Apartment Lighting

What You Need to Know About Section 8 Housing

Section 8 Housing

The Section 8 Act of 1937 is a landmark piece of legislation that has helped millions of Americans find affordable housing for more than 80 years. Currently, it offers rental housing assistance for almost 5 million Americans, but the ins and outs of it can be tricky to navigate. It is still an incredibly helpful government program that helps millions of people afford housing every year.

What is Section 8 For?

Section 8 is intended for individuals who are forced to pay an above-average amount of their income for rent. It basically boils down to individuals that the need for a place to live means sacrificing other basic amenities such as food and clothing. These subsidies help such individuals afford housing units.


How Does Section 8 Work?

The main way that Section 8 works is through a voucher system. The vouchers can work in two ways:

  • A “project-based” voucher that is used only within a specific apartment complex.
  • A “tenant-based” voucher where a tenant may choose any unit in the private sector.


Under this program, individuals or families with vouchers may find and lease a unit and pay a portion of the rent. This portion is based on the adjusted income of the tenants and most pay approximately 30% of their adjusted income on rent.

What is Adjusted Income?

The adjusted income of an individual or family is determined through a formula. It is the households total gross income minus deduction for dependents under 18, full-time students, and disabled persons. Age (if elderly) is also a factor, as well as certain disability assistance and medical expenses. This is determined through an asset test that is administered when looking for a property. After income calculations, most Section 8 allowances will subsidize roughly 70% of a person’s rent, reducing the portion they are responsible for to 30% of the total.

Where Can Section 8 be Used?

Section 8 is a federal program, so most Section 8 vouchers can be accepted anywhere in the 50 states, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Residency requirements are a factor, however, so in most states you must live there for 12 months before you can leave. Local states and municipalities have their own rules as well. Another key factor is that income changes (such as a raise or promotion) or changes in living situation (such as having a child) must be reported or they can result in being expelled from the program.

How Do I Find Section 8 Housing?

Individual states have their own pages through the national HUD websitethat offer a wealth of resources for individuals seeking Section 8 assistance. The HUD also has its own pageof detailed guidelines and regulations on you can obtain or keep any Section 8 benefits.

The bottom line is that Section 8 Housing is designed to assist individuals in finding affordable housing anywhere in the country. Many local offices are also available to help with any additional questions you may have.

pet friendly

Signing a Pet Agreement Contract

pet agreement contract

Your new apartment is meant to be a home for all of your immediate family, and that includes your furry family members. Many apartment buildings and complexes are now pet friendly, meaning you can bring your cats and dogs with you when you move. Many times residents have to pay an additional fee up front and their rent may have an extra charge each month, but those are things outlined in the “Pet Agreement” portion of the lease. You may not know what is involved in a Pet Agreement, but here are some of the common parts of a basic Pet agreement contract that is in most leases.

Type of Pets Allowed

Pet agreements are designs to protect both tenants and property managers. It outlines the rules for owning a pet on the property for all tenants, including non-pet owners. It helps state which types of animals are allowed to be pets. Some properties won’t allow “dangerous breeds” of dogs such as pit bulls. These agreements also may set a weight limit on dogs. It is also common to state that the only pets allowed are those owned by the tenant, so guests cannot bring their pets when visiting.

Some landlords and property managers may only allow dogs and cats, while others can allow more exotic animals. Something as simple as a goldfish generally doesn’t apply to a pet policy, but lizards, snakes, and other exotic animals.

Licenses and Vaccinations

A Pet Agreement also outlines that a pet owner should follow proper health and identification processes. This means making sure pets have a proper ID tag on their collars and that they also have all of their vaccinations. There are  local ordinances require concerning regular cat and dog vaccinations and licenses, so property managers will insist on proof of compliance.

