Touring a potential new apartment is more than an opportunity to get a feel for the space. Going on an apartment tour gives you a chance to ask the landlord questions about the specifics of the unit and building to make sure it’s the right fit for you. It helps you make sure the apartment ticks all the right boxes on your “want” or “need” list, from fitting your budget to having special amenities like parking. That way, you fully understand the ins and outs of renting that particular unit and won’t get hit with any unpleasant surprises like unexpected fees during or after the rental process.
It’s always a good idea to go to an apartment viewing with a list of prepared questions so you don’t forget anything. This list of what to ask on an apartment tour covers everything you’ll need to know and ask when renting an apartment.
Asking the right questions on an apartment tour
In the excitement of viewing what could be your new home, don’t forget to ask your potential landlord these questions.
1. How much is the rent?
Unless you’re a millionaire to whom money is no object, make this your first question to ask on your apartment tour as soon as you walk in the door. If the monthly rent is too expensive or out of your budget, there’s no point in continuing with the tour unless you can negotiate.
Nowadays, apartment rental costs are usually available online with apartment listings. But, sometimes, you need to inquire directly with the management company or landlord about the cost of the rent.
2. What are the lease terms?
In addition to covering important information like the cost of rent and when the lease begins and ends, one of the most important aspects of the rental agreement is the lease terms. This states how long you’ll be renting the unit. The average lease term is for 12 months, although some landlords offer the option of a month-to-month lease. Month-to-month lease agreements offer flexibility and generally have more lenient terms, but a long-term lease of a year or more has more stability. Longer-term leases can also sometimes be used to negotiate a lower rent.
Most leases will also include information about specific policies like quiet hours, guest rules and more. In addition to asking questions about the lease agreement, you should always thoroughly read through the terms before signing.
3. What do you need for the apartment application?
Most apartment applications require the same items like pay stubs, bank statements, rental history and personal information. But some landlords have extra requirements like additional references, so it’s a good idea to check if the property manager needs anything extra to process your application so you can get it as soon as possible.
4. Are utilities included?
Renting an apartment that has utility costs calculated into each month’s rent is a big money-saver. But, apartment complexes will each have different rules when it comes to utilities included. Sometimes, they’ll cover some utilities like water, other times they’ll cover all primary utilities. In some cases, you’ll pay a set amount to the property manager for a certain utility. That’s why you should double-check what utilities the property manager would and would not cover and which are your personal responsibility as tenants.
5. What are the utility costs?
If there are some utilities that aren’t covered, you can ask the landlord for a rough estimate as to how much the utilities cost. They can’t give you an exact number since costs vary depending on personal usage and time of year, but they can still likely give you an approximate number.
For utilities that aren’t covered, you can also ask how you go about setting up personal accounts for services like water, electricity or internet.
6. Are there other costs included in the rent?
Along with utility costs, the cost of rent can sometimes cover or include building or property maintenance, cleaning or access to building perks. Check with the property manager to see what rent covers each month.
7. Are there any building dues or fees?
If you’re going to live in a condo or co-op apartment building, you may need to pay regular monthly dues on top of rent and other fees.
8. Are there any application or move-in fees?
Along with the first month’s rent and the security deposit, there are a lot of upfront, non-refundable costs associated with renting an apartment. You may need to pay an apartment application fee per person applying for each apartment, which costs anywhere from $20 to $50 but can get as high as $100.
Some landlords also charge move-in fees that cover cleaning or refurbishments to the unit before you move in. All these fees can really add up, so make sure you’re aware of them all so you can budget properly.
9. Do you have any move-in specials, discounts or special offers at this time?
To entice potential renters, apartment complexes will sometimes offer special deals like getting a free month. You can save yourself major money by taking advantage of a good move-in deal, so ask the landlord if they’re offering any special deals at this time.
10. How much is the security deposit?
When apartment hunting, you’ll find that many landlords require a security deposit. Typically, the deposit is the same amount as one month’s rent, but sometimes it’s less or more depending on your credit or rental history. As long as you take good care of the apartment and only inflict the usual wear and tear, you should get the full amount back when the lease ends.
You should also inquire about what constitutes normal wear and tear and if there are any extra fees for cleaning or maintenance upon move-out.
11. Am I permitted to sublet?
Want to go spend three months in Europe but don’t want to lose your apartment? You could always sublet the unit for a few months, but the rules about subletting vary by the property manager or leasing office. If the lease agreement doesn’t specify whether or not you can sublet, and under what grounds, confirm with the landlord. You don’t want to risk getting evicted or tarnishing your reputation as a good tenant by subletting without permission.
