Top 60+ Questions to Ask When Renting an Apartment

Almost three years ago, I made the jump from living with my mom to living on my own for the very first time. I was 24, and my now-husband and I moved into the very first apartment we ever looked at. Some three years later, we’re still in that apartment (and likely will be for some time) and we’re happy here!

That being said, I remember that sense of caution, that sense of the unknown, that came with moving into an apartment, especially moving from home for the first time. There are so many variables to consider, it’s hard to keep track of them all!

I’m by no means a veteran, but over the years, I’ve made a mental list of notes and thought I’d share some of my top questions that I think everyone should ask regarding a new apartment/condo/rental/whatever. Some of these are pretty basic, while others are a little more detailed – but you shouldn’t be afraid to ask ANY question! After all, this may be your new home for however long, and it’s important that you know everything you need to about it.

  1. How much is the rent?
  2. How often is rent paid? Monthly, weekly, bi-monthly?
  3. How is rent paid? Cash, check, money order, bank account? Do you have to drop off a check or can you mail it? Where do you drop it off – is it easily accessible?
  4. When is rent due? For most places it’s likely the 1st of the month, but sometimes it may be the 15th or even a different day. Also, how flexible is this? For instance, my apartment complex has a deal where as long as you pay your rent by the 5th of the month, you can pay $50 less. It’s a nice incentive to make sure you pay on time!
  5. What happens if you are late on your rent? Is there an extra charge? Is it just a slap on the wrist? Obviously the goal is to not be late, but sometimes things happen, people get sick and checks don’t get mailed, etc. It’s important to know their policy.
  6. Is there a lease? How long is it? Leases are nice in a sense because it guarantees they can’t raise your rent in the midst of it, but can be too binding if you’re not in a stable job or a college student heading home for the summer.
  7. What happens if you need to break the lease? (Hint: you’re likely responsible for the rest of it.)
  8. Is renter’s insurance required? If so, how much? (Even if it isn’t required, it’s a good idea to have. It may cost you ~$150 a year, but it’ll be worth having if anything ever goes wrong.)
  9. What is the parking situation for residents? Is it on-street, in a parking lot, a garage or a combination? Is there an additional fee? (At my complex, parking in the lot is free, but a garage spot carries a $45/month charge. It’s worth it in the winter to not have to brush off the car though, and is also more secure than having the car in the lot.)
  10. What is the parking situation for visitors? Are they allowed to park in the lot (if there is one)? Is it different on weekdays vs. weekends? Are there time restrictions? What about overnight visitors?
  11. If you have a bike, is there bike parking or a rack available for use?
  12. What is security like in the lot/garage? Are there security cameras around? Do you need a key to enter the garage, or can anyone walk in off the street?
  13. How safe is the neighborhood? Don’t just ask the landlord for this info. Do your own research online and check out the crime rates in the area. It’s important to know and may make you reconsider a place you’d otherwise love, but security is important.
  14. What is security like in the building itself? Are outside doors locked at all times, or can anyone just walk in the building? How well are hallways lit?
  15. Where’s the nearest grocery store? Is it a five-minute walk, a five-minute drive or a 30-minute drive? Is it accessible by public transit? Is it the only grocery store around, or are there several options? Obviously it depends on your situation, but it may be nice to have a grocery store nearby (whatever that means to you), and having more than one in the area helps drive competition, which may mean lower prices or at least, more options.
  16. Where’s the nearest hardware store? Because there’s nothing like needing a lightbulb at 3 a.m. and realizing the closest place you can grab one is a 30-minute drive.
  17. What is public transit like in the area? Are there bus stops, commuter rails, or nothing at all? How close is the nearest stop? How often does it run on weekdays and weekends? Even if you have a car, it’s good to be informed about public transit. You never know when your car will break down and you may need it in a pinch.
  18. What else is in the neighborhood? Are there schools nearby that will have lots of kids in the area? Are there factories nearby that may cause air pollution? Is there an airport nearby that will bring noise to the area? How about train tracks? (I once lived across from a major railyard in Buffalo. Train noise isn’t something to take lightly!)
  19. Are you allowed to paint your apartment?
  20. Are you allowed to hang things on the walls in your apartment?
  21. Is there a maintenance number you can call for repairs? What about in the middle of the night? (These may be two separate numbers. You may even be able to file a maintenance request online, which is a godsend sometimes.)
  22. What repairs are you responsible for vs. the landlord/complex managers? If a lightbulb in a built-in fixture blows, is that your job to replace it? If a pipe bursts, whose job is it to fix it? (Hint: it shouldn’t be yours.)
  23. What happens if you get locked out of your apartment? Who do you call for help? Is there a charge for this? (There probably will be.)
  24. Is the apartment accessible?
  25. What, if any, utilities are included in your rent? It may be none, or it may be all.
  26. What kind of heat is there? Gas or electric?
  27. What, if any, appliances are included in your rent? This was a godsend for me, as the fridge, stove, dishwasher, etc. were all included. On the other hand, if you already *have* all these appliances and are moving into a place with them, you might run into some trouble. If included, what kind of stove is it? (Hint: a gas stove may drive up your gas bills. An electric stove may drive up your electric bill.)
