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20 Questions To Ask When Renting An Apartment

By: Justin Chaplin
June 23, 2021

It's crucial to know what questions to ask when renting an apartment, 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 you should ask when touring an apartment to ensure the home checks all of your boxes.

Below is a checklist of 20 important questions to ask before renting an apartment.

1. How Much is the Rent?

The first question you should ask before renting an apartment is the most important. You may think this is obvious. The monthly rent payments are what was advertised online, right?

In some cases, this is accurate. 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 if there are any late fees and when rent's due.

If you are looking for a short-term or month-to-month lease, the rent price will likely be higher. Ask 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. The amount required for a security deposit varies. A security deposit is usually anywhere between one to three month’s rent. First and last month’s rent is the most common deposit.

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

3. 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. The tenant usually pays gas, electricity, and heating costs. However, this varies apartment-to-apartment. Ask the property manager what utilities are covered in your monthly rent, and what you will be personally responsible for.

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

Once you clarify what utilities you’ll be personally responsible for, figure out how to pay them. 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.

If you are trying to get a sense of how much your utility costs will be, take a look at your appliances. Note if they are gas or electric. Gas appliances tend to be cheaper than electric.

To get an estimate of expected utility costs, 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.

5. What's the Parking Situation?

The parking situation could be a dealbreaker for a ton of people. If you have a car and live in a bustling neighborhood, parking will be a challenge. 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.

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, which are 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.

If there is no parking lot available, check out the street parking and scan nearby areas for parking garages that you can use.

6. What's the Pet Policy?

Renting with pets can introduce some new challenges. Apartment pet policies can be complicated.

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 make sure to get your breed cleared.

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

If your pet is allowed, ask about the costs. Most apartments will require some form of 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.

8. 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.

Note: Some amenities may be temporarily closed or have restricted access due to COVID. Ask about the availability of the amenities on your tour.

Also, check out the amenities you’ll have in your unit. Energy-efficient appliances, dishwashers, and in-unit laundry could save you time and money.

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.

9. Is Renters Insurance Required?

Some landlords will require you to have renters insurance for your apartment application to be approved. This isn’t very common, but it’s an important question to ask before renting an apartment.

Renters insurance should be something you strongly consider even if it’s not a requirement. It’s a relatively cheap monthly cost that could be lifesaving. 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.

10. What's the Application Process?

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

You’ll want to ask about the application process and how to apply. Keep in mind, the apartment you love may not be available the next day, so you’ll want to strike fast!

11. 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.

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

12. Are There Any Income or Credit Requirements?

Before you apply, ask if there are any income or credit requirements for tenants. Landlords will often only consider applicants who have a gross monthly income that’s 3x the monthly rent. When applying, you’ll need to provide proof of income as well.

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 typically a part of the application process, so be sure to ask.

13. Will My Rent Ever Increase?

If you are planning on settling down in one apartment for the foreseeable future, you should ask about any potential changes that could be coming 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.

14. What Are My Lease Length Options?

A 12-month lease is standard. When you are apartment hunting online, the displayed rent price is usually related to a typical year lease. However, other lease options are available.

Short-term leases are leases 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 offer the most flexibility but come in at the highest price point.

Determine what lease length is best for you, and ask about your options.

15. What Changes Can I Make To My Apartment?

Want to load your new home up with your favorite wall art, or paint the walls to something more your style? 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.

16. Are There Any Plans to Update the Building?

This is an important question that could tell you a number of things. Planned updates taking place after you move in could leave you dealing with construction for a few months. This could affect noise level, views, or even your parking situation.

Updated amenities can be a plus and may lead to a better experience in your apartment community. Those same new amenities could also be the reason for your rent increases after your lease is up.

There are pros and cons, so it’s good to know of any plans to update the building in advance.

17. 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 what the typical turnaround time is for repairs.

18. What's the Guest Policy?

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

19. 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 things like the walkability of the neighborhood, popular restaurants and bars, and nearby parks.

20. Do I Need a Cosigner?

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

In short, cosigners provide added security to the landlord. They’ll be responsible for rent if you’re unable to cover it for any reason.

If you’re unsure if you needed a cosigner, check out our guide on lease guarantors.

Final Thoughts

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

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

Ask these questions during your apartment hunt to ensure you have everything covered before moving in. 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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