If you are considering renting a property for the first time, you are well aware of the amount of questions that pop into your mind. How much is the rent per month? When are the payments due? Will I have an assigned parking space? Etc. However, there are many ways for landlords to get a little extra income from you simply by not giving you all of the details. Also, there are other questions that may need answering that have nothing to do with finances, but more to do with tolerable living conditions/arrangements. Before signing a lease or contract, be sure you know the answers to the following questions:
1. Are utilities included in the monthly rent?
Although $500.00 a month for a 2 bedroom apartment may sound like a great deal at first, you may want to check whether or not that payment includes your utilities. Payments such as water, sewer, and gas can add up fast and can fluctuate month by month; therefore, it is usually a better bargain if they are included in your monthly rent. For example, say one apartment’s monthly rent is $550.00 including utilities, and another apartment is only $500.00 excluding utilities. More than likely, your total utility bills will be over $50.00 a month; therefore, the apartment with the higher monthly rate, but includes utilities, will be your best financial option.
2. Is the monthly rate flexible?
Just because a home for rent says that the price is $700 per month, does not necessarily mean that it will stay that way. Be sure to read the contract carefully and ask your potential landlord whether the monthly rate can change over time. If he says yes, know that the rate will almost never decrease, so be prepared for those “surprise” monthly rent changes.
3. Where is the laundry room and how much does it cost?
Not all apartment buildings provide laundry services. Some may only have laundry rooms in 1 out of every 2 buildings while others have laundry rooms on every floor. Certain apartment complexes may have the laundry rooms in the basement where there are flooding issues, poor lighting, and a lot of stairs to climb if the elevator is out of order. Some landlords include laundry fees in the monthly rent while others require the old fashioned quarter slots in the machines. Be sure to get the details before making your final decision.
4. Is the building secure?
Unfortunately, the days of leaving your door unlocked while you are away are long gone. Worse yet, sometimes even having your door locked still may not prevent burglars from breaking and entering your home/apartment. Therefore, one very important question to ask your potential landlord is whether your building is secure or not. Are the outer doors locked at all times or only during certain hours? Are you provided a key or is there a numeral combination to unlock the doors? If there is no security system, you have to ask yourself whether or not you would feel comfortable and safe enough to rent that apartment.
5. Is there maintenance personnel available at all times?
If something goes wrong in your rental house/apartment, such as a cabinet door breaking loose or a door becoming jammed, it is a good idea to find out who is available for maintenance and when. Although some landlords and apartment complexes offer 24/7 maintenance services, not all are so accommodating. Know who to contact, when they are available, how to contact them (E.g., per phone, email, text, etc.), and what services they provide.
Although these are important questions to ask your potential landlord, they are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to rental properties. Know the monthly rent rate and find out if it is flexible and/or includes utilities. Know the building’s security features and what kinds of services are provided to you as a tenant. There is no such thing as the perfect rental property; however, by asking the right questions, you may come closer to perfection than you think.