There are a variety of questions you should ask before signing a lease on an apartment. Once you sign the lease you are legally bound to the apartment even if you later find it isn't really what you want. Asking the landlord or property manager questions ahead of time can save you a great deal of money and grief. Before you go to look at an apartment, it is a good idea to think of what you need to ask the landlord beforehand.
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Things you need
Look at the lease. How much is the rent? Along with the monthly rent, you need to find out what day the rent is due, the length of the lease term and under what circumstances you are allowed to break the lease. Some landlords, for example, allow tenants to break a lease if they can prove they've been transferred to another location by their job or have purchased a house.
Decide if having a pet is important to you. What is the pet policy? With the pet policy, you want to find out if the landlord allows pets. If so, what kind of pets are you allowed to have? How many pets are you allowed to have? Is there an extra pet deposit, and if so, how much is it? Is the pet deposit refundable? Are there areas around the complex to walk a dog if you plan to get one?
Figure out your expenses. What is the deposit? Do you need to pay the deposit when you sign the lease or when you move in? Are there fees the renter automatically takes out of your deposit, such as a general cleaning fee? Is the renter running a move-in special of any kind?
Ask about the utilities. What utilities are you responsible for? What is the average cost of utilities for the size of the unit you are planning to rent? If you are responsible for the gas and/or electric, be sure to ask if the heat is gas or electric. Are you limited to cable or satellite dish for television service? The utilities can make a huge difference in the cost of the apartment, so it is very important to get as much information about the utilities as possible.
Look into your lease options. Are you allowed to take in a roommate? Or add someone to the lease after you move in? Are you allowed to sublease the apartment? These questions are all important in case you reach a point where you can't really afford the apartment, or if you meet someone and you want to move in together. Because you cannot assume where life will take you 12 months down the road, it is important to cover all your basics.
Tips and warnings
- Write down all your questions and bring the paper with you when you go to see the apartment. It is easy to forget what you want to ask, and the answer to any of these suggested questions could make a difference in whether or not you rent the apartment.
- Never take the landlord or property manager's word on something involving your lease agreement; make sure everything is written in your lease. For example, if the property manager tells you they don't normally allow pets, but you can bring your dog since it's small, make sure it is in your lease that you are allowed to have the dog. The property manager might not be properly representing the landlord, and you don't want to be kicked out or forced to break your lease if you later find out you aren't really allowed to have a dog.
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