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25+ Questions to Ask When Renting an Apartment

September 27, 2022
Knowing the right questions to ask when renting an apartment can help you minimize headaches throughout your rental process. Continue reading to learn more.

Knowing what questions to ask when renting an apartment is crucial, especially in the early stages of an apartment hunt. You might tour a beautiful property and immediately think it's the place for you. However, there are plenty of questions to ask potential landlords when touring an apartment to ensure the home checks all of your boxes.

Below is a checklist of more than 25 essential questions to ask before renting an apartment.

1. How Much Is the Rent?

The first question to ask before renting an apartment is the most important. You may think this is obvious. However, since apartment prices fluctuate daily, the price you saw a few days ago may look different today. Get clarification on the monthly rent so you can budget accordingly. Also, check for any late fees and when the rent's due.

The rent price will likely be higher if you are looking for a short-term or month-to-month lease. Know what to ask the landlord before renting, like what the rent prices look like based on the lease length.

2. How Much Is the Security Deposit?

Outside of rent, the security deposit is another big expense you’ll need to plan for and should always be one of the things to ask before renting. The amount required for a security deposit varies. A security deposit is usually anywhere between one to three months’ rent. First and last month’s rent is the most common deposit.

If an apartment building wants a tenant in quickly, they may offer discounted or waived security deposits. When apartment hunting on Apartment List, look for the red rent special alert to find these types of offers!

3. How Soon Are You Looking To Fill the Unit?

Asking a prospective landlord how soon they are looking to fill the unit can help provide you with a timeline you will need to start planning your move.

Additionally, if a landlord is eager to fill the unit quickly, you might be able to negotiate some of the lease agreement terms.

4. What Utilities Are Included in the Rent?

The building will often cover apartment utilities like water and garbage. The costs of these utilities are normally included in your monthly rent cost. However, the tenant usually pays gas, electricity, and heating costs.

Keep in mind that this varies apartment-to-apartment. Asking the property manager what utilities are covered in your monthly rent and what you will be personally responsible for are essential questions to ask before renting an apartment.

5. How Do I Pay for Utilities That I Cover?

Once you clarify what utilities you’ll be personally responsible for during your apartment hunting questions, figure out how to pay them. Next, find out what services providers the complex uses for electricity, gas, and internet. You’ll want to find this information out well before move-in day so you can schedule utilities to be turned on.

The last thing you want is thinking you’re all settled in, firing up Netflix, and getting an error since you forgot to set up your WiFi.

To get an estimate of expected utility costs, know who and what to ask when looking at apartments. For example, ask the property manager what a tenant in a similar unit typically pays for utilities. You can also ask current or previous tenants what they have paid in the past to get a better idea. Or, contact the utility providers themselves and see if they could give you an estimate.

6. What’s Your Late Fee Policy?

More crucial questions to ask before renting involve finances. Understanding a landlord’s late fee policy should always be on the list.

While, as a prospective renter, you never anticipate paying rent late, you still want to ensure you have covered all of your bases. In addition to any fees you may incur, you should know at what point rent is considered late, as it can vary from landlord to landlord.

7. Are Early Lease Terminations Allowed?

Similar to late fees, while you don’t enter a lease anticipating you will not be able to fulfill it, sometimes things come up. Questions to ask when apartment hunting, especially for those looking for short-term options, should always involve finding out the details about early lease terminations.

Some rental properties will require you to pay out the duration of the lease term. For example, if you sign a 12-month lease and try to terminate after only two months, you will be held responsible for paying the additional ten months' worth of rent.

8. What’s Your Subletting Policy?

It’s imperative to ensure that you’re legally allowed to sublet. It should always be one of the questions to ask before renting an apartment. Sometimes landlords don’t want anyone other than their vetted tenant, you, to live on their property.

If you know that you will be vacant from your rental property for an extended time and might be interested in a subletting option, make sure you find out if you’re allowed to first before committing.

9. What's the Parking Situation?

The parking situation could be a dealbreaker for a ton of people. Parking will be challenging if you have a car and live in a bustling neighborhood. If that highrise you’ve been eyeballing doesn’t have a parking garage, you might be doing circles around the building looking for street parking. That’s why the parking policy should be on your list of renter questions.

Find out if the new apartment comes with parking and what the cost is. Parking could be included in the rent but is usually an additional cost. Depending on where you live, there may be options for covered parking spots, typically more expensive than a non-covered spot. Also, look for apartments with secured, gated garages and assigned spots. This will save you a lot of headaches in the long run.

10. What's Your Pet Policy?

Renting with pets can introduce some new challenges. Apartment pet policies can be complicated. Know what to ask when renting an apartment with your furry friend.

First, ask if the building is pet-friendly. If so, clarify what pets are allowed. Many landlords have certain breed restrictions or weight limits for dogs, so ensure your breed is cleared.

11. What's the Pet Deposit/Pet Fee?

If your pet is allowed, ask about the costs for your pet. Most apartments will require pet fees, like monthly pet rent or a pet deposit. 40% of apartments that are pet-friendly require a deposit. The average pet deposit is $287.

For more information on the additional costs that go into renting with your pet, check out our complete guide on renting with pets.

12. What Amenities are Included?

Amenities are one of the biggest perks of apartment living. When touring an apartment building, ask to see the amenities. Pools and gyms are common in apartment complexes. Luxury complexes can also offer things like co-working spaces and private dog parks.

You should ask apartment rental questions about the amenities you’ll have in your unit. Apartment amenities are great to have but also have financial implications. Does an apartment’s gym allow you to cancel your gym membership? When asking yourself, “how much rent can I afford,” factor in the value of amenities.

