Renting an apartment is a big decision for anyone. Since most apartment rentals require upfront costs and lock you into year-long leases, it pays to know exactly what you’re getting into before signing on the dotted line.
It’s easy to find out the basic facts about an apartment. The number of rooms and monthly rent are clearly advertised. But interviewing with a landlord after filing a rental application is a great opportunity to learn more about the details of the property before making it your own.
Let’s go over 16 important questions to ask before renting a new apartment.
An apartment’s monthly rental rate isn’t all you’ll pay to move in. Be sure to ask your landlord whether there are security deposits or other non-refundable fees required. Security deposits are typically required for most rental properties, and they’re usually close to a month’s worth of rent or more.
These extra fees could make the difference between whether an apartment is truly affordable or a bit too expensive for your budget.
These days, utilities don’t just mean heat, water, and electricity. They may also include trash services plus cable, phone, or internet bills. Therefore, ask any prospective landlord what utilities are included in the monthly rental payment and what utilities are separate.
If some are separate, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For example, you may not want to be forced to pay for cable television you never watch. Getting a line-by-line breakdown of which utilities come with a place and which are optional helps you make a smarter renting decision overall.
The majority of landlords require tenants to pay each month’s rent by the day it’s due (typically the first of the month). But they might have specific requirements regarding how that rental payment is delivered such as:
Online rental payments are by far the easiest. They’re also becoming more common across the country. Still, this is a great question to ask a prospective landlord, so you know how to pay them each month on time and in full.
Most, but not all, landlords charge late fees to tenants who don’t deliver rent on time. If the late fee policy isn’t broken down on a rental agreement, ask your landlord what their policy is. This may not affect your moving plans much, but it’s still helpful to know in case you miss rent for one reason or another.
Many rental properties and landlords give tenants a five-day grace period for paying rent before beginning to charge additional fees or interest. For those whose paychecks fall on awkward days like the 6th or 7th of the month, knowing you need to plan ahead can give peace of mind.
Renter’s insurance covers many “unexpected events” that you would otherwise have to pay for out-of-pocket, like damage to your apartment or stolen property. It’s very similar to homeowners’ insurance. Some landlords require every tenant to have renter’s insurance, so they include the cost of an insurance policy in their monthly rental rates.
Before renting an apartment, ask your landlord if they require you to have renter’s insurance. If so, it may also be wise to ask whether you can substitute their preferred renter’s insurance with your own. Sometimes, you can find cheaper policies by doing a little research.
You need to know where to park the moving truck before you sign the lease for your new apartment! To that end, ask your landlord whether street parking or garage parking for your vehicle, or if there’s another parking situation. Don’t forget to ask whether parking is extra or included in the monthly rental rate, too!
If you often have guests, another good question to ask during an apartment tour is if there are guest parking spots, where they are located, and if those guests need to display any sort of pass in their vehicle to avoid getting towed.
Any worthwhile landlord will keep their rental properties clean and safe. But it can be tough to know whether there are pest problems, especially from smaller pests like bed bugs and cockroaches. Before you move into a new apartment, ask the landlord whether there have been any recent pest problems. A follow-up question would be to ask how often they have pest control come out to the property for general upkeep. Most well taken care of multifamily rental properties should have pest control spray come out once or twice per year. If they avert their eyes or give you a wishy-washy answer, consider it a red flag.
Similarly, wise apartment hunters should ask prospective landlords when the most recent crime was committed in the neighborhood. Note that some landlords might not know, but many will. If local crime is a big problem, that might affect whether a given apartment is a good choice for you (and your family). If the landlord does not know, the local sheriff’s department in your area most likely releases crime reports online that you can access.
Have a canine companion or cuddly cat to keep you company? Before renting a house or apartment, ask and make sure your landlord allows pets! Many landlords do allow up to one cat or dog per apartment, but they also usually charge extra fees. Ask for both the pet policy and how much your furry friends will cost you each month before moving into a new apartment.
Oftentimes, landlords of multi-unit rental properties don’t handle the day-to-day operations. They instead delegate tasks to property management companies or an on-site property manager. When viewing an apartment, ask your landlord who you should call as a point of contact if you have maintenance requests or in emergencies. If it’s a property manager, be sure to get their contact information.
Even the best apartments may occasionally have broken appliances, leaks, and other issues. But not all landlords jump on maintenance problems or do everything they can to keep their tenants comfortable.
One of the best questions to ask a potential landlord is how they handle emergency repairs and maintenance requests, including:
Most apartment landlords offer leases for standard, year-long durations. Others may have alternative preferences, such as month-to-month lease agreements or lease agreements for other timeframes. When renting an apartment, you should ask about those preferences so you learn whether an apartment lease from that landlord will be a good fit for your schedule and housing needs.
Want to have friends over? Some landlords and property management companies can be pretty strict about that! But you can avoid unpleasant surprises for yourself by asking about the guest policy upfront, prior to signing a lease. Generally, restrictive guest policies are more common for apartments near college campuses and for multi-unit properties.
A few good questions to ask landlords are:
By the same token, before renting an apartment, ask if there’s a subletting policy and, if so, what the details are. When you sublet your apartment, you essentially rent the space out to another person while your name remains on the primary lease document. Many landlords don’t allow this at all, but some may be more flexible.
Before you sign a lease, check whether you’re allowed to terminate your lease early in the event of an emergency or for other reasons. Rental property managers can’t stop you from terminating your lease, but they can charge you exorbitant fees for doing so. Make sure you enter a lease agreement with full awareness of what those fees might be.
Lastly, do yourself a favor and, when looking at an apartment to rent, ask your future landlord how much notice they plan to give you before entering your apartment. In most U.S. states, they are legally required to give reasonable notice, such as 24 hours, so long as they do not need to access the inside of your apartment for emergency purposes. These are called Right of Entry terms.
Asking this question not only shows that you know the law but may also protect you from overbearing landlords (or prevent you from renting from them in the first place).
Finding the Best Apartment for You
Asking each of these questions before leasing an apartment will go a long way toward making sure your new apartment is exactly what you need (and that there aren’t any surprises!). Once you move in, you can have fun decorating your apartment knowing that you have a firm understanding of the ins and outs of your new home.
Sources accessed March 29, 2022 –
CNBC – How much should you expect to spend when you rent your first apartment?
Investopedia – Renter’s Insurance
Justia – Right of Entry to Rental Units for Landlords
Tenant Resource Center – All About Subletting
15 Signs of Pest Infestations to Look for When House Hunting.
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