Whether it’s your first apartment or you’re a seasoned renter, there are several pitfalls that take place when apartment hunting. It’s easy to think about the fun aspects of renting. You know — decorating, hosting parties, relaxing on the patio.
But, while you’re there daydreaming, the landlord is skimming over rules and fees that could seriously come back to haunt you. Before you agree and sign that dotted line, be sure to ask your landlord or leasing agent these 15 questions before renting an apartment.
1. What are the lease terms?
In theory, you’ve probably done some online research or have called around about pricing. If you haven’t, make sure you’ve established your moving dates, budget and start inquiring about floor plans.
2. Are any of the utilities included?
Some communities may cover utilities, others may not. Ask if water, gas, electric or trash removal is covered in the lease. And if they offer cable/internet packages, hop on it. Typically brands will offer a lower rate for multiple users. Keep these expenses in mind as you compare budget and apartment price.
3. Will I need a co-signer?
When you submit a rental application, landlords require tenants to pass a credit check or meet a pre-set income. Usually this means you’ll be required to have a minimum of twice the monthly rent. If you don’t meet these standards, you’ll need a co-signer to sign the lease. To avoid possible issues later, we recommend having a parent or family member sign.
4. Do you require renters insurance?
More and more apartments are beginning to require renters insurance. This provides coverage for all your personal belongings in the case of a fire, flood, personal injury or theft. It’s typically a low monthly cost, but be sure ask your apartment if they receive a good deal by conducting insurance through a specific company. That could make the difference between $10 per month versus $30.
5. How much will I pay in up-front costs when I sign the lease?
If you’re renting an apartment, most security deposits will range anywhere from $100 to $300 depending on the floor plan. For most rental properties, landlords will require at least a month’s rent paid up-front (as a security deposit) in addition to first month’s rent. Some places also charge application and admin fees, so be sure to ask before signing the dotted line. Additionally, find out if the deposit is refundable and what charges you’ll be responsible for.
6. Which roommates will be held responsible if we don’t make rent?
When signing for an apartment, you’ll be placed into one of two categories: tenant or occupant. A tenant means you’ve signed the lease agreement while an occupant means you live there, but aren’t contractually bound. If rent goes unpaid, there are repercussions for tenants. We highly recommend both parties signing to avoid one person taking all the heat in a bad situation.
7. What would it take to break the lease?
Relocation and emergencies happen. Before signing your lease, find out the penalties for breaking the lease and remember to get it in writing. Not following protocol could result in forfeiting your deposit and burning a bridge for future rental preferences.
8. Am I allowed to decorate the apartment?
Majority of leases will state that the apartment must be resorted to the same condition in which you received it. In some places, decorating is prohibited. And with others, there are specific clauses in the lease that require written permission before painting, using wallpaper, driving nails, etc. Ask your landlord or leasing agent the specific rules so you don’t risk losing your security deposit.
9. What are the policies about guests and listing on Airbnb?
Some communities limit the number of guest you can have per month. It’s also risk to list your room on Airbnb. Most leases will mention a guest policy, but strictness varies from case or case. For example, in some apartments, having a visitor for longer than two weeks considers them an occupant (which will need to be documented by the office).
10. Are pets allowed? If so, is there a fee?
Whether you own a pet or are considering adoption, make it a point to ask about the apartment’s pet policy. Most communities will charge a non-refundable pet deposit to cover deep cleaning and any damages caused or a monthly pet rent. Pet policies vary widely, so it’s important to ask your leasing agent upfront.
11. Are there building quiet hours or fees for using communal spaces?
Are there rules in the community regarding quiet hours? Most often, it’ll be lined out in the lease. But if not, ask the agent how strictly these rules are enforced and if there are any charges using areas like the gym, laundry or pool.
12. How safe is the surrounding area?
When you’re touring the apartment, take a good look around. Is it a relatively safe area? What measures has the property taken to ensure safety for its residents? Ask the leasing agent or the property manager to cover security features (unit alarms, gated entry, etc).
13. How does parking work?
In most apartment communities, you’ll likely get assigned to your rent unit. If you can, try to find out where you’ll be located in the complex and ask about parking. And if you can afford the extra costs, explore your options for priority parking or a garage for additional security.
14. What happens when there’s a maintenance problem?
Maintenance is a crucial factor when choosing an apartment. Some complexes have on-sight managers and others conduct maintenance through a third-party service (during specific office hours). Be sure to ask the leasing agent how best to report a maintenance emergency and how quickly a response to expect. Also, ask whether it will result in any out-of-pocket fees.
15. How often does rent go up? And, by how much?
You’ll typically experience an increase in rent upon renewal, but these changes aren’t always lined out in the lease. Keep close communication with your property manager and keep your eye out for rising rates. If you’re looking for long-term housing, the rate may be a deciding factor.
What questions or advice have you found helpful when apartment hunting? Share your thoughts and stories with us in the comments below, we’d love to hear them!