Questions to Ask When you Rent

Even though the ad made it sound a dream come, your instincts tell you that your dream pad isn't as perfect as it seems. But how can you uncover hidden problems before signing the lease? Twelve months is too long to live with leaky plumbing, a ferocious dog next dog and a refrigerator that won't stop running. The perfect rental is out there and we want to make sure you find it—not its evil impostor.

Questions to Ask Before You Rent

Here are some questions you need to ask when renting an apartment:

When you call about the ad:

  • Confirm all the claims made in the ad and clarify any sketchy or confusing statements. “Cozy outdoor space” could mean a cute little deck or a fire escape running down seven floors.

  • Ask for the total square footage of the apartment as well as the footage of each room.

  • Make sure the rent is exactly what was listed and that the availability date matches your schedule. There’s no sense in wasting time viewing an apartment that isn't going to be ready for three months if you’re ready to move next week.

  • If you have any special needs, such as a dog that will be moving in with you or an allergy to a certain type of carpet, be sure your requirements can be met.

During the apartment walk-through:

  • Do all the appliances work? Check all the appliances and sinks to be sure they are working properly.

  • Are there insects or rodents present? If the current renter is there ask them about the severity of the problem and what is being done to fix it.

  • How old is the wiring? If there are very few outlets or if you see two-pronged switches, it probably is older wiring. This may be a convenience and safety issue.

  • How much closet/storage space is there? Don’t underestimate how much space your belongings will take up.

  • Are there enough windows to provide ample light for your taste and do they open and close properly?

  • Are the rooms big enough to fit your furniture? Take a tape measure with to be sure.

  • How do guests obtain entry and what type of security is in place? If there is an electronic system, test it out to make sure it works.

  • Make sure that the apartment will be cleaned and have the paint touched up before you move in.

  • Is there central heat and air conditioning? Check the units to see what shape they are in.

  • Ask what utilities are included in the rent and which ones are your responsibility as a renter.

  • What is the maintenance policy? What fixes are included in the rent and which ones are not. If there are repairs that are not included in the rent, find out if there is an extra charge and how much it is. There should be a prompt emergency contact and a non-emergency line as well.

  • Who are the neighbors? Inquire if many children live in the building or if people with pets live around you.

  • What parking is available and is it included in the rent? Ask if any special permits are required to park in the lot or in the streets around the building.

  • Do all the appliances work? Check all the appliances and sinks to be sure they are working properly.

Before you sign the lease:

  • If anything was amiss during the walkthrough or not up to standards, negotiate a lower price to make up for these problems.

  • When is the rent due and what is the policy on late rent?

  • What types of provisions are in the lease for excessive noise or overnight guests? Read every line and be sure you understand what your part of the deal is.

  • Are you required to hold renter’s insurance? If so, how much will a policy cost?

  • Is the neighborhood safe? Walk the neighborhood at night (with a friend) and observe your surroundings. Also check online to see if crime reports are available for your neighborhood.

  • When can you move in your belongings? Check the move in/move out dates printed on the lease. If the 1st of the month falls on a Wednesday, can you move in the previous weekend or will you have to do a weekday move?

  • Get a copy of the lease and keep it in a safe place.

This post was updated April 2, 2013. 


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