Pet Fees

Keeping up after pets is important, so a pet agreement will outline any additional fees necessary as well as the rules for keeping pets under control. Tenants are required to clean up after their pets both inside and outside the apartment. Some may even require pet owners to carry renter’s insurance in order to cover damage caused by pets. If there are additional fees such as a pet deposit or an additional monthly charge on top of rent it will also be outlined in the Pet Agreement Contract.

Finally, a pet agreement contract is often subject to change. Sometimes a landlord will have a “grandfather clause” exempting tenants already in the building from having to comply with the new rules for pets they already had before the changes took place. Typically, property managers will give 30 days’ notice before any changes to the pet policy will take effect.

painting swatches

Alternative Wall Coverings for Your Apartment

When you rent an apartment you want to make it your own. It might be your first place that is truly your own, so you want to put your personal stamp on it. Unfortunately, many times landlords have limitations on what you can put on the walls. Some may not allow nail holes to hang artwork or photos, while others may not allow you to paint the walls. There are other options, however. Here are some ideas for alternative wall coverings that can help you truly make your new apartment your own.

Temporary Wallpaper

It can be tricky to put up smoothly, but there are types of wallpaper that are considered strippable or peelable. This is specifically designed to be removed easily with an adhesive that holds it on the wall, but is not very strong. This type of wallpaper can easily be found at moge large hardware stores.

Peel and Stick Tiles

Want to create your own backsplash in the bathroom or kitchen? You can now cover up an existing backsplash with temporary peel-and-stick tiles. They can be removed easily with no residue and be cut to fit your specific space.

Wall Decals

Companies like Fathead have made a name for themselves lately by producing officially licensed large wall decals. You can get life-sized decals of your favorite sports logos or players, licensed characters from your favorite film size, and more.

Fabric or Curtains

There are a couple of options you can use here.  You can stretch your fabric tightly over the wall, then secure it using thumbtacks or small nails, or you can buy inexpensive foam boards that are as tall as your walls, cover them with fabric, then attach the boards to the wall. Curtains may seem a bit odd, but with an ordinary curtain rod you can hang any number of good looking fabrics from ceiling to floor.

Decorative Tape

In recent years there have been hundreds of different designs developed for decorative tape. It comes in several colors and styles and you can make any design you wish. Decorative tape goes on like masking tape and can therefore be easily removed when it comes time for you to move. You can even get creative and use wrapping paper to create larger, more complex designs. Just be forewarned that it may be very fragile.

These are just a few of your options for ways to decorate your walls that won’t leave any damage. You also don’t have to worry about repainting when it comes time to move.

Budget Worksheet

Making a Budget Worksheet for Your Apartment

Budget Worksheet

Moving out on your own for the first time can be stressful. There are a lot of things you need to learn to juggle, including budgets. When you first rent an apartment forming a budget for food, rent, utilities, and more can seem like a daunting task. That is why creating a budget worksheet is a great idea. By creating a budget worksheet you can get down on paper what you expect your monthly expenses will be compared to your income. It helps you keep track of your finances and even prepare for any surprises.

Three Budgeting Principles

When creating a budget worksheet there are three principles you’re looking for: You want to understand where your money is going each month, you want to get a foundation for how to save more and spend less, and you want to be able to get control of your money. These three principles will help you get an idea of where you are currently and where you would like to go.

Mark Your Income

It is never a good idea to spend more money than you have, so figuring out your income is the first step. If you have a steady job this can be an easy part, as you likely have a set income each month. If you have some side jobs in the gig economy some months can be better than others, but you can take that into account. For example: If you earn extra money shoveling snow on the side you’re going to have more income in January as opposed to June. Be sure to use your best judgement.

Figure Your Expenses

Some of these will be easier than others. Your rent is going to be static for each month of your lease. The same is true for a car payment, student loan, or anything else. Utilities will vary, but not by much. Where you really start to see your budget is in your variable expenses. What do you spend each month on eating out or going out to bars? How much do you spend on entertainment? It is these variable expenses that can be cut if necessary.

