Finding an apartment to call ‘home’ can be a real challenge.

Your schedule is booked with viewing appointments, figuring out how to pack up your old place, cleaning, and still maintaining your daily duties like school and work.

If you’re looking to move into a new apartment rental, we’ve got your back.

That new place looks like a good deal; clean, affordable, and packed with amenities. Too good to be true?

Let’s find out what questions 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. You may be renting and apartment. But in reality, you will be entering into a business agreement.

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
  • Cost (rent and “hidden” fees)
  • Location

But maybe it’s none of those, right? Maybe the previous tenant just had to move home because they graduated college or found a new job.

Asking why the previous tenant moved out of the apartment 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. Apartment rental information is priceless.

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 hoops a landlord can make you jump through every month just to pay the rent.

There are a variety of options for paying rent: cash, check, credit card, bank transfer (ACH). All, some, or at least one option will be available to you.

Ideally, you would want the option for a direct deposit from your bank account into theirs. This avoids all tacked-on fees and charges 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.

It is always a good idea to get all the additional charges listed…in writing.

What About Early Lease Termination? Sub-letting?

First, find out the length of the lease: are you 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 you bypass those fees by finding a replacement tenant yourself?

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 walk-through of the apartment rental to assess its condition as-is with the landlord is required in most states. This should happen both at the beginning and at the end of the lease. The initial walk-through allows you to note any existing conditions or damage to the apartment unit. The final walk-though confirms the condition of the apartment rental as you are leaving. That way a “before and after” assessment can be made which is used to determine any damage, or lack thereof, that may have occurred while under your care.

But you’d be surprised how many landlords bypass walk-throughs. Your landlord should give you a move out packet a few weeks before the end of your lease. It should include an offer for an apartment pre-walkthrough as a test run for the final apartment 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.

Do you want to 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 apartment rentals that allow them.

But maybe you want to own a dog in the future. 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.’

You may also find apartment complexes that consider themselves “pet friendly”, but may not allow dogs.

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 of work. 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!