Leases for apartments range from verbal agreements and handshakes to a 40-page contract. You might need a lawyer to evaluate a lengthy lease, but some vital information should be provided to you upfront by the leasing agent or landlord.
When renting, your best bet is to ask, not assume. There are so many things you could ask a landlord or renting agent, but which are the most important? In our experience, these are the top questions to ask when renting an apartment. Not all will apply to you, but keep on reading to find out which are need to know.
Payment and Terms
1. When is the rent due and how do I pay it?
Usually, this is the first question to ask when renting an apartment. You might assume the answer is the first of the month and by check. Some landlords require an EFT direct deposit. Others might accept credit cards but with a fee attached. Some might collect rent on the day you move in or on the 5th. Best to find out for sure.
Also, make sure you ask about these potential cost extras:
- Late fees. Is there a grace period before a late fee is applied?
- Hidden charges. Are there any application fees?
- Rent hikes. And if so, when and by how much?
- Deposits. Are pet and security deposits refundable?
- Move-in costs. What else should I expect? If you don’t know what items you’ll need to buy upfront, check out this first apartment item checklist.
- Subsidies. Do I qualify for any rental assistance?
2. What’s included in the rental cost?
Some apartments include amenities that might help offset your overall cost of living. Ask if any of the following are included in your rental.
- Garbage fees
- Gas bill
- Wifi or TV
3. Are there any current rental promotions or discounts?
Can’t hurt to ask! Also, check their website if there is one available for discounts.
4. Do I need to have renters insurance?
Some landlords will require you have renters insurance, which will factor into your overall rent cost.
5. Can I go month-to-month when the lease expires?
Now is the time to find out your exact lease terms. What happens if you break a lease early? Will they report you to collections for breaching a lease?
6. How do I give notice when I want to move out?
When you ask this question, also consider the following:
- What is the time frame for notice?
- What’s the security deposit return process? How long until I get it back?
- Will there be a final walkthrough?
Access and Tenant Responsibilities
7. Who will be able to get into the apartment and when?
Your apartment is your home, and privacy matters. Different landlords and agencies have different policies, so familiarize yourself with these.
Find out specifics on the following:
- Emergencies. Who on staff will come when there’s an emergency? Do you background check all personnel?
- Notice for standard entry. How much time will your staff give? How is the notice given? Sometimes this might mean slipping a note under the door.
- Guest policy. Who am I allowed to have in my apartment?
- Roommate policy. Does a roommate need to be listed on the lease?
- Pet policy. How many pets can I have, and is a deposit required?
8. Will the locks be changed before I move in?
This item is one of the most overlooked but essential questions to ask when renting an apartment. If the landlord says no, demand that they are changed. Also, find out who has master keys to your residence.
9. Is there ongoing or future construction happening at the building?
More construction might mean more noise and less security. Now is also the time to inquire about the security of the property. Are there cameras? Are there lights in the parking lot?
10. Is subletting the apartment allowed?
When you find out about subletting, also ask if you’re able to use services like Airbnb in your apartment. Sometimes the landlord doesn’t make this call, but they are instead decided by local laws.
11. Can I paint the walls or hang pictures?
When you make changes to the apartment, you also want to know how these changes might impact a security deposit. If a landlord says you’re allowed to paint, make sure that paint won’t work against you when it comes time to move out. Also, find out what general wear and tear you’ll be responsible for fixing. Will holes in the wall from hanging pictures impact your security deposit?
Some other related questions might be:
- Can I smoke in the apartment?
- What is the noise policy?
- Do curtains come with the apartment?
Points of Contact
12. Who do I contact in case of an emergency?
If you are renting from a company or a sole landlord, it’s still important to know who to contact in an emergency. Landlords might only have one number, but a company might have several.
Find out who you contact when something goes wrong:
- Emergency line
- Maintenance staff
- Someone you hire
13. Who do I contact with issues regarding rent?
Is there a leasing office? If so, get the number and the hours.
14. Who do I contact for basic repairs?
Who you contact in an emergency, like a pipe break, might be different than you who reach for a minor maintenance issue, like a chipped floor tile. Find out how you submit maintenance requests.
15. Is there any existing damage to the apartment?
This step is crucial to getting back an honest security deposit. Make sure you insist on a final walkthrough with the landlord or someone on the staff. During the walkthrough, make a note with the person of any existing damage. Make sure pictures are taken and that there’s written documentation. Make sure this is filed with you and the landlord. This step will make sure you don’t get dinged on your security deposit return for any damage that was present when you moved in.
16. Where are the fire extinguishers and smoke detectors located?
Safety first! Find out where these items are before you move in. If they aren’t present, insist that the landlord get them installed before you move in. If the apartment doesn’t look to be to code, make sure you report it to the city through the proper channels. Once you move in, check out this apartment move-in checklist for additional guidance.
We hope this guide helped you make the most of your rental. These questions to ask when renting an apartment might seem overwhelming, but it’s helpful to have this information upfront before an emergency scenario comes up. Having the answers can save you money and stress. Good luck!