Before You Sign a Lease

Questions to Ask Your Prospective Landlord

As you are touring the rental, start firing away with your questions. While some of the answers may be coated in corn syrup, rapid-fire questions may yield some valuable information. Here is a suggested list of questions to ask your prospective landlord. These should be added to your own personal arsenal of inquiries.

Questions to Ask Your Prospective Landlord:

  • Are utilities included?

This is undoubtedly the number one concern for most tenants. It’s an important selling point, because the last thing anyone wants to worry about is another bill. The most commonly included utility is water. However, electricity, natural gas and even cable TV have been included before.

  • Are you responsible for any maintenance or repairs?

Sometimes landlords (although more often with commercial space) will require you to maintain and repair the heating and cooling system or at least the more common residential maintenance issues – such as the landscaping, smoke detector batteries and air filters.

  • How is trash removed?

This is usually straightforward for houses, but there’s nothing worse than moving into an apartment only to find out that you have to transport your trash on Monday morning to the dumpster situated at the front of your complex (usually in your car, ewe!). So find out exactly where and when trash must be removed.

  • Is there assigned parking?

An assigned parking space comes in handy when living at a larger complex. This question may also include whether there is an additional fee as well (sometimes encountered in larger cities).

  • What is the amount of the rent?

While you may think you know the rent by the advertised price, it’s always good to clarify exactly what is being charged for rent when you are face-to-face with the landlord.

  • When is the rent due?

In addition to how much they are charging for rent, it’s good to know in advance whether the rent will coincide with your payday.

  • Is there a security deposit?

As you probably already know, landlords will charge a standard security deposit (usually equivalent to one months rent) to protect against excessive wear and tear.

  • How much does it cost to move-in?

While you asked about the rent and security deposit, many landlords offer move-in incentives that will better help you to cope with the move. If not, now’s the time to find out, so you know how much you have to bring to the table. Some landlords charge the first month’s rent, last month’s rent and a security deposit. Fortunately, in today’s real estate market, move-in costs can be negotiated.

  • What is the pet policy?

If you have pets, you need to know whether the landlord even accepts pets and then of course what size and type. In addition, you should ask if there is a refundable or non-refundable pet deposit. Most landlords will charge a couple hundred dollars or more to cover the costs of any potential damage.

  • Are there laundry facilities?

This is another instance of the obvious – which is sometimes overlooked until after you sign the lease agreement and realize that the nearest laundry mat isn’t in your unit (or complex) – it’s 5 miles away!

  • What type of background check is performed?

This type of knowledge is useful when trying to establish your character right up front. It’s better to know what they will be searching for, specifically, so you can address improprieties.