extreme cost-burdens have declined slightly. If the rates of cost-burden from the previous report (2006-2010) applied today, at least 1,000 more renting households would be extremely cost-burdened. Although the percentage of extremely low-income renters who are extremely cost-burdened has declined, the increase in numbers reflects overall population growth.
  • The City of Madison continues to have a disproportionate share of the region’s lower-income renters relative to its share of the county’s population.
  • One measure of the “Housing Gap” is the difference between the number of renting households with incomes below 30 percent of AMI and the number of units whose rent would be affordable to households at 30 percent of AMI income levels. According to this measure, the County’s housing gap is 10,812 affordable units.
  • The second measure of the “Housing Gap” is a measure of the number of lower-income households who currently pay more than half of their income in rent. Under this measure, the County’s affordable housing gap is 13,050 rental units and 3,490 ownership units. This rental number has increased from 10,285 units in 2010, a 26.9 percent increase.
  • There continues to be significant racial disparities in Dane County in terms of income, homeownership, and housing burdens. Even though income disparities contribute to housing disparities, African American and Hispanic households experience disproportionately higher rates of housing stress and burden compared to white households at the same income level.





Guide to Searching for Housing on

Image: Sylvar / CC BY 2.0 is the leading online apartment listing website, offering renters access to information on more than 1,000,000 available units for rent. is supported by the industry’s largest professional research team, which has visited and photographed over 400,000 properties nationwide. Housing Navigation Services (HNS) recommends this site for its large amount of listings, filtering options, photos, 3D models (when available) long detailed descriptions, Amenities List, and Reviews. This needs to be the first resource you use.

To find housing on

Get to a computer with internet and go to

You should get the screen shown as an image below on your screen (should list your city)

If you want to search for housing only in the city listed, hit the search button. Additionally, if you want to search in a different city or search in your whole country, type in the search bar.

For example here at HNS we will search for Dane County, Wisconsin housing. Your search should render results similar to these:

You are now able to filter your results by price when selecting the drop-down menu labeled price. Next, enter the maximum price you want to search for in that search tool and hit enter/return

You can adjust/filter the number of bedrooms, type of housing, number of bathrooms, amenities, square feet, and more by selecting the drop-down menu labeled more. This search functionality is helpful when attempting to locate specific criteria within a renting opportunity.

Here’s an image of studios/1 bedrooms price at the Fair Market Race of $776.00 or less in Dane County.

From here you can begin by scrolling up and down on the list to the right. You can also sort by price by selecting low to high. However, we recommend not doing that since the system offers quality results and reliable landlords. These reliable results are filtered through the page numbers in order to get to the next page of listings. Once you identify an apartment you’d like to view, select the green shape on the map.

Here’s an example

Right off the bat, you will see the property name, price, phone, and address of the place. Also listed will be an email button. You also will very likely see images of the building.

In the image above this apartment, the Play button offers a video of the apartment location, including a 3D tour of the rental unit. (Note, only certain listings showcase a 3D option)

These images are captured below:

Thereafter, once returning to the page you are able to scroll down and gather information about the listing. This information includes the number of bedrooms, square feet, availability date, expenses and utilities, and various additional property searchables.

One last thing to look out for is a scam warning listing on the top of the page on the right-hand side.

If the listing indicates Avoid Scams, the listing may be legit and viable for rental housing. However, the indication serves as a warning that the potential of being a scam is higher.

Please be aware:

If you are not sure if a housing listing is a scam or are concerned for housing legitimacy, please contact Housing Navigation Services at

Apartments have mobile apps for phones and tablets. For iPhones and iPads

Fair Use Statement
This website may contain copyrighted material, the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright holders. The material is made available on this website as a way to advance research, training, and education related to housing searches, among other related subjects. Through context, critical, and educational framing HNS creates a transformative use of copyrighted media. The material is presented for entirely non-profit educational purposes. There is no reason to believe that the featured media will in any way negatively affect the market value of copyrighted works.

We do not support any actions in which the materials on this site are used for purposes that extend beyond fair use.

Guide to Searching for Housing on Craigslist

Image: Sardaka / CC BY 3.0

Craigslist is the most popular website in the United States for finding housing. On this website, landlords can advertise their apartments for free and people can search for ads when they need housing. Users then contact each other by email or phone. This is the best site for people to use to find private landlords and/or cheap units. However, when using Craigslist, it is very important to avoid scams, but these are easy to avoid as long as you know a few basic rules. See our “How to Avoid Scams When Searching for Housing post.

To find housing on Craigslist:

  1. Get to a computer with the internet and go to
  2. Locate the header that says “Housing” and click on the link underneath that’s called “apts/housing”. This will take you to a list of apartments that are available to rent,
  3. In the search bar at the top, you can search for what you are looking for. For example, you could search “1-bedroom-apartment” to find what is available in your area.
  4. On the left side of the screen, there are more options for you to make sure you are only seeing the apartments that are appropriate for you. You can choose what zip code you would like to live in, a price range that you can afford, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you need, the date you are available to move in, whether or not you have pets, and whether or not you want a furnished apartment. You do not have to fill this whole section out, but it might help you narrow down your search.
  5. Click on the place you want to see and it will take you to a page with a description of the apartment and hopefully some photos of the place
  6. On this page, you can click the “reply” button to find the email of the poster or find the phone number by clicking on “show contact info”.
  7. You can also use the map on the right to find out the area where the apartment is located. The circle represents the location of the apartment.

Please be aware:
If you are not sure if a housing listing is a scam or are concerned of housing legitimacy, please contact Housing Navigation Staff at

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