10 questions to ask before you rent
Think you’ve found the best apartment to rent? It’s spacious, reasonably priced, and designed to impress. What more could you want?! Well, a lot more, actually. It might be a good idea to go over a few specifics before signing the lease. Minor details may mean a lot if we’re talking money deducted from your security deposit for the nails you drove through the living room walls to hang your pictures.
Here is our list of 10 questions to ask your landlord or property manager before closing the deal.
- What are my payment options? Is there a secure way to pay rent online?
- Can I see the actual unit where I will be living? This shouldn’t be a problem, unless the previous residents have not vacated yet. Either way, you should thoroughly inspect the unit before moving in and make sure it’s everything your landlord advertised.
- What does my monthly rent include? Many apartment communities now offer a series of amenities which may be free of charge for residents. While you’ll probably have to pay for cable, natural gas, and electricity, you might catch a break on trash removal. If you’re lucky, you’ll find WiFi on the freebies list as well.
- Are there any security features that might help residents feel safe? If the rental apartment is located in a gated community, that’s definitely a plus. Other security features that you might encounter in urban apartment buildings include electronic access control, video surveillance systems, good lighting in the common areas, a visible security presence on site or a state-of-the-art alarm system – these are all good options that will help you feel safe in your home.
- Can I do some decorating? And re-paint partitions? Chances are you’ll want to make the place your own, so knowing where you stand with regards to remodeling permissions is a must. Some landlords simply require that you leave the rental unit in the exact same condition you found it when you moved in, and will accept nothing more than the normal wear and tear. Others may not be comfortable with any remodeling projects at all, so unless you have their written permission, it’s better to stick to decorating with throw pillows, potted greenery and other pretty items that won’t alter the premises in any way.
- What is your pet policy? Make sure to specify what kind of pet you’re planning to shelter. Some landlords promote their properties as pet-friendly but when you read the lease you find out that by pet they mean cats, bunnies, or fish. Fido is nowhere to be found on that list. What about visiting pets? Will you be able to babysit your sister’s Beagle when she’s out of town? And if the answer is yes you should also inquire about the extra pet security deposit which is usually required to cover any damages brought about by four-legged companions (dog owners know well what we’re talking about here: wrecked floors, scratched doors, ripped patio screens, upsetting neighbors with barking in the middle of the night, etc.
- Where can I park my car? Needless to say free parking would be awesome. Renting a parking space can amount to a couple of hundred dollars per month in big cities, so landing a rental home that includes parking in the monthly rent would be both convenient and cost-efficient.
- How do you handle maintenance requests? Is there a property manager on site who can take care of work orders? Or an online resident portal for submitting requests? Find out which procedure you’ll need to follow should you experience leaking faucets, mold problems, or bug infestation.
- What is your policy on subletting? That’s something that you want to know, just in case you have to get out of your lease due to unforeseen circumstances, like moving to rejoin a life partner or deciding to pursue a job opportunity that is 2,000 miles away.
- What is the total cost of the move-in? In addition to the first month’s rent, deposit, and any extra fees that might apply for pet owners, there may be a rental application fee that covers the cost of the background and credit checks. This is something that most responsible landlords take care of before approving you as a tenant, but you just might encounter one who surprises you with it later.
Also, it would be wise to take photos of every room, including close-up shots of any damages, defects, and faults that you notice while doing the initial home inspection.
You can even jot these questions down and keep the printed checklist if you decide to make that particular apartment your new home.
P.S. Once you settle in, it’s important to consider other things as well, including getting renters’ insurance which will protect the contents of your home against a wide variety of mishaps, including fire, lightning, smoke or theft. It even comes with a personal liability clause which provides protection in case of all sorts of accidents, from slip-and-fall injuries to liability provision for dog bites.