9 Questions to Ask Your Prospective Landlord

When renting an apartment or a rental home, there are many questions renters should ask their prospective landlords prior to signing a lease. Asking these questions can help renters avoid any surprises later on down the road.

How long is the lease and what happens if the lease needs to be broken?
Knowing how long your lease runs is very important. Most leases range from six months to a year, and depending on your life plans, you may not want to commit to a longer lease. Additionally, things may come up while you’re living at the rental that may force you to break your lease. Be sure to ask the landlord what policies he or she has in place for when a lease is broken.

What is included in my rent?
Be sure to ask what is included in your rent. Some apartments include utilities, such as gas, electric and water in the rent, while others only include one or two of those things, or even none at all, leaving those expenses for the renter. Be sure to ask what utilities, if any, are included in your rent and if any utilities are not included, be sure to ask what the average amount of those bills for the unit are.

How much is the security deposit and is any of it non-refundable?
Most landlords require a security deposit. Sometimes, a portion of the deposit is non-refundable and is used to pay for steam cleaning of the unit after the renter moves out. Be sure to ask if a portion of the deposit is non-refundable.

Do you allow pets?
If you have pets, be sure to ask if pets are allowed in the unit you’re looking to rent. If pets are allowed, be sure to find out if there’s a pet deposit and how much it is. If you don’t have pets, but have allergies, you may want to ask specifically for a unit that has never had pets or is not allowed to have pets, as dander from previous renter’s pets could bother your allergies.

Is smoking allowed?
Some apartments allow renters to smoke indoors, while others don’t. Apartments that do allow smoking may require a deposit. Some apartments may require you to be so many feet away from the building if you are smoking, and to dispose of your cigarette butts in the trash, rather than dropping them on the ground. Be sure to ask the landlord what their policies on smoking are. If you don’t smoke, be sure to ask if the unit has ever been allowed to be smoked in, as it can affect the unit and bother renters who have allergies or asthma.

What modifications can be made to the unit?
Some landlords are very strict about modifications to the unit, while others are relaxed. Some landlords don’t allow any holes in the walls, even those made from thumbtacks and nails used to hang posters and picture frames.

Is the unit furnished?
Some apartments come furnished or partially furnished, while others are not furnished at all. Be sure to ask your prospective landlord what, if anything, comes with the apartment. If the unit is furnished, but you’d rather use your own furnishings, be sure to ask the landlord if this is alright and what should be done with the furnishings that are currently in the unit.

Parking Spaces
Be sure to ask the landlord how many parking spaces each unit is provided. You may also want to ask where to have guests park when they are visiting you at your apartment. Some apartments have assigned spaces, while others have open lots where renters are able to park wherever they like.

Emergency Contacts
Lastly, you should ask the landlord if you’ll be provide their emergency contact numbers in case something arises. Many landlords use answering services or have business lines that are only answered during typical business hours. If something goes wrong, such as a pipe bursting or the heat going out in the middle of winter, you need to know that you’ll be able to get in touch with them immediately.