An important step in getting ready to find an apartment for rent is to make a list of questions for landlords. When you find an apartment that you are interested in, you want to be ready with questions to be sure it is the right apartment building and unit for you, and if the landlord is someone you like and feel you can trust to be fair and responsive to your needs.
Don't feel you need to ask all these questions at once, especially when you first look at an apartment (that will be overdoing it!). However, as you get serious about an apartment, and especially when you are ready to sign a lease, go through these questions and ask those that are important to you.
The following are questions you should be prepared to ask:
- How much is the rent? Also, when is it due, how can it be paid (personal check, bank check, automatic withdrawal, etc), and what are the late payment penalties?
- What are the leasing terms? Is it one year, month to month, or other period? Upon renewal, are other options available, such as going month to month after a one year lease?
- What are all deposits and fees associated with the lease? What are the terms for return for each deposit. Typical deposits include security deposit, 1st and/or last month's rent, cleaning, pet damage, and key deposit.
- What utilities are included as part of the rent, and what utilities will you be responsible for? For utilities you pay, ask what the average cost will be, and ask to see prior bills. For locations where winter and summer costs will be high due to heating and cooling, ask for seasonal ranges.
- Is parking available? Is it indoors, covered or outside? Is there an extra fee for parking, or an extra fee for more than one car?
- Is there extra storage available? How much is included, and what is the cost for additional storage if available.
- Are cable or Satellite TV and/or high speed Internet available? Are they included in the rent or an additional charge?
- What other fees and costs are associated with renting this apartment?
- What is the policy for rent increases? Are there any limits on how much it can be raised with each renewal? What increases have been made over the last 5 years?
- What expectations are there in cleaning when you move out of the apartment? Will you be expected to pay for cleaning upon leaving the apartment, even if you leave it very clean?
- When is the unit available? Is it currently occupied, and if so, when will the current tenant be leaving?
- What are your options for subletting and room mates? Even if you do not plan to do so, you should know in advance what options are available.
- What modifications are you allowed to make in the apartment? Can you paint walls and ceilings, install shelves, hang mirrors and pictures, add/change window coverings, etc.
- What is the repair policy and the process for getting things fixed? Who do you call, and when are they available? If a contact person is not available 7x24 hours, can you order your own repairs if necessary and have the landlord pay? Is there anything that will not be repaired if it breaks?
- What is the policy on pets? You should ask even if you don't currently have a pet, since you may get one later, or, if you have allergies, you may want a building that does not allow pets. Ask about additional damage deposits and limitations on what kind of pet you can have, and how many pets are allowed.
- What is the policy on children?
- Are there any rules that limit what you can do in your apartment? For example, are the limits on guests staying with you, number of visitors, no parties, or curfews on entering and leaving the building.
- Are there, or have there been any issues with ants, roaches or other vermin?
- Are there, or have there been any issues with mold or toxins in the apartment unit, building or surrounding environment?
- What is the process for dealing with problems with other tenants (noise, harassment, etc)? Have there been recent incidents?
- What are the security and fire safety provisions? Ask about safety in the surrounding neighborhood, and provisions of the building to keep you safe. Ask about incidents in last 5 years – robberies, violent crime, etc. Be direct but polite.
As you talk to the landlord – size them up (just as they are sizing you up!). Are they fair and responsive? Do they care about the building and tenants? Are they flexible but still enforce the rules? Do you feel you could work with them? Be sure to be polite and diplomatic as you ask these questions (not accusatory). A good landlord will understand why you are asking and will appreciate your thoroughness and the fact that you are prepared and serious about apartment hunting.
Now that you have a prioritized list of what you need in an apartment, prepared your budget for an apartment rental. Consider also looking at out DIY-Apartment Moving Guide if you are planning to move yourself. Then, you are ready to look for apartments for rent.