7 apps every renter needs

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Colin LalleyContent Director, Home & Auto InsuranceColin Lalley is the content director for home and auto insurance at Policygenius, where he leads our property & casualty editorial teams. His insights have been featured in Inc. Magazine, Betterment, Chime, Credit Seasame, Zola, and the Council for Disability Awareness.

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Renting can be a challenge. Finding a place, paying your rent on time, dealing with roommates – there’s a lot that goes into surviving an apartment.

Luckily, you don’t have to go through it alone. Like most things, there’s an app for every aspect of handling your apartment woes. Make sure your smartphone is loaded up with these seven apps, and your renting journey will be smooth sailing.


Where was the last place you looked for an apartment? Craigslist? Facebook? Let’s face it, trying to find an apartment can feel like a herculean task. It’s hard to know where to start. That’s why you should consider Zumper.

What makes Zumper special is that it acquired popular apartment hunting site PadMapper in early 2016. PadMapper, you may recall, culled listings from Craigslist in a handy map format, something that Craigslist wasn’t too happy about. Zumper’s acquisition means it has a huge number of listing (Forbes calls it the “biggest apartment rental startup”) that appeals to millennials and older renters.

It helps the Zumper app itself is good, too. It’s clean and easy to use – helpful when you just want to look at apartments. Plus, there are some handy features like an instant apply option, where you can submit a digital application and automatically get a credit check from Experian. Standard fare for the 21st century, but surprisingly high-tech for apartment applications.


There’s nothing that makes you feel more antiquated than writing checks (especially if you’re tech-savvy and looking for apps to make things easier). It can make the beginning of every month that much worse: Not only do you have to pay rent, but you have to write out a check? And mail it in?! It must be what Game of Thrones characters feel like when sending ravens to each other.

If your landlord uses RENTCafe, or any other management app, you should be using it, too. RENTCafe allows your building to send notifications, let you know when rent is due, and connect a payment method to pay it right then and there. You don’t risk forgetting to write out the check, don’t risk anything getting misplaced by the USPS, and don’t risk the consequences of missing a rent payment.

RENTCafe and similar apps also let you do things like submit maintenance requests and reserve building amenities like shared spaces. Plus, property managers can post listings directly, so you don't have to worry about getting scammed. Find out if your building works through one of these services, and, if so, sign up to save yourself some headache.


You’re a renter, so that means you have renters insurance, right?


If you don’t have renters insurance, you need it. Full stop. It’s not legally required like, say, health insurance and car insurance often is, but landlords can require it. It’s useful to have anyway, though. Renters insurance protects your things in your apartment if they get stolen or damaged, and even covers your stuff when it’s out of your apartment, like when you take a laptop with you on a vacation.

But when you file a claim, depending on the amount, you may need to have proof that you owned the thing you said you owned. That’s where a home inventory app comes in handy. It’ll allow you to categorize your apartment by room, take pictures of items, and assign names and dollar amounts. That way, if you need proof of something when you file a claim, everything is all in one place.

There are a lot of home inventory apps available, and we cover a couple of them here. But if you’re looking for the most comprehensive home inventory app, check out Encircle. It searches top retailers online for the items you enter so you can accurately gage their value, and you can even store documents like your renters insurance policy in the app.

YouTube TV

There are few greater annoyances when you move than dealing with cable. You either have to call up the cable company (gross) to get your account switched to your new address, or deal with an entirely new provider because your new building only has one option. Or, if you have a roommate who’s moving out and the cable was in his or her name, you have to go through all of this anyway.

So why not just cut out cable?

Cable is expensive, but until recently there haven’t been any good options for replacing your live TV fix. Now, though, there are a number of options that are at least “good enough.” My personal favorite is YouTube TV. You get local stations, most ESPN and other sports channels, and channels like AMC and FX for premier television. Plus, if you can’t watch live, you can record shows and watch them anywhere.

There are a few drawbacks to YouTube TV – it’s only rolled out in a few cities so far, and you need a Chromecast to stream it on your television (although YouTube is giving them out for free to subscribers) – but even then, Sling is getting better all the time and Hulu with Live TV is a great option if you’re already subscribed. You have a number of options that don’t involve dealing with the cable company.

And if live TV isn’t your thing, you have even more options. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, or any other streaming service can get you your TV fix, all without the hassle of a cable subscription.


I’ll caveat this recommendation by saying that you can replace “Zelle” with “the payment app of your choice.” If you have Venmo, and all of your friends have Venmo, use Venmo. If the Pod Save America guys have sold you on the Square Cash app, go with that.

The point is a payment app is required for every renter, especially with roommates. Unless you have a very convoluted set up, you’re likely splitting things like utility bills, and maybe even groceries or takeout. Rather than divvying up the bill right away – who wants to do that when you have a freshly ordered burrito waiting for you? – or hoping that you all remember later and you don’t get stuck with the whole bill, use a payment app so no one has an excuse for not paying their fair share.

So why Zelle specifically? Because it doesn’t require any extra apps. Zelle was put in place by a few dozen of the biggest banks in America to combat the growing popularity of Venmo, and it’s built directly into banking apps. That means there’s no need to download a Zelle app; you can just open your USAA app and send money, to anyone at any other bank, right away.

If you want to automate even more of the bill-sharing process, you can also get an app like Splitwise. It allows you to add in regular bills, splits the cost, and deducts money automatically. It’s a little more limited than something like Zelle, which you can use for any payments, but it’s good if you want something specifically to divvy up items with roommates.


This one’s a twofer: You download the Canary app, but you also need to buy a Canary home security system.

Why would you want a camera in your house? First, it obviously upgrades your apartment security. Second, many insurers offer policy discounts for safety and security upgrades. Canary even offers a $1,000 renters insurance security deductible as part of its membership program.

With the Canary app, you’ll be able to view your camera’s feed from anywhere. That can provide valuable peace of mind to make sure everything’s in order or allow you to check in on any furry friends you’ve left at home (and the insurance savings aren’t too bad, either).

Clarity Money

Everyone needs to budget and manage their money, and for many people, an app is the easiest way to do that. There are dozens of personal finance apps out there (and we’ve covered most of them), but Clarity Money is one of the best.

A downside of renting is that you never own where you live. If your ultimate goal is to buy a house one day, it can feel impossible to save for a down payment while still paying rent every month. But Clarity Money is especially useful compared to other budgeting apps because it’s forward-looking. Any budgeting app worth its salt gives you a snapshot of past spending so you can make changes, but Clarity Money actually suggests those changes. For instance, it’ll recommend credit cards with good travel rewards if it knows you’ve spent a lot of money on flights in the past. You can also cancel subscriptions right from within the app if you find yourself subscribed to Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, Google Play Music, and Amazon Prime Music, all at the same time.

Clarity Money makes it easy to cut and save where you can, which is invaluable for renters who might want to upgrade from their apartment eventually. And even if you’re happy renting for the rest of your life, it never hurts to save a few dollars here and there anyway.

Ready to shop for renters insurance?