Renting an apartment is a costly and emotional process. As a tenant, you want to do everything you can to ensure a confident decision. So, how do you know landlords have been upfront with all the details that are important to you? The answer is to ask the right questions! While the rental ad may already contain pertinent information, there is also a lot that is not included. As a landlord, asking the right questions of each applicant is equally important. Therefore, continue reading below as we describe the top questions every tenant and landlord should ask before renting an apartment.
Top 12 Questions Tenants Should Ask Before Renting an Apartment
As a renter, it is important to realize that a lease is a legally binding contract. Therefore, when renting an apartment, the sooner you know the details, the better. Making an informed decision saves both time and money while helping you connect with your future landlord. Asking questions is important for clarification but keep in mind that it is no substitute for carefully reading the rental agreement. That said, check out the questions below to guide you through the process of renting an apartment.
- What is the Application and Screening Process?
- How Much is the Security Deposits, and Are There Any Non-refundable Fees?
- Is Renters Insurance Required for All Tenants?
- How Do I Pay Rent and Which Payment Methods Do You Accept?
- Are Any Utility Services Included in the Rent?
- Does the Apartment Allow Pets?
- How Are Maintenance Requests Handled?
- What is the Parking Situation?
- Can I Make Changes to the Apartment?
- What Is the Guest Policy?
- Does the Lease Renew Annually, or Does it Convert to Month to Month?
- What are the Consequences of an Early Lease Termination?
What is the Application and Screening Process?
Every landlord will have an application and generally an application fee that covers the cost of screening. Ask the landlord to explain their qualification requirements and screening process to know exactly what will happen. Generally, landlords look at the criminal background, rental history, income verification, and creditworthiness. Also, if they look at credit, inquire to see if it is a hard or soft pull and whether that will hurt your credit.
How Much is the Security Deposit, and Are There Any Non-refundable Fees?
Having your finances in order is essential before renting an apartment. In addition to moving expenses and application fees, landlords will charge a security deposit. Furthermore, a tenant must come up with the funds for the first month’s rent and occasionally the last months’ rent. So, tenants will need to inquire about just how much money they will need in order to budget appropriately.
As a tenant, having some knowledge of local landlord-tenant law is helpful. While most state laws prohibit landlords from charging non-refundable deposits, some try anyway. Therefore, ask about how much the deposit will be, along with any other fees the landlord requires. If you feel the landlord is attempting to step outside of the law, move on to another property.
Is Renters Insurance Required for All Tenants?
Requiring renter’s insurance has become widely accepted across the industry. While it may be necessary for renting an apartment, renters’ insurance is also just a great thing to have. Typically, it covers damage to personal property due to a covered peril while also providing liability coverage. That said, each landlord may have their own requirements that affect tenants, such as certain liability limits. Also, it typically costs around $10 to $20 per month, making it quite affordable.
How Do I Pay Rent and What Payment Methods Do You Accept?
How a landlord collects rent, and the payment types they allow will likely differ from property to property. Ideally, the property owner will allow online payments using a bank account, credit, or debit card for added convenience. Additionally, check to see if extra fees are involved with certain payment types that the tenant is responsible for. The best landlords keep payment methods hassle-free to encourage on-time remittance from their tenants. That said, if a landlord says, “cash only,” steer clear!
Are Any Utility Services Included in the Rent?
Whether or not the lease includes some or any utilities when renting an apartment will vary from location to location. Often landlords will cover trash removal and water, while tenants pay for utilities such as gas and electricity. However, applicants will want to find out the specifics to determine potential costs and any additional steps they must take to set up services. Additionally, help estimate the cost by checking to see if appliances are electric or gas. Typically, gas is a little cheaper than electric, but you can also ask the landlord or even utility company how much the utility bill usually is.
Does the Apartment Allow Pets?
According to the American Veterinary Association, around 50% of rental households have pets. Beyond that, another 35% of renters without pets said that they would have one if the landlord allowed it. So, whether you have a pet or are considering one in the future, knowing the property’s policy on pets is critical. Below are a few key points to clarify regarding a pet policy –
- Are Pets Allowed?
