Choosing a place to rent is one of the most important decisions you can make. Not only is it a major financial commitment, but a rental is going to be your home for a year or longer. To make sure you end up satisfied with your living conditions, you’ll want to aks your landlord the right questions before you sign a lease.
With that in mind, we’ve put together these fifteen questions that are well worth asking your landlord.
1. What Are All of the Monthly Expenses That Come with This Rental?
Rent isn’t the only expense that comes with renting an apartment. You also may have to take care of utilities, pet fees, renters’ insurance, and other costs.
Utilities vary by the unit. With single-family homes, renters commonly have to pay all of the utilities personally. With apartments, it’s typical for at least some to get wrapped into the rental price, particularly water, sewer, and garbage.
However, landlords may include all utilities with a rental. Some may even cover extras, like cable or internet. Some landlords may also require you to have renter’s insurance. You’ll want to ask, so you can be clear on your monthly living expenses.
2. What Deposits or Fees Are Required, and Are They Refundable?
Paying some fees and putting down deposits are standard parts of renting properties, but exactly what you’ll need to cover isn’t always consistent from one landlord to the next. Since what’s required varies, asking about deposits and fees directly is a good idea.
Similarly, whether a fee or deposit is refundable may differ for a variety of reasons. State laws regarding deposits and fees might dictate what is refundable or under what conditions a landlord can keep the money. Landlords may also put clauses in the lease that outline when specific costs are refundable or not.
3. How Long Is the Lease Term, and What Happens After It Completes?
A leasing term is a specific number of months outlining how long you’ll remain in the unit under the conditions and clauses stated in the lease. While 12 months is a common duration, some landlords may offer term lengths for anywhere between six months and two years for residential properties.
Additionally, what happens when a lease ends can vary. Some landlords require tenants to sign new leases when the current one ends. Others transition renters to a month-to-month arrangement after the original lease term wraps up.
Make sure you ask your landlord about the lease term and what happens when the original lease ends. That way, you’ll know how long you’re committing to the rental and can plan for what happens after the initial agreement wraps up.
4. When Is Rent Due, and How Can I Pay It?
While most landlords make rent due on the first, that isn’t always the case. You’ll want to ask about the due date in advance, allowing you to ensure you can pay on time. You may also want to ask about grace periods or, if you’re worried that won’t make a great impression, check local grace period laws in your state, giving you more information about the payment timeline.
After that, dig into your options for paying your rent. Ideally, you want access to a trackable option, allowing you to keep a record of all rent payments during your tenancy. Writing a rent check is a classic approach, as well as using your bank’s bill payment option to send a check. However, some landlords might have other options available, such as online portals that let you pay with a bank transfer or debit card.
Knowing when you need to pay and how you can submit a payment lets you plan more effectively, ensuring you can cover the cost and send over what you owe at the right time. Additionally, it lets you spot potential red flags – like demanding rent payments in cash without a guarantee of a receipt – that you might view as dealbreakers.
5. When Is the Target Move-In Date?
Many landlords work to find a new tenant before the current tenant vacates the apartment or home. As a result, there might be a delay before you can move into the unit. If that’s the case, you’ll want to know when the target move-in date is, allowing you to ensure that you can access the rental at the right time.
Similarly, you may be looking for a new rental as your current lease elsewhere comes to an end. In that case, you may want to find a different place where you can move in close to when your other rental term ends. By asking about the target date, you can ensure that the timing works.
6. How Are Repair or Maintenance Requests Handled?
While everyone hopes that their rental won’t require any work during their stay, issues can arise. You don’t want to get stuck scrambling when something breaks because you don’t know what to do. By asking this question, you can get an overview of the repair and maintenance request process.
7. Is the Tenant Responsible for Any Repairs or Maintenance?
In a similar vein to the question above, asking if the tenant is responsible for any repairs or maintenance is a smart move. It lets you know whether you’re expected to handle specific problems on your own.
If you want, you can ask about specific kinds of maintenance or repairs, such as replacing lightbulbs, dealing with filter replacements, tackling pest control issues, and more. That way, you get additional clarity.
