Finding a new place to live can be a dizzying experience. As you check out various apartments and properties, one can start to blend into the next. Finding a good apartment is dependent on more than just looks, too – there are lots of important apartment tour questions to ask when you’re viewing places to make sure the one you choose is the right fit.
Expert tip: Make a list and take notes as you check out your top picks. Here are the things you’ll want to know about each apartment.
11 Apartment Tour Questions You Need to Ask Before Signing a Lease
1. How do I pay rent each month?
One of the most basic apartment tour questions to ask when renting is how to pay each month’s rent. Some landlords may prefer that you drop a handwritten check to them or to the leasing office in person or via the mail. In today’s digital age, most properties have a way to log on and make online payments. While this is a convenient option, some systems charge a convenience fee, which is something to be aware of in advance.
2. What if the rent is late?
In addition to understanding how to pay your rent, make sure you know what happens if the rent is late. Typically, a landlord will charge a late fee a certain number of days after a tenant fails to pay. Find out in advance when the fee will be assessed and how much it will be.
3. What utility costs will I be responsible for?
In many apartment complexes, individual owners are responsible for their electricity and often their internet access or some form of their utilities. Some buildings include cable. For items like water, trash, and gas (if applicable), sometimes units are charged individually and sometimes the costs are combined into a monthly maintenance fee. To better create a budget, this is one of the questions to ask during an apartment tour.
4. Under what circumstances will I lose my security deposit?
When you first rent, you’ll have to put down a small chunk of cash for things like your first month’s rent and your security deposit. The latter will be returned to you assuming that no damage is done to the apartment. While landlords expect there to be normal wear and tear, the security deposit will cover extreme damage or for things like smoking in a non-smoking apartment. Some landlords will keep your security deposit if you move out and don’t clean the unit properly beforehand. Ask them to find out what factors will put your security deposit at risk.
5. Can I go month-to-month if I don’t want to renew my lease?
Landlords have different requirements for the length of their leases, with some mandating that tenants must commit to at least a year. For tenants who are uncertain about how long they will stay, a month-to-month lease is ideal. Talk to the potential landlord to see if they’ll entertain a month-to-month agreement instead of a long-term lease.
6. What happens to tenants who break a lease?
Your lease agreement should clearly lay out the potential damages that must be paid if you must break the lease on your apartment. If you have any concerns, this should be one of the questions to ask during your apartment tour.
7. What’s the parking situation at the property?
Do tenants at the property have assigned parking, park in a parking garage, or do they utilize street parking? While this may not fall on your list of most important questions if you’re renting in a quiet suburb, in a large city like Los Angeles or San Francisco where parking comes at a premium, you need to know what to expect before you sign a lease.
8. What is the pet policy?
If you’ve got a Fido (or two), finding a pet-friendly apartment is a must. Similarly, if you have allergies or are deathly afraid of animals, you may benefit from looking for a property with pet restrictions. Make sure to find out what pet fees must be paid upfront and if there are any additional pet fees that are assessed monthly.
9. Do you require renters insurance?
Lease agreements can differ from one property to the next, and some specify that all tenants must have renters insurance. This will cover the cost of your possessions if they’re ever lost or damaged by a fire, theft, and other disasters. While most properties don’t require renters insurance, it’s a good safety net to have just in case.
10. How can I contact the property manager and maintenance?
Whether you have a question about rent payments or are experiencing a broken pipe on a Saturday evening, it’s essential to have contact information for someone who manages and maintains the property – both during and after business hours. When asking questions during an apartment tour, also find out how the landlord prioritizes repairs and how long it should take for most items to be addressed.
11. Are there any specific restrictions (guests, balconies, alterations to the apartment)?
Finally, make sure to find out about any specific restrictions that may apply to your apartment or the property as a whole. Many landlords frown on their tenants making permanent changes to their units. Some properties may limit the amount of time guests are allowed to stay. Others may specify that tenants aren’t allowed to have grills on their apartment balconies. Put these on your list of apartment tour questions to avoid unpleasant surprises after you’ve moved in.