Key Questions to Ask Before Renting an Apartment

We’ve all heard the standard advice for renting an apartment: check all faucets, windows, and appliances. Visit the area several times over several days at different times of the day to assess the noise level. Sit in the lobby and ask the current tenants if they like living there.

I don’t know about you, but I find many of these tips unrealistic. I have rented eight different apartments over the past ten years, including one that I rented discreetly, and none of the rental processes involved enough time for me to return to the area in a matter of days, let alone to sit in the lobby and interview tenants. In many cases, I had to decide if I wanted an apartment after five minutes of viewing – if I didn’t say yes right then they would hand it over to the next person who agreed.

Therefore, I have compiled a list of questions to ask during this 5 minute session to get all the answers I need during my longer visit. I asked many of these questions during my last apartment search, and they worked exactly as intended: I asked homeowners / property managers to share all sorts of information about tenants, maintenance, errors, and more.

How long have you been in charge of this building?

This is a great introductory question for two reasons:

  1. This gives you and the homeowner / property manager something to talk about on the way from the rental office (or the front door of the apartment) to the apartment.
  2. If you keep quiet when the landlord / property manager is done talking, they will likely start talking again to fill the space – and what they have to say can be very interesting. (“This block was empty for a while, because …”)

Think of this question as the equivalent of a “tell me about yourself” question in an interview, except that this time you are the interviewer. As with the “tell me about yourself” question, you can learn a lot from the other person’s response: Are they enthusiastic? Pessimistic? Is it critical? Evasive?

Are most of the tenants here for long term?

This question is not so much about the turnover of the apartment, but about the types of people who live in it. Are they mostly students? Young professionals? Families? Senior citizens?

It is also another good way to assess the personality of the landlord. “We have great tenants who have lived here for many years” is very different from “Some people, I think they will never leave!”

Pets are allowed in this building, right?

This is another open-ended question that will give you a lot of information if you just listen. The manager may tell you, for example, that some tenants’ pets are noisy, or they may complain about people not picking up their dogs. Maybe your landlord talks about a tenant who lets his cat run up and down the hallway. Whatever they say about pets, make sure it suits you.

What utilities am I responsible for and how much do they usually cost per month?

Almost all homeowners will be able to tell you which utilities they are in charge of and which you are. However, not all homeowners will know how much their tenants are paying out-of-pocket electricity bills – and this is a potential red flag.

A good homeowner / property manager will know that you want to know the true cost of living in an apartment and have a range of utility costs at hand. If your potential landlord does not have this information – or worse, he says something like “I never thought about this,” you will know that this person does not spend a lot of time studying the day to day experiences of their tenants. …

Let’s say it starts dripping in the sink. How does maintenance work?

You can turn the taps on and off as much as you like, but you really need to know what happens when the taps stop working.

All landlords / property managers will have are any care setting, but there is a big difference between “We have this guy named Bob, call him, and he will contact you” and “We like to solve most of the problems in the short term. 24 hours. Call this number / fill out this online form and we will ask someone from our service personnel to contact us immediately. ”

I know we are in the [forest area] [old building]. What insects should I know about?

We all know that communal life sometimes comes with mistakes, but you don’t want to ask, “So … is there a cockroach problem in this place?”

Framing the question by acknowledging that you understand that bugs are sometimes in apartments is a good way to generate empathy for the homeowner / property manager, who, in turn, will be more open about bugs that may or may not be in the apartment.

How do trash and recycling work? What about compost?

In some residential complexes, it is very easy to dispose of garbage and recyclable materials. Others make it very difficult. Are trash cans, trash cans and compost bins located near your home, or will you be moving your garbage bags to another part of the apartment complex?

How does parking work?

This is similar to the question about garbage disposal. You are trying to figure out if you need to park half a mile from the building or if you will be parking nearby. (Bonus points if the landlord takes the time to show you where the tenants park. Most don’t.)

What happens when tenants receive packages in the mail?

If you are the type of person who order a lot online, you need to make sure your packages are safe and available. Are you going to pick up packages from an office that is only open during office hours? Do all packages remain in a large pile under the mailboxes for tenants to parse? There is no perfect solution to your packaging problem, but make sure you like the solution presented.

If you have additional questions that are important for finding an apartment, add them to your list to be asked. Try to frame them as open-ended questions and give the landlord an opportunity to continue the conversation. This will give you everything you need to know.


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