First-time, and even experienced, renters can sometimes find themselves in over their heads. It can be easy to get caught up in the process of finding the perfect furniture or the right rug for a new place, and unintentionally disregard key skillsets of a great renter.

If you are ready to move forward with a new apartment or just want to be a more informed renter, be sure you have an understanding of these 5 key areas.

How to Stand Out When Applying for a Place:

Whether you’re currently in the market for your next rental, or you just want to beef up your skills for your next apartment hunt, every renter should understand what makes a renter’s application great. Consider preparing a rental resume to truly become an outstanding candidate. Be certain to offer up references (both professional and from your past landlords), give details about your past rental history, and include that other documentation is available upon request.

Knowing how to wow a potential landlord with a complete and professional application could be the deciding factor between getting that dream rental, and having it snagged out from under you.

Pro Tip: Don’t just make a great resume to give upon request; bring it with you when you attend open houses or meet a landlord showing you a listing. This will show that you’re serious and prepared–both are qualities that speak highly to landlords.

How to Perform Basic Maintenance:

One of the great, and arguably the best, benefits of renting a home versus buying one, is the lack of maintenance responsibility. If you own a home and a pipe bursts causing a leak, or the roof needs replacing, you and you alone are responsible for overseeing the repairs and financing the fix. While the burden of overall maintenance is generally relieved for the renter, there are still some DIY skills you will need including:

Additionally, every renter is tasked with informing their landlord when maintenance is required. Don’t let the few drips under the sink go un-reported or the sparky socket get dismissed. Water damage or electrical issues are important items to report the second you notice them – a quick fix now will save your landlord hundreds of dollars in potential damage in the future.

The Importance of Renters Insurance:

While the population of renters has risen, it is still true that the majority of renters do not have renters insurance. More than 50 percent of renters currently have no renters insurance added to their policy, despite its relatively low cost. As a renter, you should know that despite what you may have expected, policies are available between only $10-$15 monthly, and often times can be bundled with your existing insurance provider for even more discounts.

Should a disaster occur in your space, your landlord’s insurance will only cover the cost of the structure and fixtures and not your belongings within the building. Renters insurance will cover the cost of your possessions if they are damaged or destroyed in your home, and some policies will even cover theft protection off-site, which can be very helpful if you have expensive items you have to transport in your car often. This means you can replace your expensive laptop with a policy that costs an average of $187 a year. Renters insurance should be a priority for every renter.

How to Track & Grow Your Credit Score:

Most landlords rely heavily on various tenant screening reports to ensure that their renters are good and reliable candidates. After all, a rental property is a huge investment and landlords want to maintain that investment’s worth, as well as ensure they will actually be paid for monthly rent.

One big way they determine if you are going to reliably pay rent is by checking your credit score; not having a good credit score could not only mean you lose your dream place to another applicant, but you may be required to pay a larger security deposit–or more than one month’s rent.

There are many venues out there for staying abreast of your latest credit score, as well as an equal measure of ways to improve your score if it is poor or you have no credit history. Paying bills on-time will help build your credit history, slowly-but-surely. Plus, if you have previous landlords that are willing to act as a reference that your rent was paid in a consistent, timely manner, you may be able to negate some of the effects of having a less-than-stellar (or virtually non-existent) credit report.

How To Negotiate a Lease:

Lease negotiation is a skill that can benefit every renter. The key to a good negotiation begins with presenting yourself as a renter that landlords will want. This means dressing appropriately and speaking professionally. Especially, if you have impeccable references, a pristine credit score, and a killer rental resume, then you are in a position to ask if there might be a little compromise for certain lease terms.

Be realistic when you ask–you certainly don’t want to lose your dream rental because you low-balled the landlord–but ask for special discounts, extra amenities, or even a fresh coat of paint in return for a longer lease term. You will be surprised what you might benefit from if you are professional and make the effort to ask.

Regardless of where you rent, and for how long you have rented, everyone can benefit from learning more in these must-know areas for renters. Any landlords or property managers out there? We’d love to hear from you! Let us know in the comments if you have any further advice to renters.