Series: Renting

14 Questions to Ask About a Rental Property

Posted on Oct 26, 2020

Renting a new apartment can be an exciting step toward a fresh start. Whether you’re relocating for work, downsizing, or simply trying out a new city, apartment hunting can be an invigorating task.

It can also come with its fair share of stress.

Renters insurance, an apartment's parking situation, the community vibe, pet policy, and more just add to that constant stress that hangs over your head when apartment hunting.

To guarantee a good fit for both you and your landlord, there are a series of questions to ask when renting a house or apartment. Here are our team’s top 10 questions to put on your rental checklist and ensure an anxiety-free rental experience.

1. Is it Furnished or Unfurnished?

One of the first questions to ask when renting an apartment is whether the space is furnished or unfurnished. In the case of a turnkey rental, the property management team will have already selected the furniture and in some cases, will even provide items like linens and towels. Whether or not you want a furnished or unfurnished rental is a matter of preference. A furnished rental offers convenience while an unfurnished rental gives you some creative freedom to decorate.

2. Do You Run a Credit Check?

Landlords run credit checks to learn about a potential tenant’s credit history. With a credit check, they can see if money is owed. If your credit score is low, try not to feel anxious, as there are ways to work around a low score (like talking with your potential landlord or using other documents to prove your financial circumstances).

3. Is There a Security Deposit?

Knowing whether there is a security deposit is one of the top questions to ask when renting a house or apartment. Sometimes, the security deposit may be waived or may only be a few hundred dollars. Other times, a landlord may require first month's rent, last month’s rent, and a security deposit that is equivalent to one month’s rent. It’s always a good idea to ask beforehand, rather than get excited about a place and realize it’s out of your financial comfort zone.

4. Who is the Property Manager?

Property managers are hired to oversee the operations of a rental unit. As you create your “questions to ask when renting an apartment checklist”, make sure to inquire about the property manager. It’s nice to know whether the property manager lives on-site, off-site, or if the company provides virtual property management. Similarly, it’s also good to ask what happens in the case of a maintenance emergency, like a power outage or plumbing issue.

5. What Kind of Parking is Available?

Whether you’re living in the city or a suburban neighborhood by the beach, the parking situation is important (unless you don’t have a car, then you can disregard this section). One of the top questions to ask before renting a house, condo, or an apartment is whether or not parking is available. Once you know whether parking is available, make sure to take it a step further. Is parking free? Is there a dedicated garage space? Street parking? Or a nearby private parking lot?

6. Do I Need Renters Insurance?

Renters insurance typically includes three types of coverage: personal property, liability, and additional living expenses. Personal property can help you replace belongings, like clothing and electronics, if they’re stolen. Liability helps if you accidentally damage someone else’s property and additional living expenses help you with things like hotel cost if your rental unit is damaged. Not all rental properties require renters insurance—some even come with it—so it’s always a good idea to inquire.

7. Are Utilities Included?

Put utilities at the top of your questions to ask when renting an apartment checklist. Utilities tend to refer to electricity, water, gas, and sewage. They may also include the telephone and the internet bill. Some rental properties don’t include any, others include a few, and some cover them all.

8. What is the Pet Policy?

Today, millions of renters have pets. From cats and dogs to birds and turtles, ask about pets before you plan your move. If you can bring your furry friends along for the journey, make sure to further inquire about monthly pet rent or a pet deposit. Some rental properties are extremely pet friendly, with community dog parks and pet washes. If this is important to you, seek out one of these properties. You’ll be surprised just how many there are around the country.

9. What Are the Residents Like?

This is one of the more overlooked questions to ask before renting a house or apartment, but it’s a good one. Don’t be afraid to ask what the residents are like before you sign your rental agreement. The type of apartment community you are entering into can make or break your experience. Some communities are filled with older residents or young professionals. Some may have a high volume of students who come together once a week and study. Having a sense of community in your living arrangement is important to your overall well being. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people who share similar lifestyles is often a good way to go when renting.

10. Is There a Policy on Overnight Guests?

Landlords are allowed to have policies in their lease about overnight guests. You may see a note, for example, that an overnight guests’ stay should be no more than two weeks within a 12-month period. If you plan to have out-of-state-family or a partner staying often, make this one of your key questions to ask when renting an apartment.

11. Can I Extend My Lease?

Before you begin apartment hunting, narrow in on how long of a lease term you’d like. Some lease terms can be short, like 30 days, while others can be a year or longer. In the world of corporate housing, we often are asked how long can you stay at extended stay and exactly what is temporary housing? If you don’t want to get locked into a year lease, you can certainly go the route of an extended stay situation. Like Zeus, there are plenty of companies who offer 30+ day stays with the option to extend your lease if you’d like (and if the space isn’t already booked). If you think you may prolong your rental, ask whether there’s an expected rent increase at the end of the 6-month or year lease. This will save you the frustration of a giant, unexpected rent hike when it comes time for lease renewal.

12. What Amenities Do You Offer?

Every apartment complex offers something different in terms of amenities. Some may boast a resort-style swimming pool, while others have community storage units on-site. Other common examples include balconies, laundry rooms, playgrounds, and business centers. Amenities should be one of the top questions to ask when renting an apartment. Even if you don’t mind what’s offered in the public spaces, it’s good to fine-tune what you want inside your unit (like a washer-dryer, patio, or bathtub).

13. Can I Sublet My Apartment?

Some rental agreements prohibit subleases. If you have plans to sublet and want to avoid any problems with your landlord down line, make this one of your questions to ask before renting a house or apartment. People sublet for a variety of reasons—like traveling or studying abroad—but not all landlords will give their consent to do so. Subletting without your landlord’s approval could get you kicked out. So when in doubt, ask.

14. Do you Give Discounts for Longer Stays?

Now that we’ve covered what is an extended stay, if that’s a rental avenue you’re exploring, make sure to ask about discounts for longer stays. In some cases, rental property management groups and landlords will offer discounts for longer stays. If you’re planning to stay in a place for two, three, or four months, 5-10% each month can make a big difference in the long run.

Renting a new apartment is a big deal. With it, it brings along a new address, new neighbors, and an entirely new place to call home. Whether it’s a work-related move or you just have the desire for something different—we hope this list helps you get there. From policies on overnight guests to parking info, there’s a lot that goes into finding your perfect apartment.

If you need a place to stay in the meantime while you find a long term rental, or you’re looking for a thoughtfully-designed extended stay option, check out our listings. We’ll give you a home-away-from-home in places like Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and San Francisco. We’ll even help you figure out how to pack for a long trip and what the best coffee shops in Boston are or the top coworking places in Washington, D.C.

Happy apartment hunting! We know you’ll find just the spot you’re searching for, wherever that may be.

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