After 18 years under your parents鈥 roof, four years of dorm life (and uh, maybe a year or two back under your parents鈥 roof), you鈥檙e finally getting your own place. But before you go crazy pinning apartment decorating hacks and DIYs to make it look like an adult actually lives in your new apartment, you have to do some actual adulting and make sure you鈥檙e not about to sign a lease on the one-bedroom from hell. So before you add that final signature and drop half your savings on first, last and security, here are some things you should be sure to do:

Woman holding book in bed

1. Go see the apartment in-person. You should always, always do a walk-through of any apartment you鈥檙e interested in 鈥 if only to make sure it matches the photos in the listing you saw online. (You know how powerful an Instagram filter can be.) But you鈥檙e not just there to measure that your bed will fit into that teeny tiny excuse for a bedroom; you should also make a note of any damage or safety issues to bring up with the landlord, and see if they鈥檙e able to make fixes before you sign the lease. Rent.com has a handy apartment tour checklist you can use, which includes things like 鈥渓ook around for good outlet locations鈥 and 鈥渃heck the locks on the doors and windows.鈥

2. Document any existing damage. If there are things your landlord can鈥檛 or won鈥檛 fix but you still want to rent the apartment, make sure all of those things are specified in the lease as preexisting conditions. That way, there won鈥檛 be any question as to whether or not you鈥檒l get your security deposit back when you move out (assuming you don鈥檛 trash the rest of the place).

3. Find out what鈥檚 included in your monthly rent. Don鈥檛 assume that parking, cable, internet, gas and electric are all included. Or even that any of those are. Some buildings include utilities and perks, but not all. You don鈥檛 want the rep from the gas company rolling their eyes at you over the phone when you call to find out why you don鈥檛 have hot water, and they inform you it鈥檚 because you never turned it on.

Young Couple Moving In To New Home Together

4. Make sure your credit doesn鈥檛 suck. Landlords won鈥檛 rent to just anyone. You have to be able to prove you can actually cover your rent each month, with more than just a copy of your personal budgeting Google Doc. Your credit score is a big part of that, and if you know your score going in, you鈥檒l save yourself the embarrassment (and disappointment) of being told you鈥檙e not getting your dream place. Sites like Credit Karma offer easy, free tools to check your credit yourself at any time, and help you spot any errors that might have damaged your score (like a supposedly unpaid credit card bill you know you covered.)

5. Get your paperwork together. Generally, it鈥檚 a good idea to go into apartment hunting with a photocopy of your ID, your most recent tax return, two recent bank statements and two recent pay stubs. If you have all of it ready ahead of time, you can jump on an apartment you love right away 鈥 and show your landlord how reliable and organized you are. Some landlords also require a letter to show proof of employment and/or a letter of reference from a past landlord, so you might want to give your job or current property management company a head鈥檚 up that you鈥檙e looking.

6. Get a bank check. You can鈥檛 show up to the lease signing with just a regular old check book or cold hard cash. Most landlords and rental companies will ask for a bank or certified check for your security deposit and any other move-in fees (like first and last month鈥檚 rent). And when you hand over that chunk of change, Naked Apartments says to make sure you get a receipt 鈥 or verify that your lease will serve as one.

7. Know the rules. Some landlords are hardcore about things that might not even occur to you, like keeping bikes in the building. You鈥檒l also want to verify whether there are specific move in/out times, the process for maintenance requests and the conditions under which you could break your lease (if you had to) without penalty. Lifehacker put together a pretty comprehensive checklist of the key questions to ask, and you鈥檒l also need to find out your landlord鈥檚 rules on making any major changes to the apartment, like hanging shelves or painting walls.

8. Get the OK on pets. FYI: Your landlord will probably also consider bringing in a pet a 鈥渕ajor change,鈥 so be transparent about any four-legged friends that are coming to live with you. Some apartments have a zero-pet policy, but occasionally you can persuade your landlord to make an exception. EasyRent has some tips on how to make the case for Fluffy and Snickers, and a sample contract you can present to make you legally responsible for any damage they might cause.

9. Get everything in writing, and keep copies. If there are any changes to the standard lease agreement (like pets, paint jobs or anything else we鈥檝e already covered here), make sure all of that is spelled out in your lease. And after you sign, make sure you get your own copy and keep it in a safe place so you can reference it easily if there鈥檚 ever a dispute in the future. And because another key part of adulting is not tossing important files into random drawers to be lost forever.

What are your must-dos for signing a lease on an apartment? Tweet us your tips @BritandCo.

(Photos via Getty)