If you’re about to rent an apartment, don’t sign the lease until you ask the leasing agent these 10 important questions. Trust me, it will save you money and spare you heartache and frustration in the long run.
Please know that this is not just an apartment. This is going to be your home for a while, so it’s important that you are not only comfortable but excited to go home every day.
I’ve rented my fair share of apartments so I consider myself an expert in this field. There are things I’ve learned from doing research and others I learned the hard way, unfortunately.
So, let’s get into the questions you need to ask before renting your next apartment.
1. What Is The Parking Situation?
We get so caught up in finding out the rent prices that we forget to ask about parking. If you have a car, you’re going to want to park it in a safe place every night. Depending on the city you live in, the apartment may not offer parking. You may be relegated to street parking. If so, there’s really no guarantee that you will get a spot. It’s usually the early bird gets the worm.
So, find out if there is street parking, garage parking or paved parking. And most importantly, ask if there is a cost for this. If you’re on a budget, you may want to avoid places that charge for parking. That is a big downside to renting, unfortunately, because it’s an added cost for those with tight budgets.
You’ll also want to find out where guests park. Is there a charge for them to park? Believe it or not, some places charge guests for parking and they will quickly tow if that guest’s car overstays their time. So, be careful.
2. What Utilities, If Any, Are Covered In The Rent?
In a perfect world, utilities would be free. Unfortunately, they’re not, which means you’ll have to shell out extra dollars for water, electricity, gas (in some instances), trash, internet. These costs add up, kiddies. So, if you can find an apartment that covers at least water and trash, that would be helpful. But, it’s important that you ask.
Also, and this is very important, you need to know if you are responsible for setting up and paying for your own utilities or if the leasing company gets one bill and charges all of the tenants.
I don’t particularly like the latter scenario because if you live alone or are an energy conserver, you could end up paying more monthly compared to others who live in the building with families or are not conservers. So, please ask. In most instances, if the entire building is charged and the bill divided up between the tenants, you won’t be able to opt out of it. If that’s the case, consider passing on the apartment.
3. What’s The Grace Period For Paying Rent?
A lot of people are afraid to ask this question because they feel it may give the impression that they plan to pay late. But, not so. It’s a fair question. Things happen. Emergencies come up. You may need a few days to get the balance of your rent. Having a grace period is beneficial. So, ask what it is and don’t be ashamed.
4. What’s The Late Fee?
This goes hand-in-hand with my third point. If you go over your grace period, you will need to know what the late fee is. What if the landlord charges a $100 late fee after the grace period has expired? That might be too much for you to pay. So, you need to know what it is upfront. By no means am I advocating being late on your rent. But, again, things happen.
5. How Do You Handle Noise Disturbances?
I have had the displeasure of living in apartment buildings where couples were screaming at each other at 2am, and I’ve also lived in places where my noisy neighbours partied on a Tuesday until the wee hours of the morning. Nothing was done despite complaints. You want to know that you are living in an apartment where noise complaints are dealt with swiftly and sternly. So, ask. And don’t be afraid to ask for specific examples. Don’t allow the leasing agent to give you some general response. If he or she does, gauge their response and decide if you want to take a chance.
6. Is There An Issue With Pests And How Are They Handled?
Most decent apartment complexes have excellent pest control. They are proactive about preventing the problem in the first place. Others don’t care. They have infestations and do the bare minimum to eradicate the problem. I am so fortunate to have never lived in a place with any type of infestation, but I have heard stories. While searching for my current apartment, I read real horror stories online.
Don’t be afraid to press the leasing agent for answers. This will be your home and you deserve to eat, sleep and live in a critter-free environment.
Here’s another tip, while touring the property, ask current residents if they have to contend with roaches or rats. You’d be surprised just how honest people are and how much they are willing to tell you to run for the hills if there’s an infestation.
7. Ask If Management Is On Property
Not every apartment complex has management or a leasing office on property. Some are offsite. That could spell problems for individuals who have issues with problematic neighbours. Sometimes, it’s easier to just walk to the leasing office to file a complaint. If the apartment you’re considering doesn’t have that, resolving issues could take much longer.
8. I Need To Break My Lease, What Is The Cost?
There are instances where a renter needs to break their lease. They may have to relocate to assist an ailing parent or they may have to switch jobs in another state or country, or they may lose their job altogether and they need to get out of their lease. Before you sign on the dotted line, find out what the cost would be to sever ties. I have read horror stories of individuals having to pay upwards of $10,000 to get out a lease. It left them in financial ruin. So, ask. This is the time to get all questions answered.
9. What Happens If The Elevator Breaks Down?
This question is mostly for individuals who plan to rent an apartment in a tower or high-rise. This is a disaster waiting to happen, unfortunately, because elevators are machines, and machines often break down. If you’re living on a top floor and the elevator goes down, you’re going to have to take the stairs. Imagine climbing 10 flights with young children or groceries. Not a pretty thought, is it.
So, you’ll need to know what is the contingency plan in those instances. Also, ask how many times in the past two years have the elevators gone down. Again, ask current tenants who may entering or exiting the building. Trust me, if there’s a problem, they won’t hesitate to let you know. Most people love to vent.
10. How Long Does It Take To Fix Things?
One of the reasons many people prefer to rent is because they don’t want the financial burden or headache that comes with making repairs in their home. They love being able to call the maintenance man and get things fixed.
Refrigerators, stoves, washers, dryers, they all break down from time-to-time, and as a renter, we want them up and running as soon as possible. That’s why we pay our rent. It’s important to find out how long it takes for plumbing issues to get resolved. Ask for specific timelines.
Here’s what I know. A renter may think a clogged toilet is a priority for the leasing office. But, it’s only a priority if you only have one bathroom. If you have two bathrooms, it’s not so much a priority because you have another means of using the toilet. But, you still need to ask for your peace of mind. And take my foolish advice, document everything.
There are so many questions, I feel renters need to ask before signing a lease, these are just a few of them. I may do a part two, because I want all renters to be fully prepared before making their big move.
Please don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask any of these questions. If you don’t, you may regret it.
Happy apartment hunting!
This Bahamian Gyal