Six Questions to Ask When Looking for a Rental Apartment

| August 15, 2012

what to look for in an apartmentKnowing exactly what you’re getting yourself into before moving into an apartment is important. Asking these six questions when looking for a rental apartment reveals important information about your potential new home.

1. Request a review of all costs.

The obvious question is how much you’ll pay for rent and security deposit and when the rent is due. You’ll also want to inquire about late charges, how long of a lease you’ll be signing and what the penalties are for breaking it. Ask if there will be a rent increase after the lease expires, and if so, by what percentage it will rise. Find out what utilities you are responsible for paying in your rental apartment and the average monthly cost.

2. How are maintenance and repairs handled?

If you have a problem or concern about the apartment, what is the procedure for reporting the issue? Is there a number you can call 24/7 in the case of severe trouble like flooding? How long will you have to wait for non-emergency repairs to be completed? Who pays the maintenance costs? Does the landlord pay for repairs directly or do you have to pay and then seek reimbursement? If so, how long will you have to wait for your money?

3. Are modifications to the apartment allowed?

Can you paint the walls the color of your choice in your rental apartment? And if you do so, will you have to repaint before moving out? Are there any rules for hanging pictures and other items on the walls? Is there a certain way the pictures should be hung or certain locations where they can be placed?

4. Can you have a pet?

If pets are allowed, which types of pets? Some apartments allow cats, for instance, but not dogs, or they will stipulate the size of the dog. Some landlords forbid exotic pets such as iguanas or snakes. Is there a deposit for the pet, and if so, how much? What sorts of pet damages will initiate use of the deposit? Ask these questions even if you don’t have a pet but suspect you might want to get one in the future.

5. How is security and safety?

Inquire about the safety record of the apartment and the area. If you’re looking at a large complex, are there security cameras in common areas? Have any burglaries or assaults occurred within the last six months? If you feel like the landlord or leasing agency is withholding information regarding safety history, check with the local police department. They will have a record of any reported crimes at the rental apartment or in the vicinity.

6. Are you allowed to sublet the apartment?

This may seem like an unnecessary question as you’re getting ready to move into your new apartment, but the truth is that circumstances can change overnight. It’s important to know whether you’ll be able to sublet the rental apartment until the lease expires in the event that you have to move out. If subletting is allowed, inquire about the proper procedure for doing so. If you’re in a competitive apartment market and worried a question like this might put off the landlord, make a point to say that subletting isn’t your plan, but you’re getting a sense of future options.

Asking these questions about your potential rental apartment may take some time, but the result of a living space that suits you and your lifestyle is well worth the effort.

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Category: Real Estate, Rental Property -- Apartments

About the Author ()

Julie Bawden-Davis is a Southern-California-based writer specializing in home and garden, real estate, small business and personal finance. Since 1985, her work has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including Family Circle, Ladies’ Home Journal, Better Homes & Gardens, Entrepreneur and The Los Angeles Times. Julie is a University of California Certified Master Gardener and has written five gardening books, including Reader’s Digest Flower Gardening.