7 Questions to Ask Before Signing a Rental Agreement
August 27, 2015
If you’re not yet ready to buy a home, then you’re likely looking at apartments or homes for rent. You probably already know where to find houses for rent online. But what should you be looking for once you’re actually taking tours and talking to prospective landlords, and what should you ask about besides the monthly rent? Here are seven questions you should ask about all the rental homes you see before making a decision:
- How Much Do Utilities Cost?
A landlord should be able to give you an estimate for what utilities cost in any given property, if they aren’t included in the rent. Keep that figure in mind (adjusting for whether you’re a heavy or light utility user, in general) when you’re comparing costs.
- What Is the Pet Policy?
It’s good to know an apartment’s pet policy whether you currently have a furry family member or not. For one, you may want to have the flexibility for visitors to bring pets. On the flipside, if you have allergies, it’s best to rent an apartment with a strict no-pet policy. If you get an answer that pets are allowed with a deposit, be sure to ask whether that deposit is refundable or not.
- Is Painting Allowed?
It’s hard to predict with rental homes whether or not you’ll be allowed to paint. It’s at least worth asking; $50 or $100 in paint can completely transform a space. Often, landlords will allow you to leave the color when you end your tenancy, provided you choose a neutral color and get it approved in advance.
- Are There Any Shared Amenities?
You’re more likely to get shared amenities in an apartment building than in a single-family home, but that’s not always the case (especially if you end up renting in a house that has been split up into two or more units).
- Who Does the Maintenance?
Get a clear picture of how maintenance requests are made, how promptly you can expect work to be completed, and who will actually be doing the work. It’s also worth being precise about what kinds of issues you can expect action regarding. For example, can you ask for a leaking dishwasher to be replaced, or will you be expected to just live with those little problems until repairs are completely unavoidable?
- What Are the Move-Out Polices?
Ask about your cleaning/security deposit (and check up on local tenancy laws to make sure your landlord is complying). Your security deposit can’t be withheld based on normal wear and tear, but some landlords do require that you hire professional cleaners at the end of your lease term. Also ask what will happen if you need to move out earlier than expected.
- How/When Is Rent Paid?
Know which day of the month your landlord expects rent by, and be clear on subtleties like grace periods and late fees. More and more landlords are setting up electronic payment systems, but a few will expect you to send a check; in that case, it’s important you know whether your check simply has to be postmarked by a certain date, or whether your landlord expects to have it in hand by that date.
What else should tenants ask about prospective apartments or rental homes? Join the discussion in the comments.