Questions you should ask before signing a lease

Posted: November 22nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Finding Apartments, Vetting Apartments | View Comments

Does this sound familiar?  You brainstorm a list of questions for a landlord / broker, but you forget to ask many/ all of them when you’re looking at an apartment.  We recommend printing out this list so you don’t forget:

  • Money Questions
    • When is it due?
      • Does it need to be in 1 check?
      • Are there any late penalties? (for example, $10 per day past the due date)
    • Is there a security deposit?
    • What is required up front?  For example, is first month + last month + security deposit required to sign the lease?
      • What prevents someone from getting back their security deposit in full?
    • Are there any other fees associated with the apartment / signing of the lease?
    • What utilities (if any) are included in the rent?  (Hot water, heat, internet, parking, etc)
      • If there are laundry services, are they free?  Does it cost to use the facilities?
    • Is renters insurance required?
    • Usually, regular wear and tear is allowed and should not be charged for in the security deposit. Ask the landlord if that’s the case, what they consider normal wear and tear, and if / how they charged previous tenants in the past.
  • Maintenance
    • Is there a maintenance company?
    • What happens if there’s a serious problem after hours (in the middle of the night, etc)
    • Am I allowed to paint the walls?
    • Am I allowed to hang up photos, picture frames, shelves?
    • Who is responsible for shoveling / taking out the garbage / cleaning entryways?
    • If improvements will be made before I move in, can I have that added to the lease as an addendum?
  • Rules
    • Is sub-leasing allowed?
    • If for whatever reason I need to break the lease, what are the penalties?
    • Are there any rules about noise / social gatherings?
    • Are pets allowed?
    • What are the local parking rules?
  • General Questions
    • Who were the last tenants?  Why did they move out?
      • This gives you an idea for the type of people living there before.  If they’ve only been there for a short while, this may raise additional questions.  Usually people who love their apartments stay for awhile.
    • Is the apartment wired for phone / internet access / TV?
    • Are guests allowed?  Some places do not allow overnight guests.
  • Moving in / Moving Out
    • Do you plan on making any changes after the old tenants have moved out and before I move in?
      • If they promise anything, ask to have it added to the lease!
    • When are the current tenants scheduled to move out?
    • When will I be able to move in?
    • Will the apartment be cleaned by a cleaning crew before I move in?
  • Safety
    • Where are the smoke detectors?  Is there a carbon monoxide alarm?
    • Where are the fire extinguishers?
    • Is there an emergency exit?

What other questions would you recommend?  Add them in the comments section.

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