- What Types of Pets Do You Accept?
- Does the Property Have Any Breed Restrictions?
- What Paperwork is Required? (Example: shot records, vet history, pet photo)
- Is there an Extra Pet Deposit Required?
- Will I Have to Pay Additional Pet Rent?
- If I Want to Add a Pet Later in the Lease, What is the Process?
How Are Maintenance Requests Handled?
In a rental property, maintenance is inevitable. With that in mind, renters need to know there is a solid process in place to handle repair issues promptly. Therefore, when renting an apartment, look for a property that offers 24/7 emergency maintenance and a hassle-free way to submit requests.
What is the Parking Situation?
Parking, whether assigned, garage, in a driveway, or on the street, is important to any renter. Especially in urban areas, parking can add over a hundred dollars a month to your expenses, which could prove to be a dealbreaker. So, find out whether parking is available and if so, is it included or requires an extra fee. That said, if it is not included, the neighborhood may offer monthly plan options at local lots or public garages.
Can I Make Changes to the Apartment?
Whether it is painting an accent wall or installing extra storage shelves, a tenant needs permission. Every landlord has their own set of rules regarding what tenants can and cannot change and under what circumstances. So, you must understand these rules before planning out your new stylish changes. Therefore, if the landlord will not allow the changes you would like, it could sway your decision one way or another.
What Is the Guest Policy?
In general, rental property tenants can have guests and even small gatherings. However, some landlords have and will enforce stricter guest policies than others. So, if this is an area that is important to you, be sure to thoroughly read your lease and ask the landlord to clarify anything you do not understand.
Does the Lease Renew Annually, or Does it Convert to Month to Month?
How and if a lease renews at the end of the initial term is important for tenants to plan for. If the lease states it will non-renew, you will need to vacate at the end of the term. That said, other common lease terms include an annual renewal, or it may convert to a month-to-month term. Either way, ensure these terms are clear and are in line with your plans.
Many leases have a built-in increase of between 2% and 5% when it comes to renewals. Other landlords may choose to look at other circumstances before raising the rent. Either way, this is vital information for a prospective tenant to know. After all, if you plan to stay for several years, rent increases may sway your decision when renting an apartment.
What are the Consequences of an Early Lease Termination?
Life happens, and sometimes when renting an apartment, a tenant will have no choice but to break a lease. Beware of any landlord that says you cannot break the lease for any reason. However, be aware that a lease break is going to cost you! Ask about the specific notice requirements and any lease break fees you will incur. Generally, these range from one to three months rent, and tenants may also need to covert hen rent until a new tenant is found.
10 Questions Landlords Should Ask Before Renting an Apartment to a Tenant
As a landlord, asking potential tenants questions is crucial to finding the right fit for your rental. Along with an in-depth screening process and set qualifications, asking the right questions can provide a wealth of information. These questions below can help landlords pre-qualify leads over the phone or through email or text to ensure they are serious and at least meet the basic criteria. Doing so will help to more efficiently use the valuable time it takes to show a unit. Check out these top 10 questions every landlord should ask before renting their property below.
- What is your desired move-in date?
- How many people will occupy the unit?
- Is your monthly income at least three times the monthly rent?
- Were you ever evicted from a previous rental property?
- Do you own pets or plan on getting any?
- How long have you lived in your current place of residence?
- Why have you decided to move?
- Are you or any of the occupants a smoker?
- Have you ever been convicted of a crime?
- Under any circumstances, have you ever broken a lease agreement?
Renting an apartment takes time and effort on the part of landlords and tenants. However, landlord-tenant interactions go far beyond signing the lease. So, ensure you enter this contract with someone you are comfortable with. Are you a tenant looking for your next rental property? Check out Bay Property Management Group for the latest rental listings in your area today!
Landlords can also benefit from the services that Bay Property Management has to offer. As the area’s leading full-service property management company, we pride ourselves on customer service. Our experienced team strives to maximize your investment through proactive leasing, strategic renewals, and preventative maintenance. Give us a call today to find out more!