8. How Much Notice Do You Provide Before Entering a Rental?
Generally speaking, landlords are required to provide you with advanced notice before entering your rental. Typically, 24 hours is the least amount of time they can provide, though some areas may require more.
Additionally, certain emergency situations – like gas leaks – can alter the requirement. In those cases, the change to the rules may allow the landlord to enter an apartment or home without prior notice specifically to address the qualifying hazard or threat.
It’s also important to understand that there are typically strict laws that outline when a landlord can and can’t enter your apartment or home. However, they can vary by state, so it’s wise to check the regulations in your area.
9. What Are Your Policies Regarding Pets?
Pet policies differ significantly from one landlord to the next. Some may ban pets outright, while others limit pets to specific types or sizes. Others may have breed-specific restrictions, while some are incredibly flexible about what’s allowed.
There can also be pet deposit requirements. With some landlords, there’s even a monthly fee (tacked onto the rent) for pets. Since the rules and costs can vary, it’s wise to ask about them specifically.
However, it’s important to note that pet policies don’t inherently apply to service or emotional support animals. With those, landlords can’t deny the tenant the option of having the animal in the unit in the vast majority of cases. But there can be some requirements relating to the service or emotional support animal. For example, you might need to provide documentation showing a medical need, as well as submit a reasonable accommodation letter.
10. Do You Have a Guest Policy?
Some landlords do have rules regarding overnight guests. Typically, they are designed to prevent extended stays by non-tenants, often as a means of ensuring no one that isn’t on the lease effectively starts living in the rental. However, some landlords do have other motivations, so the associated rules can vary.
Guest policies are usually outlined in the lease agreements. However, you may also want to ask your landlord in advance, particularly if you want the option to allow visiting family members or friends to stay with you on occasion.
11. What Amenities and Accesses Come with the Rental?
What comes with a rental isn’t always consistent. For example, some rentals come with access to a community fitness center, swimming pool, grilling area, or entertaining spaces, while others don’t. Tenants might get have separate storage areas outside the unit, but that isn’t always the case.
Additionally, a parking spot might or might not be guaranteed. The latter is more common in downtown-style buildings in major cities, though it can technically occur anywhere.
Since the amenities and access rights aren’t consistent between all rental properties, finding out what’s included with the rental in advance is a wise move. That way, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting for the money or if there are any dealbreakers that make the rental a poor fit.
12. What Appliances Come with the Unit?
In a similar vein to the question above, it’s important to understand that you may only get certain appliances with a rental. For instance, while ensuring tenants have a stove and fridge is common, providing a washer and dryer isn’t as widespread. Some rentals with in-unit washer and dryer capabilities only come with hookups, leaving tenants to get the appliances. That’s why asking about appliances is also smart.
13. When Are Recycling and Trash Days?
If your landlord handles the garbage service for the rental, ask about the pickup days. That way, you’ll know when the cans are emptied. Additionally, it lets you find out when you need to get items you need to dispose of out by if you want to make the next pickup.
14. Are the Locks Being Replaced or Rekeyed for the New Tenant?
While it might not seem like a major issue on the surface, making sure that the door locks are being replaced or rekeyed for the new tenant is crucial. Otherwise, a previous tenant with a key could enter the rental after you move in, allowing them to freely access your property.
Even if the landlord says that they collect the keys from past tenants, insist on a rekey or replacement. Even if a key is marked “Do Not Copy,” that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been copied. It’s better to assert the need for a new lock or rekey than risk it.
Also, make sure to discuss the keys for any locks associated with the unit. For example, if the rental comes with an exterior storage area with a lock provided in the door, make sure it’s replaced or rekeyed, too.
15. How Much Notice Do You Need Before I Vacate the Property?
The amount of notice that you’ll need to provide to a landlord before vacating a rental can vary. While requiring a 30-day written notice is common, some landlords may only ask for 20 days, while others may require three months. Since there can be dramatic differences, it’s best to ask about it before you sign a lease.