12. Am I allowed to add a roommate to the lease?
Along with subletting, check if you can add roommates to the lease and if so, under what terms. Sometimes, you and the roommate will need to sign updated leases, but other times, the landlord won’t care.
13. When do I need to pay rent?
Rent is typically due on the first of the month, but always double-check when you need to pay rent. This information should also be listed in your lease agreement.
14. Is there a grace period for late rent?
Sometimes life happens and you’re a bit short on cash come the first of the month. Ask if there’s a grace period before you get charged late fees. The average time before being charged a late fee is between five to seven days.
15. How do I pay for rent?
Most modern apartment communities let you make online payments for things like rent, but some still prefer checks. It’s best to double-check and avoid an unpleasant surprise when your landlord asks where your already-paid rent is.
16. Are there any costs to terminate the lease early?
If you get a new job and suddenly need to move in the middle of your lease, you’ll likely need to pay extra for breaking the contract early. The exact amount varies depending on the apartment complex, landlord, state or city, so be sure you know the specifics.
You should also ask how early in advance you need to give notice to vacate the apartment.
17. Do you require renters insurance?
As protection against liability and to allow a wider pool of applicants, most landlords require their tenants have renters insurance to cover their personal property.
Even if the landlord doesn’t require renters insurance, it’s still a good idea get it in case something happens.
18. Are pets allowed? If so, what is the pet policy?
Pet parents, take note. Some apartments don’t allow pets or only permit certain species or breeds, so you have to ask the landlord about their pet policy. Moving with a pet, you may also have to pay pet rent each month or pay pet fees along with moving costs.
19. What is the guest policy?
Most properties have rules when it comes to having guests stay over. Typically, overnight guests are OK but the lease may limit how long you can have a guest stay with you.
20. How are repairs and maintenance requests handled?
Don’t wait to get woken up at midnight by an overflowing toilet to understand how to put in requests for repairs or maintenance. If your building has an online tenant portal, you can likely file a request online. But other times, you’ll need to call the maintenance staff or leasing office.
You should also clarify if the building offers 24/7 emergency repairs and who to contact for after-hours emergencies.
21. What amenities does the apartment building include?
Amenities like gyms, communal areas, pools, dog parks and more can really make one apartment building stand out over another. Along with viewing different units, you can also request a complete building tour to see what amenities and perks it offers. Be sure to ask if you have to pay extra fees to use some of the amenities.
22. Does the building have a parking garage or designated parking?
Especially in big cities, street parking is always a hassle. An apartment complex with its own private parking lot or parking garage is worth its weight in gold, so make sure you ask what the parking situation is. If the complex does have its own parking, you may need to pay parking fees.
23. What security measures does the property have?
Your home is your castle, and you need to make sure it’s protected. Ask about security measures around the complex, such as cameras, locking gates and doors and security guards.
24. Who can I contact in case of emergencies?
Whether it’s an after-hours maintenance emergency or a crime has happened in your complex, make sure you’d know who to contact and how.
25. Are there any restricted or off-limits activities?
Some complexes or specific units may prohibit certain activities like smoking indoors or using a grill. If these restrictions aren’t laid out in the lease, make sure to ask the property manager.
26. Is the cost of rent ever increased? If so, by how much?
It’s normal for landlords to raise the cost of rent upon renewal, and depending on the market and demand, it could be a lot or a little. They may not have an exact answer, but by asking about price hikes, you’ll know if you need to expect one come renewal time.
If you’re worried about rising rates, ask if you can lease the unit for longer to lock in lower rates.
27. Do you offer pest control?
It’s the property manager’s responsibility to deal with pest control like cockroaches or bed bugs and you want to live in a complex that takes it seriously. Ask what preventative methods they use, what company they work with and how pest control would impact you if there were an issue.
28. How do I file complaints?
Whether it’s a complaint against other tenants or your property manager, understand the process for filing complaints.
29. Can I make changes to the unit and how will they impact my security deposit?
It’s fun to outfit your new home to your liking, but double-check what kind of decorations or changes are acceptable.
What if my apartment tour is virtual?
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of virtual apartment tours has become more widespread. If you’re doing a live Zoom tour with the landlord, you can ask directly. If it’s an unguided virtual tour, you can set up a phone or Zoom call with the landlord or email them a list of questions.
Save yourself time, energy and money by asking the right questions on an apartment tour
Going into an apartment tour prepared with questions helps you quickly weed out whether an apartment is right for you or not and move on to the next place.