Posted August 24, 2020 | by Michelle Zahn
1. How much is rent?
Be sure you know the exact monthly rent you'll be paying for the apartment or townhome you will be living in. While this may seem like a basic question, many apartments offer features such as fireplaces or location premiums that come at an additional monthly cost. Find out if there are any promotions being run and find out their impact on your monthly rent payments. Also, be sure to ask about annual rent increases so you can plan ahead.
Also, inquire about security deposits, application fees, pet deposits or pet fees, pet rent, parking, and amenity fees. It's important to budget these costs so you have the total amount due at move-in, and monthly when rent is due.
2. What is the approval process?
Almost all management companies and landlords will conduct a credit check and check into your rental history. Proof of income may also need to be presented (such as two pay stubs or last year's W2). Some companies may also run criminal background checks. Ask about how long you can expect to wait to hear a decision after submitting your application so you can plan ahead.
3. Are utilities included in the monthly rent?
Check to see which, if any, utilities are included in the monthly rent. While trash removal may be included, gas and electricity may not. Specifically ask about gas, electricity, water, sewer, waste removal, cable, and internet. If these utilities are not included, you can often get an estimate of how much each will cost by contacting the providers directly. Most utility companies can give you an estimated monthly cost based on the past year's worth of usage for a given address.
4. Am I able to have a roommate?
If you and your roommate are shopping for an apartment together, the lease agreement will likely include both of you. However, if you start your search solo and decide to add a roommate later on, it's likely your landlord will need to know about this change in your leasing situation. Get the details upfront so you're prepared to add your new roommate on when he or she moves in.
5. Can I sublet my apartment?
The ability to sublet varies greatly from property owner to property owner. If you plan to be traveling for an extended period of time or may not finish out a full lease term, it's important to ask about subletting before you head out if that's in your plans. Subletting also includes using your place as an Airbnb or VRBO property. For many properties, subletting is a violation of the lease agreement so it's important to check into this before making commitments to subletters.
6. Is renter's insurance required?
Renter's insurance protects the contents of your apartment when certain events occur. Depending on your specific policy, this may include fire, flood, or theft. Most property owners will require some form of renter's insurance. As a tenant, it's important to find out exactly what is required within the renter's insurance policy as some communities may require certain minimum policy limits and coverage. Typically, this is a nominal expense and well worth it to protect your belongings.
7. Can I have a pet?
While there are many pet-friendly communities in the area, there are also quite a few landlords that will not allow pets. Some communities allow cats, but not dogs. Most rentals require a pet fee or pet deposit along with monthly pet rent. Also, check into the specific pet policies and any breed restrictions that may apply to the property. The number of pets is often limited to one or two per dwelling, so if you have more than 2 pets it's important to know this information before committing to a year-long lease.
8. Who is responsible for maintenance and repairs?
Most multi-family communities provide maintenance (and some even 24-hour emergency maintenance) for residents. However, some smaller or private landlords may require you to be responsible for a certain amount of maintenance and repairs. This should be outlined in the lease agreement and it's important to ask about this ahead of time. Be sure to ask about emergency situations and how those are handled, including lockouts.
9. How are maintenance requests handled?
When you have a maintenance issue, find out about how long routine repairs may take and ask about how to submit a request. Also, ask about how and when maintenance personnel will be entering your apartment (especially if you have children or pets who may be home without you). Learn what constitutes an emergency maintenance request so you're aware of which items will be taken care of only during normal business hours.
10. How are waste removal and recycling handled?
If you're fortunate enough to find a community with concierge trash removal services, you'll have a little less to worry about as a renter. Services like this provide nightly trash removal outside your door. However, most apartment communities have common trash and/or recycling dumpster for renters to use. Find out where this is located and what can or cannot be disposed of in this dumpster. Large items may need to be taken directly to a county waste facility rather than placed in or around the dumpster area.
11. How can I decorate my new place?
It's so much fun personalizing your new home as you get settled, however, be sure to check to see what's allowed within your apartment. While most property owners don't mind you painting the walls (as long as they're returned to white before you move out), some won't allow it. Also, check about wallpaper, hanging artwork on the walls, or swapping out fixtures.
12. How much parking is there and is it assigned?
Parking within a community varies as much as the communities themselves. While some urban communities only offer street parking, others may have off-street parking or garages. Suburban communities often have their own off-street parking lots, but it's also important to see how crowded parking gets and if you have a reserved spot. Ask about visitor parking, as well. Some communities allow two cars per home, while others only allow for one vehicle. For a few places, parking is an additional cost and other communities may offer private garages available as a premium amenity. Be sure to get all the details about parking before you move in so there aren't any surprises as you're getting settled.