Ask the Right Questions Before Renting

Obvious questions aside (rent), there are some questions that every renter should consider asking their potential landlord before making a decision.

1) What utilities are included in the rent? You will obviously want to know if garbage pick-up, water and sewer, electrical, and heating are included in the rent. Why? Most people who rent are on a tight budget, and if the landlord is asking $700 a month, and you only make $1000 a month, it would only make sense to rent the place if utilities are included. You probably couldn’t get away with renting an expensive property and paying utilities on top if you’re on a tight budget and still need to pay for things such as food.

2) Is it a month by month rental, or am I required to sign a lease agreement, and for how long? Some landlords require that tenants sign a lease, otherwise known as a contract to live in the rental for a certain period of time, often six months to one year. As a renter you may only be needing a temporary home, or you may just not want to be tied down in case you decide that you really don’t like the neighborhood or the landlord. Not all landlords are forthcoming with this information, so ask this question to know for sure what you’re getting yourself into.

3) How are maintenance issues handled? You will want to know who to call when a water pipe breaks, the toilet stops working, or you accidentally put a hole in the wall. Some landlords do not allow renters to do any work to the house, and some prefer that renters fix everything they have broken themselves. In any case, it is good to know who to call when an issue does arise. Remember, you don’t want to be stuck without a working toilet or shower for very long, and need to know if this is something that the landlord will fix for free, or if it will be added to your monthly bill.

4) Under what circumstances is the landlord allowed to enter your apartment? It’s very unsettling to come home and find things rearranged or that last slice of pizza in the fridge missing, only to find out that the landlord came in with a hidden key he had when you weren’t home.

5) Can the rental be altered? You may not want to live with bright pink walls for the next two years, or that nasty stained shag carpet in the bedroom… what is that brown stuff on it anyway? It’s good to know if you can paint or upgrade the rental. Know that when you do these things, it is considered a gift to the landlord and you will probably not be reimbursed.