13. Is There Storage Space Available?

Speaking of apartment amenities, more questions to ask when looking at an apartment include options for storage space. Maybe you have a bike, surfboard, or other large items you’d rather not have to take up precious space in your unit. Storage space would be ideal for you.

Some units will have storage space available in parking garages or other complex areas. You’ll never know if you don’t ask!

14. Is Renters Insurance Required?

Some landlords will require you to have renters insurance for your apartment application to be approved.

You should strongly consider renters insurance, even if it’s not a requirement. It’s a relatively cheap monthly cost that could be lifesaving. For example, renters insurance will cover the cost of your possessions that may have been lost or damaged due to burglary, fires, vandalism, etc., and typically only costs around $15-$30 a month.

15. What's the Application Process?

You’ve found an apartment that matches everything you’re looking for. Now what?

You’ll want to ask important rental questions about the application process, including how to apply. Remember that the apartment you love may not be available the next day, so you’ll want to strike fast!

16. Is there an Application Fee?

Apartment application fees are around $50-74. The average application fee is $51. If you need to move in a hurry, ask how long it typically takes for an application to be approved. It’s usually no more than a few days, but these are still important questions when viewing an apartment.

Some landlords will want references to go with your application. While previous landlords are the best rental reference, a close friend or colleague should work if you don't have a rental history. Also, ask if there are any other lease terms you should know about.

17. Are There Any Income or Credit Requirements?

Before you apply, ask renting questions like if there are any income or credit requirements for tenants. Landlords will often only consider applicants with a gross monthly income of 3x the monthly rent. So when applying, you’ll need to provide proof of income.

Your credit score also plays a role in your apartment application. Typically, the minimum credit score for apartment applicants is 650, but it can vary. A credit check is usually a part of the application process, so be sure to ask.

18. Will My Rent Ever Increase?

If you plan to settle in one apartment for the foreseeable future, you should ask about any potential changes when you renew your lease.

If you are in it for the long haul, you probably don’t want to live in a place that regularly raises its rent prices. So keep in mind the long-term when figuring out the things to ask when renting an apartment.

19. What Are My Lease Length Options?

A 12-month lease is standard. The displayed rent price is usually related to a typical year lease when you are apartment hunting online. However, other lease options are available. Determine what lease length is best for you, and ask apartment questions specific to your needs about your options.

Short-term leases are less than 12 months, like a 6-month or 9-month lease. These typically come in at a higher monthly rent price but offer flexibility. Short-term leases are great if you are moving to a new city and still discovering the area. Month-to-month leases provide the most flexibility but come at the highest price.

20. What Changes Can I Make to My Apartment?

Want to load your new home up with your favorite wall art or paint the walls something more your style? If so, start choosing questions about apartments you should be asking now.

You’re going to have to go through your landlord first. If you are the kind of person who wants to add a personal touch to your apartment, check and see what's allowed before signing the lease.

21. Are There Any Plans to Update the Building?

Planned updates taking place after you move in could leave you dealing with construction for a few months, affecting noise levels, views, or even your parking situation.

Updated amenities are considered perks and offer a better experience in your apartment community. Those same new amenities could also be why your rent increases after your lease is up. Of course, there are pros and cons, so it’s good to know of any plans to update the building in advance.

22. How Do Maintenance Requests Work?

You never know when the need for an immediate emergency repair may arise. Find out how your landlord handles these urgent requests.

Nobody wants to deal with a broken A/C on a hot summer’s day. Check to see if maintenance is available 24/7 and the typical turnaround time for repairs.

23. What's the Guest Policy?

Visitors shouldn’t be an issue, but your friend’s stay might be limited. Some guest policies are stricter, and landlords may want your visitors to sign in and not stay for longer than two weeks.

Others are more lenient.

The details should be covered in your lease agreement. If there are any points of confusion, bring them up with your landlord.

24. How Secure Is the Building?

Safety is always key, so you need to ask about how secure the building is before moving in.

In addition to asking your prospective landlord about the security, you can do your homework. Go online and check local news reports to see if anything pops up in the area.

25. What's the Neighborhood Like?

If you are new to the area, ask about the neighborhood. Ask about the safety, nearby hotspots, and the overall vibe of the neighborhood.

Outside of your landlord’s knowledge, do some research on your own! Research the neighborhood's walkability, popular restaurants and bars, and nearby parks.

26. Do I Need a Cosigner?

Many landlords are looking for tenants who have a rental history. If this will be your first apartment, you may need a cosigner.

In short, cosigners provide added security to the landlord. They’ll be responsible for rent if you cannot cover it for any reason. If you’re unsure if you need a cosigner, check out our guide on lease guarantors.

27. Would You Live Here?

Lastly, you should always ask your prospective landlord’s opinion on whether they would live there. Of course, you’d assume they’d all tell you yes. But, you should always ask them to elaborate.

Find out what they love about the apartment and some of the things they wished were a bit different. These questions can help provide some honest clarity about the unit.

Final Thoughts

Get all of the important questions to ask when renting an apartment out of the way early. It's best to start asking questions early on when you first start taking tours.

Finding a home you can live in isn’t complicated, but finding a home you love and checking all of your boxes is another story.

Ask these questions during your apartment hunt to ensure you have everything covered before moving in as a prospective renter. If you are still looking for your next home, start your apartment search with our quiz above!

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Justin is a Content Manager and contributing author at Apartment List, helping people navigate the world of renting. Justin previously spent his time earning his BBA in Marketing from Boise State University. Read More
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