9 Questions To Ask A Landlord Before Renting An Apartment

By Ashley Henshaw. May 7th 2016

While there are a number of things you’ll have to consider while looking for an apartment, one of the biggest factors influencing your decision will be the cost. Renting isn’t always as cut and dry as the amount of rent you pay each month. There are a number of fees, costs and expenses that you’ll need to consider when renting in order to make the best decision on where to live.

Is There A Move-In Fee Or Security Deposit?

As far as upfront costs go, move-in fees and security deposits can seriously increase the amount you’ll owe before securing an apartment. A move-in fee is a one-time fee that you’ll pay once you sign the lease. Generally, you will never get your move-in fee back. A security deposit is also a one-time fee, but you usually get most or all of it back as long as you haven’t incurred any major damage in the apartment. Although security deposits are usually much larger than move-in fees (sometimes as much as a full month’s rent), its better in the long run for you since the money will come back to you when you move out (minus any charges for repairs).

Which Utilities Are Included?

You might see multiple apartments in the same price range, but their long-term cost could vary widely depending on which utilities are included in the rent. Find out if your rental rate will cover water, electricity, gas, waste removal and any other applicable fees. If you live in a place where it gets quite cold in the winter, consider looking for an apartment where heat is included in the rent. Depending on the size of your apartment, heat can easily add a couple hundred dollars to your monthly bills during colder months.

What Amenities Are Offered Onsite?

Certain apartment building amenities can end up saving you a lot of money. If you like to work out, find an apartment building with a fitness facility so you can cancel your gym membership. Additionally, some buildings have free laundry facilities, which can save you cash at the laundromat.

When Is The Rent Due And Do You Charge Late Fees For Late Rent?

Make sure to ask your landlord when the rent is due. Many leasing offices have a short window in which rent can be accepted as on-time. Additionally, you’ll want to be aware of what the fee is in case you are ever late on paying your rent.

Who Pays For Maintenance Issues?

Most apartment buildings aren’t brand-new, so there’s a good chance you’ll be contacting your landlord now and again with a maintenance issue. When renting, most of these responsibilities and the associated costs fall to the landlord. However, it’s always a good idea to ask about what issues they don’t cover. For example, you’ll probably be expected to handle minor issues like changing out light bulbs, and little things like a snag in the carpet or a loose tile in the bathroom floor might not warrant a repair in the landlord’s eyes. Additionally, you may need to be prepared to cover the cost of damages incurred as a result of your actions. For example, if you get ants or rats due to poor housekeeping habits, you might have to pay for the measures required to get rid of the infestation.

Do You Charge Early Move-Out Penalties?

If you are unsure of how long you’ll be living in your apartment, ask about the landlord’s policy when it comes to breaking your lease. It may be cheaper to pay slightly more for a month-to-month lease than to break your lease and incur a hefty lease break fee.

Do I Need To Get Renter’s Insurance And How Much Will It Cost?

In general, all individuals who are renting an apartment should get renter’s insurance. In fact, some landlords actually require it as part of the lease. Make sure that you ask if rental insurance is required before signing the lease.

The rate for rental insurance is very low in most cases, sometimes only costing a few dollars a month. Different factors will come into play, including the size and age of the apartment building and the value of the personal property in your residence. Consider these factors when looking at an apartment, and if you have any other insurance policies, find out if your insurance company will combine your rent insurance policy with them for a discounted rate. (For more information on renter’s insurance, see How To Get The Best Renter's Insurance Coverage.)

Do You Offer Rewards For Referrals?

Some leasing offices will offer their residents some kind of reward for helping them find new tenants. Those rewards could include gift certificates, cash or rent reductions. If you have friends looking for an apartment, you may want to encourage them to check out your building and instruct them to give your name to the leasing office.

Can I Rent At A Discounted Rate?

Though it may be a long shot, you can try to negotiate your rental rates with the landlord. It may be difficult to simply ask for a reduced rate (unless you know that other tenants in similar units are paying less). However, you might ask for a reduced rate if you agree to a longer lease term. Alternatively, you can ask the landlord to include certain expenses in your rent, such as parking or utilities.

Keep these questions in mind the next time you are out apartment hunting. They could end up saving you some serious money on your rental.

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