Figure Out Your Goals

Do you want to save more? Then write down a specific dollar amount you want to save each month and consider it an expense. You can even start a savings account and set up an automatic draft from checking for a certain amount each month, or even each week. Time it with when your paycheck arrives so that you know you will have the money there to save. Be sure to check on your spending each week and adjust as needed.

With these tips it is easy to get a handle on your finances and see where some sacrifices (if any) need to be made. You can even purchase budgeting programs such as Quicken that will show you where your money is going over time.

fish in fishbowl

Alternative Pets for Apartment Living

Alternative Pets

If you’re a dog lover, it might be hard living in an apartment. If you live in an apartment where the landlord doesn’t allow dogs it can be frustrating to not have a furry companion. There are alternatives, however. There are many types of pets that can be quite apartment friendly and companions for you to bond with.


While they may not be particularly cuddly, fish are a great companion that leaves no mess in your unit. They are quiet, so they don’t bother your neighbors and they don’t take up a lot of space. They are also pretty easy to care for. As long as you follow the instructions for your particular species of fish these make a fine pet.


Looking for a companion for life? Some birds can live up to 60 years. They can be communicative and faithful companions for many, many years with proper care. Beware of messes, however. Birds are not domesticated animals, so you will have to clean up their droppings even if they are in a cage.


While some people consider them to be exotic companions, reptiles like snakes and iguanas can be great apartment pets if they match your style. Snakes are surprisingly low-maintenance animals, but they are not for the squeamish. You may have to feed them live mice, which is not for everyone.


Small, cute, and cuddly, hamsters are great pets for small apartments and they allow you to be creative with their environments. You can get any number of pieces of exercise equipment for them from balls that let them roam free to complex tunnels. Just be careful because they bite!


Rabbits make wonderful pets because they are intelligent and enjoy social interaction. They can be difficult to clean up after, however. Some rabbits poop as many as 300 pellets per day. As long as you’re willing to clean up after them they are great pets.

As you can see, just because you can’t have a dog doesn’t mean you can’t have a pet. If you’re willing to adapt and care for a different type of animal you can have a great companion for many years.

security deposit graphic

Security Deposits: What Takes Away From Them

Security Deposits

A security deposit is just part of life when it comes to renting. It is a way to make sure that the apartment building or landlord has funds set aside for necessary maintenance and repairs once a tenant moves out. Some landlords are generous with them and will let things slide for long time tenants, while others can be strict. There is no universal list of what can go against a security deposit and what does not, but speaking with your leasing agent during the process will help give you a better idea. What follows is some of the more common things that can go against a security deposit.

Legally, What can be Deducted

AS mentioned above, there is no definitive list on what can be taken from a security deposit and what can’t. Most landlords want to refund a full deposit because it means there is no damage or extra cleaning. Fixing up an apartment after a tenant leaves not only costs money, it takes time. That time lost is time that the landlord does not have someone renting the space, so it is money lost for them. As long as you leave the apartment in good condition when you leave most landlords will return your full deposit. They understand that general wear and tear is just part of the process.

Renters are responsible for any damage that is out of the ordinary. You can’t leave cigarette burns in the carpet or huge holes in the wall. If you have a pet stained rugs will often mean part of the security deposit won’t be returned. There are often local statutes on what constitutes normal wear and tear, so check your local regulations.

Follow the Lease

You may have to go digging through all of the legalese, but more of the time terms for the security deposit will be included in the lease itself. Property managers will state their exact terms and expectations within the lease. That is part of their job. They can charge for any work that is needed to make the property look exactly as it was before you moved in. A common area here is painting. Some landlords won’t let you paint at all. Others might let you paint as long as you restore it to the previous color before leaving.

What to Do When Moving Out

There are a few things you can do to help the process of returning your deposit when you move out. First, give plenty of notice. Generally, you should give 30-60 days, which gives the landlord plenty of time to prepare the unit and get it back on the market. You can have them do a pre-move out inspection so they can identify areas that you can take care of yourself before they have to. Finally, make sure you give the unit a good cleaning.

