5 Questions Every Renter Should Ask

If a property advertises as “all bills paid”, what bills are included and are there limits to what the landlord or property management pays

“All bills paid” can mean different things. Specify which bills this includes: phone, cable, Internet, electric, gas or garbage. Ask if there is a monthly cap for any bill. My first apartment advertised as “all bills paid”, but I soon found out that electric maxed out at $50 and I was responsible for anything over that amount. That came as a huge shock because I had not budgeted for extra expenses.

Who is responsible for maintenance issues and/or repairs and what exactly falls under these categories

Most apartment complexes cover all maintenance issues and repairs. It never hurts to ask anyway.

This issue gets complicated when it comes to rental homes. Ask who is responsible for major problems such as a faulty water heater, AC unit, or appliance. Ask about smaller issues such as clogged pipes. Sometimes all clogs get covered, but sometimes you are responsible for smaller clogs such as a bathroom sink. This is because it is considered a problem you can fix yourself without the cost of a repairman and/or one that you caused. Make sure you ask if the situation gets handled whether you are, or could be, responsible for the problem.

Both apartment and house renters should ask the rules on pest control. This is usually covered in apartments because the problem may have originated in a neighboring unit. However, it usually falls on the shoulders of a house renter because the problem could have possibly been avoided.

What date is your rent due and is there any penalty for being late, as little as one day

Most rent is due on the 1st of every month. You need to know whether your payment should arrive by or on the 1st or if you are allowed to mail it on the 1st, which would make the estimated arrival d
ate around the 2nd-4th. In many cases this is fine because a late charge isn’t incurred until after the 5th day of the month. You want to be sure because if it is not an acceptable arrangement, you can find yourself paying high fees. If you negotiate any leniency with the landlord or property management, have it included in your lease.

How much are you expected to pay if you break a lease

It is often assumed that if you break a lease you will be responsible for paying every month that is remaining on the lease. This is not always the case. You might be responsible for the rest of the lease or you might only be responsible for every month until the property gets rented again or for a set number of months. Ask for any information about breaking a lease in writing.

Are there any exceptions to breaking a lease

Sometimes life hits us with surprises such as illness, job changes, military deployment or any host of issues. You may get granted an exception in these cases, but you must discuss this beforehand and not when or if the time arrives. As always, get any promises in writing.

Renting a property is a fairly easy experience. The typical process includes filling an application, running a credit check (this applies to property management companies more than landlords), paying an application fee, and signing a lease. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You are getting into a legally binding agreement after all. Cover all your bases and happy hunting!

Do you have any tips for future renters? Are there any areas you think should get addressed?