Apartment Hunting Questions: Don’t Assume, Ask!

Getting your first apartment is exciting. Don’t spoil the fun by getting stuck with unexpected bills and expenses. Avoid surprise eviction notices. Ask each potential landlord all these 6 questions, in addition to the obvious, “How much is the rent?” Take notes and pictures to help you keep track of which places pass this quiz as well as which place had the most cabinet space in the kitchen. Once you find your first place, be sure and tell your friends to ask all these 6 questions before they rent their first apartments.

1 Who pays which utilities?

Utilities have been up to half as much as my rent, so I always ask this question. An apartment that rents for $1,000 per month but has all utilities included might be a better deal than “$700 rent but you pay the utilities”. Account for all the utilities: sewer, trash, water, gas, electricity, TV, Internet and phone.

2 Is assigned parking included?

Assigned parking is worth a lot, especially in crowded city neighborhoods. Do not assume this is included with the advertised amount of rent. Find out how many spaces are included and where they are. Ask to see each space, to make sure your vehicle will fit and be safe.

3 What pets are allowed?

Your Pit Bull might feel like a family member to you, but Pit Bulls are among ten dog breeds that are excluded on many landlord’s property insurance policies. Always disclose the number and breed of every pet you plan on bringing to live with you. Find out ahead of time if your pets pose a problem. Ask how much deposit the landlord wants for each pet, too.

4 What amenities are included?

Is there a laundry room? What hours is it open? Will you have access to that pool you saw on the way in? Is there a jacuzzi? A club house? Are there community activities? Just like when you are renting a room in someone else’s house or apartment, make sure and nail down exactly what you are allowed to use, and when.

5 Who would I call for repairs?

Nothing is worse than a heater that doesn’t work, except not knowing who to call to get it fixed. An apartment in a building that has a live-in superintendent is worth more rent than a place where you have to pay a repair man and then get reimbursed.

6 Are over-night guests permitted?

Don’t be evicted for something as simple as a slumber party. Yes, this happened to a friend of mine. Ask, “My friends staying over won’t be a problem, right?”

Be honest when you answer any follow-up questions. Read carefully your lease or rental agreement. It is a contract. It legally binds you to follow all it says. In many states you can be evicted for breaking the rules in this contract, or even for lying to the landlord about factors which helped him or her determine how much rent to charge you. Don’t assume any of this; ask! Enjoy your new apartment.