Landlords definitely want to work with you even as you are leaving. If you return a unit in good condition it gets it back on the market faster for them. With a little work your separation can be mutual.

Handling Apartment Drain Clogs Yourself

Handling Apartment Drain Clogs Yourself

One of the benefits of apartment living is that you have maintenance on hand to take care of large problems. If your heat goes out or you develop a leak it is often the landlord that is responsible for taking care of it. This is why they have maintenance staffs, and many apartment buildings have staff on site at least part of the day. One of the things you can take care of yourself is apartment drain clogs, however.

You don’t always need to call maintenance, however. There are some problems you can handle for yourself with just a little knowledge. A clogged drain is one of them. If your shower or bathroom sink is backing up you can often just take care of it yourself. Just make sure you don’t damage the fixtures.

Here are some tips on how to take care of drain clogs in your apartment.

Clean With Baking Soda

One of the best ways to take care of clogs is to prevent them in the first place. Cleaning with baking soda can do this. By pouring about half a cup of baking soda down the drain and waiting for it to bubble up it can both help clean and naturally deodorize drains. After letting it sit for 10 minutes pour hot water down the drain to clear it out. If you have a very tricky clog try adding a half cup of vinegar to the baking soda and letting it sit before running the hot water.


Plungers aren’t just for toilets. They can be quite effective on clogged drains as well. Apply a small amount of petroleum jelly to the rim of the plunger to help form a tight seal and place the rubber ball directly over the drain. Use quick and deliberate thrusts and it should help force the clog out.

Wire Hangers

Many times clogs in sink or bath drains are caused by a backup of hair. Fortunately, you don’t need a pipe snake or auger to clear it out. A simple wire hanger will often do. Use a screwdriver to remove the drain cover and straighten out a wire hanger. Leave a hook at the end and feed the wire to fish out any hair that you can. Pull out as much as possible before running hot water down the drain and replacing the cover.

These are just a few ways to take care of a clog yourself. There are other cleaners out there like Enzyme cleaners and power augers, but they run the risk of causing damage to the fixtures that your landlord might now appreciate. If the above methods don’t work it is probably time to call your maintenance staff. The good news is that they are effective and can often take care of the problem before calling anyone else.

bedroom space

Maximize Bedroom Space in Your Apartment

bedroom space

Maximize Bedroom Space in Your Apartment

If you have lived in an apartment for a while you know that maximizing space is important for comfortable living. Each apartment only has a finite amount of space, and unfortunately, some items are only needed part of the time. You may need extra blankets on the bed in winter, but they still need to be stored in summer. These are some ideas that can help you maximize your bedroom space while still having everything you need.

Get a Mattress Topper

No one enjoy mattress shopping. There are so many options and picking the right one can be tricky even before delivery. Maybe you already had enough trouble getting your mattress in the door when you moved in. There is a solution, however: get a memory foam mattress topper. This is a great way to find the right mix of firmness and softness without breaking the bank. It takes up less room than a thicker mattress on a traditional box spring as well. It can even help in the winter, as some mattress pads can be plugged in and heated, helping you save storage space on extra blankets.

Seek Storage Solutions

A great place to look for storage solutions is a place like IKEA, which has plenty of idea on how to maximize space when it is limited. Don’t have an IKEA near you? Stores like Target, Wal-Mart, and others have plenty of storage bins and do-it-yourself cabinets that can help you keep things stashed away, but still at the ready when you need them.

Don’t Forget the Décor

Manage storage solutions can also be functional as décor. A book shelf offers practical storage, but also acts as shelving for your personal effects and shows off your own personal tastes in books. It is also important to make sure the room doesn’t remind you of your daily stressors. The important thing is to make sure it is your own, personal bedroom space.

