While renting an apartment is as easy as a quick tour and signing your lease, when it comes to renting a house, it often is a bit more complicated.
The lease signing process is similar if you are going to rent a house or rent an apartment. However, you’ll probably have more questions to ask when renting a house.
You have more space to take care of, possibly a backyard, potential roof leaks, alarm systems and other things you usually don’t worry about when you live in an apartment complex.
Whether you have a private landlord or a property manager looking over the property, make sure you protect yourself before signing the agreement to make sure this is the best move for you. Here are 20 questions to ask when renting a house.
1. What is the application process?
This should be one of the first questions to ask when renting a house.
Before looking at the place person, ask the landlord what the application process looks like and screen for the right tenant. Knowing the application process ahead of time will help you come in prepared for the showing. The application process will vary from house rental to house rental. Some landlords will require you to submit a credit report and reference, while others just accept an application and the security deposit.
Always ask if the credit report inquiry is hard, which affects your credit score, or soft, which does not. If the landlord doesn’t know, proceed with caution. Determine if the screening process is the right one for you, and always be skeptical of those asking for your personal information.
2. Will this be a year-long lease, month-to-month or something else?
Not every rental house comes with a standard year-long lease as many apartment complexes. There’s a lot of flexibility in dealing with a private landlord or property company for houses.
Ask the landlord what kind of lease they are looking to sign with the new tenant — may be one year and then month-to-month or three months at a time. Pick what works for you, your budget and your plans.
Make sure you read any clauses that have to do with the timeline of the lease agreement to go over payment, due dates and any early termination fees. If month-to-month, how long do you have to let the landlord know you’re leaving, for example.
3. When will the house be available for move-in?
As you start looking for your next rental house, it’s important to sync up your leases if you can. Ask the landlord when will the house be available for move-in so you can start thinking about timelines. This date should occur the day after a deep clean takes place, so the space is ready for the next tenant.
If you’re able to overlap a few days for both leases, do so as it will allow you to move a little slower and have enough time to clean your other apartment.
4. Who is responsible for yard work and upkeep?
At your apartment complex, you never have to worry about how tall the grass is or any landscaping outside the apartment. But with a rental house, that’s the first thing on your weekend list. Ask the landlord if they will pay for someone to come cut the grass for you and landscape versus you doing it.
If you’re responsible, make sure that this service fits your budget. Also, the neighborhood may have specific landscaping requirements, so confirm this with the landlord, if applicable.
5. What is the parking situation?
Do you have to pay for parking? How many spaces do you get? Do you have visitor parking spaces? Do you have a driveway or do you have to park on the street? Knowing your parking situation may affect whether this is a good option for you or not, depending on your budget and safety concerns.
Your lease agreement should have a parking clause if it’s not free.
6. Am I allowed to paint the walls or perform minor renovations?
Upgrading your rental can quickly make it feel like home. Ask the landlord if you can paint the walls, change hardware in the bathroom or any minor renovations to level up the rental house. The landlord may agree to leave them on or ask for you to change things back upon moving out.
During your initial walk-through, ask the landlord about potential changes, make notes and then get them in writing with the landlord’s approval. This will save you big headaches later in your lease term when getting your security deposit back.
7. Is smoking allowed in the property?
These days, most establishments are smoke-free and many landlords are moving to do the same for their rental properties. Ask the landlord if it’s OK to smoke inside the home before applying for the home.
The smell of smoke is difficult to remove from surfaces, so make sure you’re not penalized later. If needed, your landlord should designate a space for you to smoke outside the home.
8. What is the pet policy?
When it comes to pets, it can get tricky in rental properties. Between cats and dogs, breeds, weight maximums and how many pets may occupy the space, it’s important to have clear communication from the start. Ask the landlord the following:
- What kind of pets do they allow?
- What’s the weight maximum on each pet allowed?
- How many may live in the home?
- Do you have any restrictions on breeds?
- Is there a monthly pet fee or just a one-time pet fee?
- Is the pet fee non-refundable?
- Do you need to clean up after your dog in the backyard?
- Upon moving out, what’s the cleaning protocol for pets?
9. How often are the locks changed?
You may not immediately this of this question to ask when renting a house, but it’s important for your safety.
If the locks were not changed recently and you love the rental, ask the landlord to change them on his or her budget before moving in.
You never know who has a key in their possession, and you don’t want a strange coming into your home unannounced. Make a list of the locks needed for your landlord and put a deadline on it.
10. Which utilities are my responsibility?
Don’t assume what utilities you will need to pay in your new house rental.
Ask during your showing what utilities are your responsibility every month. For example, the landlord may take care of water and trash (similar to an apartment complex), and you’re in charge of everything else. Or you’re responsible for all utility bills.
Clarify this both in person and through the lease agreement to make sure you open the correct accounts.
