From getting clear on your budget and searching online to seeing the places in person and officially signing the lease, there’s a lot that goes into finding the perfect place to rent. One very important part of the process is asking all the right questions. After all, you’ll be calling this place home for the foreseeable future; it’s essential that you learn everything there is to know to ensure that it’s a good fit. To help support you in your hunt for your ideal rental place, below we’ve listed out 13 key questions to ask your rental agent or landlord before signing the lease. Print this out. Take notes. You can thank us later.
What are the lease terms?
First and foremost, find out what the lease terms are. How long is the lease? What is included in the rent? For example, do they cover some utilities, and if so, which ones. Or, do you have to pay more money for things like lawn care, access to amenities, parking, or property maintenance. Knowing these things upfront means no surprises later.
What are the upfront costs?
Typically, landlords will ask that you pay an application fee covering the cost of running your credit. They may also require a security deposit and first and last month’s rent. Ask about these upfront costs so you’re prepared.
Are appliances included?
Some rental places will already be equipped with big appliances such as refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers, and washers and dryers. If the rental home doesn’t provide those things, it may or may not be a deal-breaker for you. Either way, it’s important to know if you need to factor in the cost of purchasing your own appliances.
When is the rent due and how do I pay it?
For most places, rent is due on the first of the month, but this can vary. They may also give you a grace period of a couple of days before the rent is considered late. Ask about any late payment fees as well. Along the same line, ask how you will pay for your rent and utilities each month. Some places may require a physical check or allow you to pay via an online portal.
How secure is the property?
Feeling safe in your new rental place is essential, so don’t forget to ask about the property’s security features and protocols. For example, ask if there is a doorman, a buzzer system, or security cameras, and who else has access to get into the house or building.
What are the property rules?
Every landlord will have their own set of policies to abide by. Make sure you ask what these are to ensure that they align with your needs and wants. For example, do they have quiet hours? Is smoking permitted? Can you sublet? Are guests allowed over and for how long? Do they allow pets? And if so, what type and size and is there an additional pet deposit or monthly rent you need to pay.
Can I make changes to the space?
Before moving in, ask if they allow renters to make changes to the space and, if so, which ones are allowed and which are not. These can include painting, nailing things to the walls, or changing out the blinds.
What are the lease end procedures?
Even though you’re getting ready to sign the lease, it’s also important to know what happens at the end of the lease. Can you renew it, and if so, what is the renewal process like? Is your security deposit refundable? How far in advance do you need to notify them if you are moving? Will the rent be raised if you do renew? All are important things to note.
Is renter’s insurance required?
Some landlords may require that you show proof of having renter’s insurance. Although yes, it’s an added cost, it’s a good idea to have regardless as it covers your belongings if something happens and is typically pretty affordable.
What happens if I need to end the lease early?
Things happen—you may be offered a job in another city or have to move to be closer to family. Life is unpredictable, so it’s a good idea to also ask what happens if for whatever reason, you need to terminate the lease early and if there are fees or penalties associated with it.
What’s the parking situation?
Parking is a big deal, especially in Los Angeles. Don’t forget to ask what the parking situation is like. Is there only street parking? Do you have a designated parking spot, and if so, do you have to pay extra for it, or is it included in the rent?
How do I contact the landlord or manager?
In case of an emergency or if you need to put in a maintenance request, you’ll need to know how to get in contact with the property manager or landlord quickly. If you’re renting an apartment, the property manager will likely be on-site during business hours. If that’s not the case, ensure you learn the protocols and best contact number in case things come up while you’re living there.
Are any property updates planned?
If you’re moving into a new place, it’s good to know if they plan on making any upgrades to your space or the community space, such as painting the building’s exterior, redoing the pool, or adding fire pits and barbecues. These can be things you can look forward to enjoying once they’re finished, but it’s also a nice heads up if you don’t love the idea of dealing with construction and renovations.