The key is to be creative. A simple chest at the foot of your bed can double as both storage space and be decorated to make your place your own. With a little imagination you can maximize every square foot of your apartment and truly make it yours.

apartment plants

Finding Plants For Your New Apartment to Spruce Things Up

apartment plants

Finding Plants For Your New Apartment to Spruce Things Up

Plants are a great way to spruce up your living space. The greenery helps the room feel less sterile and they can even help improve the air quality. Plants need light to grow, however. Some of them are more high maintenance than others, too. If you want to enhance your indoor space with a plant consider these low-maintenance options that can thrive in almost any type of environment.

Chinese Evergreen

The Chinese Evergreen is a great plant that only needs indirect sunlight. This allows it to thrive in spaces without much natural light. It is considered a plant for beginners with wide, green leaves that are able to tolerate almost any indoor condition. It is a slow growing plant that easily fits in smaller spaces like shelves and tabletops.

Peace Lilly

The Peace Lilly is great for dim settings, especially if your apartment faces another building. Regular interior lighting can even be enough to help it grow. Best of all, this is a flowering plant that produces large, hoodlike flowers. Be aware, however. These plants can grow to be up to four feet tall.


A cactus is one of the ultimate low-maintenance plants. They have evolved to grow in arid environments with little water. While Cacti are growing they only need to be watered once a week. During cooler months to can go even longer between waterings. As long as they are not in direct sunlight cacti can thrive. They also look great in almost any space. Small cactus plants do not take up much room, either.

Weeping Fig Tree

The Weeping Fig Tree is a larger potted plant that is part of the ficus family and can be up to four or five feet tall. They are great for apartment living, however, because they only need to be watered every 4-7 days. They also only need indirect sunlight near a window, but you’ll need to turn the plant on occasion in order to avoid excess growth on one side.

Bonsai Tree

Bonsai trees are far beyond the old Karate Kid films. They mimic the shape of a full sized tree, but are great for apartments because of their small size. They thrive in warm environments, making them great for being indoors. They do need direct sunlight, however, so keeping them in a window is a must.

These are just a few of the options to add some greenery to your place. For more ideas be sure ask the garden section at your local hardware store.

apartment mistakes

Mistakes to Avoid When Renting an Apartment

apartment mistakes

Mistakes to Avoid When Renting an Apartment

Renting an apartment is often one of the first major things young adults do when they move out. Like many things in life, there is a learning curve involved. You’re not going to instantly know what to do from day one. As a result, there are some common mistakes that first time renters make. Here are few of those common mistakes, as well as some advice on how to avoid making them.

Read the Lease Carefully

The key thing to remember is that your lease is a legally binding document. Don’t rush into a rental agreement no matter how busy the market is. Everything is laid out in the lease and it is your responsibility as the tenant to read it before signing. You’re allowed to take the lease home before signing and you can have an attorney or friend help you go over it. Be sure to know your rights as a tenant by visiting the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website, which has a state-by-state list of your tenant’s rights.

Take Pictures When You Move in

This step is important to make sure you get your deposit back when you leave. Your landlord should provide a move-in checklist that will allow you to note any damage you see upon moving in. If the landlord needs to make major repairs make sure you get that agreement in writing before signing the lease. You can also sign and date your own list and send it to the landlord before signing the lease.

Renter’s Insurance

If there is an accident or natural disaster that results in damage to your property it is not covered by the landlord’s insurance property. This is where renter’s insurance comes in handy. They are usually fairly inexpensive between $100 and $300 per year, but they can save you money in the long run if your property is damaged.

Take Advantage of Tax Credits

Some states have certain tax credits available to renters since they help pay the property taxes on the property the landlord owns. California, Missouri, and Maryland are just three states that have these benefits. To find out if your state offers similar benefits be sure to contact the state tax department.

Hold Your Landlord Accountable

This is related to your rights as a tenant. If your landlord is not making repairs or allowing unsafe conditions you have the right to report them. Your local government can help you with your options if you believe your rights are being infringed.

It only takes a small amount of knowledge to make sure you avoid a major mistake. By following the above steps your rental experience can be everything you need it to be and more.