Avoid huge mistakes and bad surprises before leasing your very first apartment. Ask the property manager these critical renters’ questions. The feedback you get will help you decide if a community is a good fit for you, and the answers will also affect your quality of life, should you sign a lease and move in.
Hot Tip: Forward this list to yourself before you go to your apartment viewing so you can refer to it while you’re there!
How many people can live with you? How long could your out-of-work cousin hang out if he’s not on the lease? Does the number of residents have any relation to the number of bedrooms? Even if you’re planning on living alone, you might discover that neighboring apartments are being overloaded without oversight.
Ask if your cable, internet, water, electric, gas or trash service is included. If internet speed and quality is important to you, don’t sign a lease without speaking to other residents about their experience. Find out which cable provider offers service there. Check the bars on your phone before you sign a lease; are you in a solid service area? If you work nights and like to work out at midnight, ask about the gym’s hours. It’s also a great idea to visit the gym and see if the equipment measures up to your standards and if a key or code is required for entry: preferable and safer.
Can I go month-to-month if I need to? You never know what your circumstances will be a year from now, so it’s definitely preferable if you can extend your lease by less than 12 months. It may be a couple of months before your next great place is available for move-in, and believe us, you don’t want a gap in between the two! Be sure to read the fine print about your obligations if circumstances dictate an early departure too: that can be pricey. (Subletting is one answer, but isn’t allowed in some communities).
Do the upper-floor apartments have carpet or flooring? Will I hear a lot of noise living below an occupied unit when its residents are home? If you’re noise-sensitive, you probably won’t like living below hard-surface flooring. Residents walking across upstairs rooms can be incredibly noisy, day and night, if they’re wearing shoes.
Are there nightly patrols, coded gates, security cameras or neighborhood crimewatch groups? You need to know what community infrastructure is in place to dissuade or solve a crime. How far away is the fire department? Be really smart by finding out what crimes have happened at this apartment complex, or nearby, in the past year or two. This is a question for local law enforcement officials, or to research on your own, using a county or city website. Make sure you’re leaning toward a safe location… or choose a different community based on the numbers or types of crimes which turn up in your research.
Will you be able to keep your puppy when he hits 40 pounds? What’s required if your cat likes to go for a walk? Is there a rule against talking parrots? Can your dog get in the pool? (Don’t bet on this one!) What about a dedicated dog park, or a place to wash your dog? Can your pets be kept on your patio or balcony?
It’s important to know how far you’ll be walking from your car to your door. A garage may also be an option. Be aware that you might hear garage doors going up and down if you move in above them. Ask where your friends will park, too, and how they’ll get into the complex. And while you’re on the subject of cars, go ahead and inquire if there’s a place for washing vehicles. More and more apartment complexes are offering dedicated spaces or facilities for this task.
Your complex should be adequately insured for fire, tornadoes, flood or other natural disasters. You can ask for a copy. Even if they don’t show or give it to you, their response will be telling. Note that the apartment complex will very likely insist that tenants carry renters’ insurance, which will add to your monthly cost. You might also inquire about grills if you’re hoping to have one on your balcony or patio; some apartment complex policies don’t allow this.
Even if you love love love to drive, you (or one of your roommates or visitors) may want to use public transportation. Ask where it is, then go see if you’d feel good about making the trek on foot or bicycle.
Ask if the apartment manager will intervene with noisy neighbors, dog problems, unsightly or abandoned cars, or dead landscaping. Inquire how to address appliance repairs, or window and door repairs, and find out what the procedure is for reporting a problem. Get the phone numbers you’ll need if you sign a lease.
Did we cover all the tips a first-time renter will need? What advice would you give a first-time renter? Let us know below!