Renting in Philadelphia

If this is your first time renting or you just need a refresher, here is a sense of what to expect from start to finish on the rental process. Learn what's included in your rent, how to apply for an apartment, and how to make sure you get your deposit back at the end of your lease.
What's included
Before move-in
After move-in

What's included

Philly can be a bit different than other rental markets, so here are some general guidelines of what to expect (but definitely check with your new landlord). All of the following apply to unfurnished rentals – furnished rentals should include all of the below as well as movable furniture like couches and beds.


Standard features: Refrigerator with freezer, cabinetry, oven/burners, sink, countertops. Many units in Philadelphia include dishwashers and microwaves as well. Refrigerators, ovens, and dishwashers may be smaller than the standard size, especially in smaller floorplans.

Higher-end features: Garbage disposals, ice makers, stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, oven hoods, kitchen islands, and pantries are typically found in more-expensive units. That said, some of these features may be offered in cheaper apartments.

Rarely included: Utensils, plates, cooking equipment, or any other small movable items. Furniture like stools and tables are also rarely included in your rent.


Standard features: Sink, toilet with seat, toilet paper holder, shower, bathtub, or combination shower/bathtub, cabinetry. Showers and bathtubs may require you to bring your own shower curtain and liner, though they are sometimes included. Towel racks are often included as well.

Higher-end features: Standalone showers with doors, double sinks, marble finishes, nicer tiling, expansive cabinetry, hot tub, bathtub air jets are often premium features that come with higher-end units.

Other things to note: "Half bathrooms" won’t include a bathtub and/or shower.

Overall apartment

Standard features: Some form of heating, closet space, and access to trash removal. Laundry rooms are common in larger properties. Taller buildings (5+ floors) will almost always have elevator access. Your property will be most likely wired for normal electricity and some form of cable and internet, and you should be provided a set of keys for the apartment.

Higher-end features: Central air conditioning, lots of closet space and/or walk-in closets, internal/recessed lighting, washer/dryer in-unit.

Other things to note: If your unit does not have central air conditioning, you may have to purchase your own window units. Depending on the amount of built-in lighting and storage, you may have to buy additional lights or storage furniture. Expect the apartment to be cleaned before you move in, but not all property managers repaint units prior to move-in.

What's probably not included

Main expenses not included: Internet, TV, and electrical will be your key monthly expenses. You will also likely have to buy renters insurance. That said, some properties do include these expenses.

Other things to note: Water, sewage removal, pet, and assorted one-time fees (move-in/move-out) are common. If you are renting an unfurnished unit (the most common type of rental), you will have to bring all of the furniture, housewares, lighting, electronics, etc. If you want a dedicated parking spot, that may also be an additional expense.

Before move-in

Want the apartment? Submit an application

After you visit your apartment and decide it’s right for you, you will need to submit a rental application, which can cost $0-100. You may also have to put down a deposit (typically towards the first month’s rent) to take the property off the market during the application process. Landlords will ask for: your past few pay stubs and/or bank statements as well as previous residences and references. If you are a student or international, you may have to show an offer or admission letter instead of pay stubs.

Get approval

While you’re waiting for your application to be processed, your landlord is likely checking your credit score and criminal record. There isn’t a specific rule for approving tenants, but in general landlords are looking for tenants who are likely to pay on time and be good tenants – and they cannot discriminate based on race, gender, or family status. If you don’t have enough income to get approved, your landlord may require a cosigner or additional rent paid up front. After you are approved, review your lease and sign the contract if you are comfortable with the terms.

Take care of first month's rent and deposits and renters insurance

Your landlord will likely require payment of the first month’s rent and security deposit after you are approved. You may also have to pay some pro-rated days if you are not starting on the first of the month (i.e. if you start on the 17th of the month, they may ask for an additional 17 days of rent up front). The security deposit is usually one month’s rent but can be smaller. A landlord may require the last month’s rent paid in advance as well. You may also have to buy renters insurance, which we suggest taking care of in advance of move-in.

Schedule your move-in

Once you are all paid up on any upfront costs, schedule your move-in with building management and be sure to reserve any surrounding parking you will need to accommodate moving trucks. Nothing can be more annoying than squaring away your whole moving process and then not being able to use a freight elevator or parking spot in front of the building.

Move-in and inspection

Just prior to moving all your furniture in to your apartment, we suggest doing a full walk-through with your building manager and take lots of pictures to document the condition of everything. After that, you should be all set to move in your furniture and enjoy your new apartment!

After move-in

After you’re all moved in, apartment living should be pretty straightforward. Here’s what you’ll probably have to do.
  • 1. Pay your rent each month

    Typically, you will be paying rent upfront for a given month on the first of that month. For example, you will likely have to pay rent for the month of April on April 1. Larger buildings often have a drop box for checks, though you may have to mail checks to a specific address on your lease. Some properties accept online bill payments either via direct deposit or credit/debit card. Be careful that you pay your rent on time each month – many contracts allow a hefty late fee or even start the eviction proess if you miss a payment.
  • 2. Cover your utilities, internet, and renters insurance

    You will likely have to pay utility, internet, and renters insurance fees to a company that is different from your landlord. Make sure to pay these on time so you can continue to enjoy full use of your apartment. Be aware that not having renters insurance may be breaching your contract so take care of it ASAP.
  • 3. Use the designated facilities for trash disposal

    Most large properties have designated trash rooms for garbage and recycle, including chutes where relevant. Make sure you find out from your landlord where to dispose of everyday trash as well as larger items like furniture.
  • 4. Notify landlord 60+ days in advance of the lease end date if you’re renewing or moving out

    Most contracts require 1-2 month’s advance notice to your landlord if you want to renew or move out. If you are moving out, be on the safe side and provide written notice at least 60 days in advance, so the lease doesn’t accidentally auto renew. If you will be renewing be sure to ask your landlord 60+ days in advance for an updated lease so you can get a sense for any changes in pricing or terms.
  • 5. When you move out, perform a thorough inspection and receive your deposit back

    Take plenty of pictures of your apartment once you’re ready to move out and expect to receive your deposit back by mail within 30 days of your move out. Naturally, you may not receive the full deposit back if you have caused any damage to your apartment. The better you document the condition of your property, the more prepared you will be to contest any charges. Make sure to give your landlord your new address so they know where to send the check.