Questions to Ask Your Landlord Before You Sign the Lease

Posted by Kristen on August 14, 2014

If you’re going to be renting an apartment or home, it isn’t something to just jump into. Before signing the lease, there are many things you need to learn about your potential home that can impact your finances along with your quality of life. Here are questions to ask your landlord before signing the lease:

by:  -JosephB-

Photo Credit: JosephB

Questions to Ask Landlord When Looking at an Apartment

  1. How much is rent? If you’re looking online prior to visiting the apartment, the price of rent listed can be different than what it actually is. Also, some units may have a higher or lower cost.
  2. What can you do to lower that amount? Depending on what type of landlord you are dealing with, there may be things you can do to lower the rent. For example, if you don’t mind shoveling snow and cutting grass, they may lower your rent. Some landlords may be receptive to negotiation while others, especially managed by a larger company, will not be able to be flexible at all.
  3. What is included in the rent? Sometimes certain utilities are included in the rent. Heat, gas, and water are a few of the items that may be included with your rent.
  4. What is the average cost of utilities? If these utilities aren’t included, you’ll want to factor in how much they will cost you when figuring out which home is the best for your bank account. Ask the landlord what the average cost of each utility is. What did the last tenant pay? What do other units of a similar size and family size pay?
  5. Besides the rent, what other fees will there be? There could be various types of fees that are attached to the rent each month. Garbage pick up, pest control, property maintenance fees, and more are some of the fees you could be charged each month.
  6. When is rent due? What happens if it is late? Say the rent is due the first of every month, does it need to be turned in at a certain time? If you are late, are you charged a fee?
  7. How do you pay rent? Do you need cash? Can you pay with a personal check or does it need to be certified? Can you put rent on your credit card to earn rewards?
  8. When will rent increase? If it does increase, how much will it increase? What type of notice will you receive?
  9. What is the sub-lease policy? If you are terminating your rental agreement ahead of time, can you sub-lease your apartment?
  10. What is the deal with laundry? Is there in-unit washer and dryer? Is there one offered on-site? If it is offered on-site, how much does this cost? Is it 24 hours?
  11. What is security like? Who has access to your building? Some buildings may offer a key entry to even get in the building. Who has access to your apartment? Are you notified prior to maintenance? Is the entry way or parking area videotaped?
  12. Do you change the locks? Ask your landlord how often the locks are changed. Are they changed after the person moves out? They should be changed to prevent past tenants having access to your apartment.
  13. Is there any problems with safety? Regardless of what type of area you live in, there is always the chance of crime.
  14. What is the parking situation? The parking situation can vary greatly depending on where you live. Some apartments charge you for a parking spot, while others may allow one car for free. Is there a parking garage?
  15. What is the deal with maintaining the property? Who keeps the property looking its best? Who is responsible for cutting the lawn or shoveling the snow?
  16. What are the terms of the deposit? In most cases, you’ll have to put down a security deposit. This money is for any damage to the apartment or home after you leave. Is it possible to get all the money returned? Some places may automatically keep some or the entire amount to repaint or get the carpets professionally cleaned.
  17. What is the application process like? Do you need to show proof of income? Have a background check? Will they do a credit check? Do they need references? How long does it take?
  18. What fees are associated with a rental application? Sometimes there is a fee for applying for an apartment.
  19. Are there any construction projects planned for the building? How long will it last?
  20. What is the noise policy? Are there quiet hours? How are the walls as far as protecting noise?
  21. What condition are the appliances in? How old is the refrigerator, stove, washer and dryer, and so on? Have they had any work done? Can you expect any issues? If there are any issues, will they be replaced upon request?
  22. Who are the other tenants? College kids? Young couples? Families?
  23. What is the guest policy? If you’re having a guest, are they allowed to park on the property?
  24. Are any amenities offered? If you’re living in a larger apartment or townhome community, there may be amenities offered such as a gym, business center, access to a party room or club house, swimming pool, or more. These items could factor into your budget.
  25. Are there any problems with pests, mold, or other irritants? If the answer is yes or even sounds like it could be a yes, ask what the landlord will do about it if it became a problem?
  26. Who is responsible for repairs? Something is bound to go wrong at some point, whether it is minor or major. Are you responsible for repairing it? What types of repairs are you responsible for? What can you turn to your landlord for?
  27. If the landlord is responsible, how long does it take to have something fixed? Some landlords may guarantee your item is fixed in 24 or 48 hours. Do they offer 24 hour emergency assistance in case something needs to be fixed right away?

What are other good questions to ask your landlord before you sign the lease? What are your experiences with asking questions to landlords prior to moving in?

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Comments to Questions to Ask Your Landlord Before You Sign the Lease

  1. Other questions:
    Is insurance, particularly liability insurance, required? What liability does the landlord assume (for instance for your car while parked in a community garage)?
    Are pets permitted? Is there an additional cost to have a pet, either as a fee or as a deduction to the security deposit (for cleaning)?
    Any limitations on interior painting, hanging pictures on the walls?
    What are the rules regarding use of “common” areas?
    Is cable/wifi provided, either separately or part of the rent? If not provided, any limitations on having it installed.

    Art Kutschke

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