Questions to Ask When Renting an Apartment

By: Jo Montgomery

Owners and management companies review countless rental applications every day. And it’s fair to say they ask a lot of probing questions about you. It’s the only way they can be sure that you’ll be a great resident. But did you know it goes both ways? It’s just as important, and some might argue more important, that you ask them the right questions.

Some experienced renters ask very good questions. But, unfortunately for them, they don’t ask all of the questions they should, and they don’t ask them the right way. Some questions are more revealing than others. For example, we recommend open-ended questions that leave room for additional information – things you may not have thought to ask.

Keeping all of this in mind, asking carefully chosen questions will give you all the specifics you need, and eliminate any surprises, so you can simply enjoy your new home sweet home.

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Questions to Ask When Renting an Apartment

  • When are you looking to fill the apartment?
    Consider this your conversation starter. Because, if the owner is looking to fill the apartment starting May 1, but you can’t move until June 1, it’s not going to work for either of you. You don’t want to waste anyone’s time, so it’s a good idea to hash this out early.
  • What’s the lease duration?
    If you can only commit to a one-year lease, but the management company is looking for a two-year lease, then the apartment isn’t the right one for you.
  • Can you run through the rent, necessary deposits, and average cost of utilities?
    You may think you know all of this information, and more, from the listing. But, for instance, you might have looked at an outdated listing and things may have changed. And, the cost of utilities would not be included in the listing, and will greatly affect your overall cost of living. That’s why it’s always better to ask.
  • Are there deposits or non-refundable fees that I should expect?
    A security deposit is traditionally required and can run anywhere from one to three months’ rent. It will be returned after the owner has had the opportunity to inspect the apartment. However, it’s not common for an owner to impose a non-refundable fee in the lease. If they do, make sure they explain all the details.
  • Can you tell me about your application process?
    It’s wise to ask the owner to lay out their complete screening process, step by step. The rental application process can be lengthy and difficult for some. But take heart in the fact that it’s a process all renters must go through. And although it’s simply a way for the owner to be assured that you’ll be a star resident, you don’t want any surprises.
  • What rent payment methods do you accept?
    Although owners are allowed to choose which forms of payments they will accept, the best landlords make it easy for a tenant to pay. Online payment is a preferred method for the renter because it offers automation, security, and convenience. Windsor Communities has also partnered with Bilt Rewards Alliance, offering you the opportunity to earn points on rent with no fees.
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  • What’s the late fee policy?
    The late fee, if there is one, should be spelled out in your rental agreement. However, hearing it in layman’s terms makes it much easier to understand.
  • What’s your policy on subletting?
    This is not front of mind when you’re looking for a new apartment. But a wise renter knows that a situation may arise when they need to move out before the lease is up.
  • Are early lease terminations permitted, and if so, what are the fees?
    Just like the subletting question, there are times when a renter needs to break a lease. You will often find information on an early termination clause in the lease. Be sure that you are clear on the timing and the fee.
  • What’s your policy on pets and is there a pet fee or deposit?
    If an apartment complex does not allow pets, you’ll most likely see that somewhere on their website. However, if they do allow pets, you’ll want to know about any monthly fees, pet deposits, prohibited breeds, and any other conditions.
  • What’s the parking situation?
    In highly populated areas like a city, onsite parking is highly sought after. If parking is onsite, there is usually a permit or small fee required. And, if you are a multi-car family, make sure there are adequate spots for all your vehicles.
  • What’s the process for submitting a maintenance request, and who makes repairs?
    At some point, something might break and need to be repaired or replaced. The communities maintenance team should have a service request process in place that is easy for residents to navigate.
  • What appliances are included?
    This will vary widely from state to state. In some, it’s common for renters to provide their own appliances, in others, everything is included. So, it’s a good idea to ask and even confirm what brand.
  • Can you describe your ideal resident?
    This question helps you to determine if you are, indeed, what the management company is looking for. It will also give you a pretty clear picture of what the other residents are like. If the description sounds nothing like you, reconsider your selection.
  • Have you had much interest in this unit?
    You’ll want to know how much competition you might have if you apply for this apartment. Reputable owners will tell you honestly if the interest has been high, average, or low.

One of the most important pieces of the owner-resident relationship is communication. So why not start early? By asking the right questions before you sign a lease, you can make the best decision for yourself, and move into an apartment that you can call home.