You’re booked with viewing appointments, figuring out how to pack up your old place, and still maintaining your daily duties.
If you’re looking to move into a new apartment, we’ve got your back.
Let’s find out what you should ask your landlord before signing a lease.
Questions to Ask Before Signing a Lease
It’s vital to remember that you are interviewing the landlord as much as they are interviewing you.
It’s your life and finances you’re entering into an agreement with, so take the time to learn as much as possible about the vacant apartment that could be your new home!
Here are our top questions to consider before signing an apartment lease.
Why Did the Previous Tenant Move Out?
It can be tough to get an honest answer to this, but even a lie can be telling.
There are tons of reasons to not want to move out from an unfavorable living situation, like:
- Noisy neighbors
- Pest infestation
- Poor tenant/landlord communication
But maybe it’s none of those, right? Maybe the previous tenant just had to move home because they graduated college.
Asking this question will help give you some insight about the place, and your landlord.
If they gave you an honest answer that’s unfavorable to know; well, now you know. If they lie… well, now you know.
Many tenants are just moving along to the next phase of their life to start a new job or relationship. They are a good resource to give you an opinion on their experience with the property and the management. Having a minor problem isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, but it is something you might want to consider for your next home.
What are the Options for Paying Rent?
You’d be surprised what loops a landlord can make you jump through every month just to pay the rent.
Ideally, you would want the option for a direct deposit from your bank account into theirs. This avoids all tacked-on fees and what-not that other options can cost you.
Some tenants choose to pay by way of credit card even with the extra 2.5% fee that the credit card company usually charges. If you have a rewards card, this is a great way to get some expensive “free” points every month! Definitely convince at a cost.
What Utilities are Included?
Chances are, the included utilities are already explained in your lease.
However, it’s still a good idea to ask as you might gain a little insight. For instance, in the Davis California region, the cost of water/sewer/garbage is usually included in the lease. What they won’t tell you up front, though, some of the landlord’s charge for several of these items as well as others like parking, Wi-Fi and amenities fees. It is a good idea to ask the manager “what items are not included in my rent payment?” Ask the landlord or manager to go over this part go the lease with you carefully because these charges vary wildly from one property to another.
What About Early Lease Termination? Sub-letting?
First, find out the length of the lease: are we obligated to pay for a full year? half?
Then, ask about any early-termination options. Is it allowed? Are there any tacked-on fees? Can I bypass those fees by finding a replacement tenant myself?
Some landlords are fickle about that, so you have to ask. Same with subletting.
There are a ton of reasons you may have to relocate on a moment’s notice. Find out if this is doable for you, or if your next apartment might come with some added stress.
Having the option to terminate the lease early or sub-lease your apartment is very helpful. Consider this before signing the lease.
Any Existing Damage?
Doing a run-through of the apartment for its condition as-is with the landlord is required in most states. This should happen at the beginning and at the end of the lease.
But you’d be surprised how many landlords bypass it. Your landlord should give you a move out packet a few weeks before the end of your lease. It should include an offer for a pre-walkthrough as a test run for the final walkthrough. It is free and will give you valuable information, so ask for it!
This will ensure that both you and your landlord are aware of any damages or faults in the property. Make sure it’s documented with pictures, and that you have a signed and dated copy of the inspection.
When you move out, and they try to come after your security deposit, you’ll want proof that “it was there when I moved in.”
Are Apartment Alterations Allowed?
In contrast to the existing conditions clause, you’ll want to know what personalization opportunities are available to you once you move in.
Wanna paint the walls? Most property managers will allow this, but there may be a stipulation that you have to paint the walls back to the original color before moving out.
Other times, landlords might be more fickle about what you’re allowed to do with your apartment. For instance, there may be a clause in the lease that ‘no holes may be drilled in the walls for any reason.’
“Ok,” you think. “That seems fine.”
And then the internet guy comes to install your wireless and tells you he needs to drill a hole through the wall to connect some cables. So, now what?
Find out before you go signing any lease.
Is There a Pet Policy?
Chances are if you have a pet, you’re already looking at places that allow them.
But maybe you want a dog in the future, and if that is likely, you should consider properties that allow dogs and are also set up to be a good home for one. An apartment with no fenced in yard would be less than ideal for a dog.
More and more places are allowing pets, but they might come with a stipulation. A pretty common one these days is ‘no dogs over 50 pounds.’
And they’ll often ask for a pet deposit and additional rent for the pet—find out how much and what the intimate details are on that. If there is, also find out when it will be returned to you upon moving out.
Find Your Next Home Now!
The search for your next apartment might seem like a lot, but before you know it, you’ll be kicking back in your new pad!
If you’re in the Davis area, give us a call
We’ll help you find your new place, and get you signing a lease you can understand and feel good about. You’ll be saying, “home, sweet home” in no time!
UPDATED: October 12, 2020 Notice: Since this article was originally posted, there have been...
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