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20 Questions to Ask When Renting an Apartment

Find your next Apartment
September 8, 2021
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Touring an apartment can be exhilarating, especially if you love the unit and all the amenities that come with it. However, before you get too excited about the prospect of getting a new apartment, you should pause and consider whether you’re getting the right apartment for you.

Asking the right questions during the tour not only ensures that you’re getting the best apartment for your budget and needs but also prevents both you and the landlord from wasting time.

If you don’t know what kind of questions to ask, here are twenty questions that you should have at the ready. They will help you gauge whether an apartment is the right fit for you.

Q1: What are the terms of the lease?

Knowing the terms of the lease is arguably the most important thing you should be aware of during an apartment tour. Try to get as much information as you can, from the length of the leas, to the move-in date, to any penalties.

If there is any part of the lease that is not clear to you, this is your chance to ask the landlord directly. Understanding the terms of the lease completely at such an early stage will help prevent any unpleasant surprises down the road. At the very least, you’ll know whether you should continue with your application or move on.

Q2: How much is the rent?

After understanding the terms of the lease, the next thing you need to know is the rental price. Does it really fit into your budget? What about any late fees? You should also take the opportunity to ask how much the security deposit would be.

Keep in mind that gross rent is different from net effective rent, so make sure to clarify which one you’ll be paying on a monthly basis. If you’re unsure how to calculate gross rent and net rent, Alex the Alpacabot has a great feature that makes it easy.

Q3: What is needed for the application process?

Generally, most apartment rental applications are pretty standard. You’ll need to submit to a background check, as well as have documents such as character references, payslips, and your credit score ready.

However, it pays to ask your landlord how their application process will go. Depending on your situation, you might be asked for additional references before you get approved. For example, if you’re a student renting the apartment, the landlord might ask that you get a guarantor.

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Q4: What deposits do you need?

The security deposit is standard when it comes to renting an apartment, but you might be asked for additional deposits depending on your situation. If you have a pet, you’ll be asked for a pet deposit.

Always check your state laws to ensure that any deposits requested by the landlord are legal. You should also ask whether your deposits are refundable (in most cases, they should be as long as the apartment is not damaged beyond reasonable wear and tear).

Q5: Are the utilities included in the rent?

Don’t assume that your utilities are automatically included in the rent. While the water bill is routinely included, other bills such as gas, heating, and electricity are usually separate.

You should ask the landlord how much utilities cost on average for the unit so that you can factor the costs into your budget.

Q6: Are there any dues?

If you are renting a condo or a co-op, you’ll also have to pay monthly tenant dues. These are separate from your rent and will allow you to enjoy the communal amenities in the building.

There are instances when there are certain amenities that won’t be useful to you. If you don’t have a car, it doesn’t make sense for you to pay for parking. You can ask your landlord whether you can get a discount on your dues to get these amenities removed. Chances are, the landlord can find another tenant who will be able to use these amenities.

Q7: What payment methods will you accept?

It might sound trivial, but you should ask what kind of payment methods your landlord will accept. Do they only accept cash, or do they accept post-dated checks? A papertrail is always the best option because you can keep records better.

You should also ask if your landlord accepts digital payments. They’re convenient, fast, and instant, and you won’t have to worry about having to go to your landlord every month to hand over your rent.

Q8: Do you have a subletting policy?

Most states allow renters to sublet as long as they have a subletting clause in their lease. Having a subletting clause gives you flexibility when it comes to your apartment in case you need to vacate the unit for a while, but you don’t want to end the lease.

Don’t sublet your apartment with your landlord’s express permission! This is grounds for eviction and, worse, you might even get sued.

Q9: Do you allow for early termination of the lease?

While you probably plan to finish your lease without issues, there are times when circumstances might require you to terminate the lease early. You should know whether your landlord will allow for early termination, and if so, what kind of consequences you will face.

There are some situations where you can terminate your lease early without any penalties. Check your state laws to see whether it applies to your situation.

Q10: What is your ideal tenant?

It might sound like a silly question, but ask your landlord what their ideal tenant is so that you can gauge whether it fits your profile. Are they looking for a tenant that is friendly and gives regular updates, or are they more of a “live and let live” kind of person?