  28. Is there air conditioning? If not, are you allowed to buy an air conditioner? Can it be a window unit, a portable unit on wheels, or either?
  29. Where are the smoke alarms? How many are there?
  30. Is there a carbon monoxide detector? (If not, BUY ONE YOURSELF.)
  31. Does the toilet flush?
  32. Do all the taps run correctly? Is the water clear? Seriously – this isn’t a question you can really ask, but more something you need to check yourself. Check every source of water in the place, including the shower. Speaking of…
  33. What’s the shower like? Is it just a shower or also a bath tub? Is there a showerhead installed? Can you replace it with a different one if you want? Are there shelves in the shower for storage of things like soap, shampoo etc?
  34. What are the drains like? Again, something you need to check yourself. How does everything drain? Is it clogged before you even move in? What’s the policy for unclogging drains once you move in? Is it your problem or someone else’s?
  35. What are the floors like? Are they carpet? If so, who’s responsible for carpet cleaning? Are they hardwood? If so, are they scratched? (Not a dealbreaker, just something to note so you can’t get charged for this later on.) How will you clean the floors?
  36. How does cable come into the apartment? What cable company is available? Is that included in rent? Are there connections in one room, or multiple? Can you add connections if you choose?
  37. How does Internet come into the apartment? What company is responsible for this? Is it included in rent? How strong is the WiFi? (You may be able to check this using your cell phone when visiting the place.)
  38. Who is responsible for things like cutting the grass, shoveling snow, etc?
  39. If it’s important to you, what’s the policy on things like grilling outdoors? Is this allowed, or maybe only in certain areas? I have literally seen a guy in the summer with a small portable grill on the front lawn of my apartment complex, so there’s a reason to ask.
  40. Are pets allowed? If so, what kind? What is the policy like in terms of damage if any occurs due to a pet?
  41. Is the landlord/complex manager allowed to enter your apartment at any time? Are they required to give advance notice? How often can they do this? Can they only do this in case of emergency/service needed? Get this in writing if possible, and even if you are renting from someone you know!
  42. When you decide to move out, what sort of advance notice must you give? You may be required to give notice even if there’s not a specific lease.
  43. How much will rent increase each year/lease period?
  44. Another question that you may not need to ask over the phone but may look at when viewing an apartment: how many outlets are there in each room? Where are they located? Nothing like renting a place to find the bedroom only has one outlet and it’s tucked behind the door, or putting together a kitchen where the only outlet is behind the fridge. You may also want to try some of the outlets to make sure they work! Also note which outlets are toggled via switch & keep that in mind when setting up.
  45. What is the policy regarding subletting your apartment?
  46. Is there any construction planned in the area? Not just on the building itself, but in the overall area – it’s good to know if they’ll be tearing up the entire street in 3 months to repair potholes or something like that.
  47. Is a security deposit required? How much? What’s the policy on getting this back?
  48. Do you need a co-signer on your lease, if there is one?
  49. Are their laundry facilities on site? Is there a washer/dryer in the apartment, or in the building, or not at all? Is there a laundromat nearby? What are the costs?
  50. Where’s the nearest fire station? Police station? Hospital? Immediate care facility?
  51. How is mail delivered? What about packages or larger parcels?
  52. Do the windows lock? Must they be kept locked? (Within the first few months of living in my apartment, I failed to close one of the windows properly – it didn’t lock shut, so I should’ve known it wasn’t closed right – and I got a whole swarm of flies.)
  53. How is trash collected? What about recycling? Know if you have to take your garbage to a curb, to a basement or what. Also find out when/how often it’s picked up.
  54. Is there a basement? Is it clean/furnished or not somewhere you’d go?
  55. Is there additional storage? My apartment complex has locked cages in the basement.
  56. What are other residents like? Are they older or younger? Are there lots of kids running around? How about other pets?
  57. Are there communal areas like a fitness center, a pool, a park, etc on site?
  58. If it’s important to you – how safe is the property for kids? If you’re a college student, it probably won’t matter as much to you as it would if you’re a parent or even a grandparent who could have young kids visiting. Are there fences or could a kid just run out into the parking lot/street? Are there any grassy areas for kids to play in? Are pools unattended?
  59. What is the condition of the apartment? Are there cracks in the wall? Are the floors well-maintained? Is everything clean? Is anything chipped or broken?
  60. Where does the landlord or complex manager live? Mainly the question is – do they live here, or somewhere else? There are good points and bad points to each side. Having the landlord upstairs/next door/whatever means repairs should be done fairly quickly, and if you have any issues, they’re mostly easily accessible. However, this could also mean they’ll be more watchful of your comings & goings, your visitors, your noise levels, etc. which, if nothing else, could quickly become irritating.
  61. Finally…. perhaps the most important question of all, and one to ask yourself: am I going to be happy here? Because an apartment is just an apartment, a house is just a house, until it becomes, truly, a home. Only you can make it that.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s