11. When did you last replace the smoke detectors?
When you go see the rental home, keep an eye out for smoke detectors. Not having smoke detectors is a big red flag you can’t ignore.
Smoke detector units should be replaced every 10 years, and the batteries should be replaced at least once a year. Ask the landlord when was the last time they checked them and had the batteries replaced. Request the smoke detectors (and carbon monoxide if available) be inspected and tested to make sure they work correctly.
12. Which furnishings and appliances come with the house?
Whether you’re an out-of-towner or a long-time resident of your city, you need to know what’s included with renting a house. Some rental homes only come with the bare minimum — stove and fridge. Others come with more appliances, including a washer and dryer and even some furnishings.
Confirm the age of the appliances are and what will be in place when you move in. Include any repairs and maintenance in the lease agreement to avoid paying in the future. If applicable, ask the landlord to remove any remaining furnishings if you don’t plan to use them.
13. Is renter’s insurance required?
Renter’s insurance helps you cover the cost of your belonging in case of theft or fire in your rental home.
Some landlords require tenants to have it before approving their application. If needed, it will be in the lease agreement. Check out the lease to make sure they don’t require a certain policy amount or company.
In the end, it’s smart to have renter’s insurance, required or not, to protect your valuable belongings in case of an emergency.
14. How do I submit a repair request?
Roof leaks, broken appliances, plumbing issues — repair concerns are often more extensive and complex in rental homes than apartment complexes. Read the lease to get familiar with repair request procedures.
Confirm that the landlord covers appliances, structural concerns and other home issues by hiring their people or letting you call someone. If it’s minor repairs, it might be better for them to let you deduct it from the rent payment if needed, but that’s still up to the landlord.
Make sure that you agree on a timeline from request to repair — often 48 hours — before signing the agreement. Many landlords will sit on a request for months before addressing it, leaving you inconvenienced.
15. Have you had any break-ins in the area?
Something often not listed on the house rental flyer, but vital to know is any past break-ins.
If possible, search the area around the rental home on a crime map and drive around at night to see if you feel comfortable. Follow up with the landlord and ask them if there have been any break-ins on the street and home, plus any relevant details.
Also, ask them how fast repairs occurred on the house, if applicable, to the break-in. It will help you make an informed decision on the property.
16. What’s your policy on roommates and/or subletting?
Depending on previous experiences, landlords tend to have specific restrictions regarding what type of tenant can live in their property.
A few don’t allow roommates due to rowdy house parties, and others aim to have only couples live in the house. Be honest with your potential landlord about the possibility of a roommate now or down the road.
Ask if your roommate will have a separate lease, or you will be in charge of everything — this may increase the risk for you.
Related to potential roommates, make sure to look over the clauses for subletting. Ensure that if you see a future when you’d like to sublet your room, your lease allows it and what kind of information you need to share with the landlord.
17. Do you allow for early-lease terminations?
While most standard lease agreements come with an early termination clause, landlords tend to have different policies around it. Life happens — so you need to make sure that you have a way out without being penalized, if possible. Confirm all fees associated with early lease termination as well as the timeline.
Ordinarily, the lease will say that the tenant must pay two to three months of rent for terminating their lease early. Sometimes less or it’s every month the property stays untenanted for the rest of the lease. This is important to note as you’ll need to prepare to cover these fees and give a good heads up to avoid losing your security deposit.
18. What payment methods do you accept for rent?
In the era of Venmo, Paypal and ACH, it’s hard to believe that some landlords still prefer checks for rent payments.
Ask them about the grace period for rent payments (past the first of the month) and how you can pay. But for those without a bank account or without checks, digital wallets are the way.
Confirm payment methods available and get it in writing. It’s important to always get a receipt after each payment, too.
19. Can I have guests stay at the house?
Depending on the landlord, they may not want house parties or long-term guests to stay at the house. Check the lease for any guest-specific clauses, like quiet hours or stay maximums, and discuss them with your landlord.
Ensure that you specify how long a guest can stay without penalty and if there are any requirements or stipulations for your friend or family to stay over.
20. If I can’t reach you, who’s my backup contact for emergencies?
While your landlord will be available through phone or email to address repairs and other concerns, sometimes things happen or they go on vacation. Make sure you know who to call if you have a pipe issue or another emergency.
Maybe your landlord has a trusted handyman that is on call if he’s out. It’s important to confirm how to handle these situations while the landlord is out and get it in writing.
Be prepared with questions to ask when renting a house
Taking your time to go over details about this potential rental home, despite your excitement, will pay off and make the experience go a lot smoother. Our questions to ask when renting a house are just suggestions. You may have other things you want to know, such as additional details surrounding utilities, yard work or lease clauses.
The process can seem overwhelming, but as long as know the right questions to ask when renting a house, you’ll be on your way to a great living experience.