Asking this question might help you dodge a bullet as well! If the landlord answers something like, “I only want single males without kids”, this could be a sign that they’re a picky landlord. If you don’t want to deal with a stickler for a landlord, this is your chance to look for another apartment.

Q11: How will I go about renewing my lease?

If the apartment is what you’re looking for and you think you’re going to stay for longer than the usual one-year lease, then you can already ask how to handle renewing the lease. Will there be a rent increase in your second year? Will you still get the same incentives such as a month’s rent free?

You can even take the chance to ask for a longer lease if you think that you’re going to stay in the apartment for more than a year. That way, you’ll automatically get the incentives and have the rental price locked down.

Q12: What amenities are included in my rent?

Amenities are one of the biggest perks when it comes to renting an apartment. Luxury buildings even offer high-end amenities such as spas and co-working offices.

Ask what amenities are included, both in the unit and as a tenant of the building. Are there communal spaces that will be available to you such as a gym, a pool, or a garden? You can ask to see these amenities during your tour.

Q13: Who do I speak to for repairs and maintenance?

As a renter, there is nothing more annoying than having to wait for a repair when something goes wrong in your unit. Ask your landlord whether they have on-site maintenance, or if they contract their repair and maintenance services out.

If they have an on-site maintenance team, you can be assured that any requests for repairs will be answered much faster. It also pays to get to know the head of maintenance and to get on their good side!

Q14: Is the rental unit furnished?

Most rental units are furnished during a tour, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be furnished when you move in! Ask whether the unit will be furnished when you sign the lease, and if so, whether there will be an additional charge,

At the very least, the apartment should be furnished with basic furniture and appliances. If you’re lucky, you might even get a unit that comes with a furnished laundry area as well!

Q15: What is the guest and curfew policy?

Do you love hosting get-togethers and having people over? You should ask about the policy on having guests. Some landlords will put a cap on the number of guests to prevent too much noise.

As with guests, some landlords can also put a curfew. While the curfew doesn’t usually apply to tenants, it does apply to guests: no sleepovers allowed!

Q16: Am I allowed to get a roommate?

Renting an apartment alone can get expensive, so you might want to have the option to get a roommate open. You should clarify whether getting a roommate means an increase in your rent.

You should also ask if getting a roommate means signing an updated lease agreement.

Q17: Will you need renters insurance?

While many landlords won’t ask for renters insurance, it’s a good idea to have it anyway. Renters insurance helps protect you and your property in case of theft, fire, or flood. Even if the landlord doesn’t require it, you should consider getting it since it won’t cost much per month.

What’s more, having renters insurance is a great way to increase your chances of getting approved for a lease application.

Q18: What is the parking situation?

In case you do have a car, you should know what parking situation you are going to have when you rent an apartment. Will you have a designated parking space, or will you have to share with other tenants on a “first come, first served” basis?

You can ask whether you can pay extra for a secured parking space so that you won’t have to deal with the headache of finding a safe spot to leave your car.

Q19: What is the security status of the building?

Speaking of security, you should take the chance to ask about the security status of the building. Does the building have security features such as CCTV cameras and a 24/7 doorman? Have there been any break-ins recently?

If you’re feeling up to it, you can go around and ask other tenants how safe they feel in the building. You might get information that the landlord would not be as willing to share.

Q20: Do you allow pets, and if so, what is the pet policy?

Moving in with a pet can be tricky, so make sure that your landlord allows pets right out of the gate. If you have a large dog, you should ask whether it would be a problem, especially if the dog falls under the “restricted breeds” category.

Even if the apartment has a “no pets” policy, you can ask whether they will allow your dog. Some landlords will agree on a case-to-case basis. There is no harm in asking!

Final Thoughts

There you have it, twenty questions that can help you decide whether an apartment is right for you or not. Of course, you don’t have to limit yourself to just these twenty questions mentioned above. If you have any concerns about the apartment, don’t be afraid to ask the landlord during your tour. It’s better to face a little bit of inconvenience now rather than a bigger headache once you’ve signed your lease.

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