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Important Questions to Ask When Looking to Rent a New Place
There are so many questions to ask before signing a rental agreement that many renters find the process overwhelming. Asking these important questions in the beginning can help put the renter and the landlord on the same page. These standard questions can help renters and landlords establish a clear understanding of expectations and amenities at a standard apartment or rental home.
Questions About Rent
Renters typically pay for their apartment once a month. Rent checks are typically sent to a PO box, management office or accounting office. Renters that pay late may be subject to a fee. Some landlords prefer to receive payment through a payment portal on their website. In some locations, rent increases once annually. In other locations, rent stays the same unless the landlord raises the rates. In some apartments, parking is included with the rent. Other landlords may charge an extra fee for parking.
This is all information that can vary, so tenants should get this information up front.
- How much is the monthly rent?
- What payment method is preferred?
- Is parking or storage included in the fee?
- Does rent increase regularly?
It's worth noting that when the subject of parking comes up, the renter may also ask how many parking spaces are included. If two spots are included, potential renters should also ask if the parking is "stacked" (meaning, one spot in front of the other).
Apartment and Rental Home Questions
Every apartment and rental home is different. Some apartments will have an on-site manager to enforce rules, maintain the grounds and make basic repairs. Some apartment buildings are maintained by an offsite manager or management company. Some rental homes are close to the property owner, others are a long distance away and thus are maintained by a management company. It's important to know these details in advance. Potential tenants can ask questions like:
- Who should be contacted in an emergency? Who is contacted for general repairs?
- How is the apartment/home maintained?
- Are there regular inspections of the grounds?
- Are there guest policies?
- Are there quiet hours?
- Are there written rules for tenants?
In addition to the monthly rent, there are also other money matters to be taken into consideration. For example, many landlords will ask for money up front in addition to the first month's rent. Some ask for last month's rent, others ask for a security deposit. In some high price areas, landlords will ask for both the security deposit and last month's rent.
Last month's rent is kept and not returned. The security deposit is kept until it's time to move out of the apartment or home, and then the security deposit is used to pay for repairs. Rules about how the security deposit is handled varies by state, but it's common for that money to be held in an escrow account until the the day that the tenant leaves. It's important to know how much the landlord needs in order to move in, and how that money is handled. To find out more, prospective tenants can ask questions such as:
- How much is the deposit?
- Is it a security deposit or last month's rent?
- Where is the security deposit saved?
- Is all the deposit returned when the tenant moves out?
- Is this information detailed in the contract?
In addition to the deposit, the utilities are either paid for by the landlord or the tenant. It's common for the landlord to pay for some utilities and the tenant to pay for the rest. To find out who pays for what, the potential tenant can ask the landlord. Who pays for the utilities? Should the utilities be set up in the renter's name? Having answers to these questions can make it easier to make a budget and ensure that the apartment or rental property is affordable.
Asking these questions and others can help a renter decide whether or not a specific apartment or rental home is right for them. If you're looking for an apartment or a rental home and are currently meeting with potential landlords, come prepared to each meeting with a list of questions. Having a list can help ensure you'll remember all the most important questions. This way, you'll leave feeling ready to make a final decision.
Kris Lindahl is a Minnesota native and owner of The Kris Lindahl Team with RE/MAX Results. Kris believes keeping everyone on the same page can help both renters and landlords immensely when entering into a lease agreement.
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