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While viewing apartments, it can be easy to get caught up in a landlord’s sales pitch and lose track of the basics. Trust us on this one, Maddie once signed a lease before realizing there was no dishwasher in the unit. In trying to engage in polite conversation while checking out an apartment, it is easy to overlook obvious issues or forget to ask some important questions. Before you dive in, here are the 12 questions you must ask a landlord before signing the lease.
Bonus! Scroll to the bottom of the post to download a checklist to print and bring with you so you don’t forget!
One of the greatest benefits of apartment living is that you don’t have to worry about things like landscaping, plumbing, etc. However, be sure to find out up front if service is provided for smaller items like changing a lightbulb and unclogging drains. Most property manager and landlords prefer to do this themselves to avoid any hazards and maintain consistency.
You’ll of course want to know who to call when something goes awry in your apartment, but be sure to ask what typical hours maintenance is available and what the emergency protocol is- is there someone you can reach 24 hours a day?
On that note, you’ll also want to know what qualifies as an emergency and who you should reach out to when the landlord is unreachable. Whether it’s an emergency within your unit or on the community grounds, there should be someone you can alert at any given time.
You can’t always tell by looking at them how long appliances have been in use for. You’ll want to ask when your oven, dishwasher, washer/dryer were installed, as well as asking about the plumbing and electric systems in the building. This is especially important if you are paying for utilities, as older appliances can be very inefficient and costly to use.
Breaking a lease is often a difficult task to accomplish but can be necessary in certain situations. Do your best to negotiate a clause for a select situation or two such as moving out of state for a new job, deployment or purchasing a home.
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From a good old fashioned paper check to paying online, there are tons of way to transfer your money these days. Be sure to ask which options are acceptable and what the landlord/property manager prefers.
If you haven’t yet secured a roommate or are thinking about inviting your significant other to move in, be sure to ask what the rules are regarding adding someone to your lease. Are there certain qualifications they have to meet? What steps must be taken?
When you’re paying a pretty penny for your living space you might think it’s fair to assume you can have visitors come and go as you please, but this can easily turn into a nightmare tale. Don’t wait until the lease is signed to find out how long someone can stay with you, if there are restrictions on the number of guests that can stay overnight, or even the number of visitors you can have in your apartment at any given time.
You want to feel safe in your home. Find out how residents, guests and deliveries alike access the building (is there a front door key, concierge, etc). If there is a doorman or concierge, what hours are they present?
It can be so complicated to try and calculate the actual cost of living in any given apartment building that many people have resorted to keeping a spreadsheet just to keep track of it all! Be sure to ask which utilities and amenities are included and which require an extra fee. Think: parking, pets, amenity spaces, utilities, laundry, etc.)
While it is often the case that you do not receive your keys until moving day, it never hurts to ask if you can access the unit sooner. Being able to take measurements, pre-clean the space before moving your stuff in, and even begin moving boxes a day or two before your move date all go a long way towards making moving day a little less hectic. The worst they can say is no, but it’s worth trying to negotiate, and may even be worth paying a day or two of prorated rent.
Obviously if you already have a pet, this is top of mind as you navigate your apartment search, but if you are even slightly entertaining the idea of adding a furry family member in the near future, find out exactly what is allowed, whether there are any breed, weight or number restrictions and what additional costs are required.
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