10 Questions to Ask Before You Sign a Lease

Published online: Jun 11, 2020 / Renters

When you look for a rental property, take your time. It’s smart to know everything you might be getting yourself into before you move. While it’s important to find something in a good location and that meets your needs, there are some other questions you should be asking yourself and the property owner/manager before you decide to fully commit to a rental property. 

  1. What is the length of the lease?

As you’ve researched the apartments you like, you’ve probably noticed the length of the lease. Typically apartments and rental properties will lease yearly, though some places charge differently. If you plan on staying in one place for a while, a longer lease term may not bother you. However, if you know you’ll need to move somewhere else soon, you might want to find a place with shorter lease terms. 

  1. Are utilities included in the cost?

When you are looking at rent prices, some of them seem almost too good to be true. The truth is that they might be. Some apartments include utilities like electricity and internet, while others don’t. You’ll want an estimate of how much utilities will cost if they are not included in the rent before you sign the lease. 

  1. What is the pet policy?

If you have a pet or plan to get one, you’ll want to talk to the landlord about additional charges, deposits, or stipulations. Some landlords may just say no, however they cannot refuse service animals as long as you have documentation. 

  1. Do you require renters insurance?

Renters insurance isn’t often required, but it is encouraged. Renters insurance provides coverage for your property in the case of a fire or flood. You should ask the landlord or property manager if renters insurance is required before you sign the lease. If it is required, you’ll need to plan ahead. Some landlords won’t hand over the keys until they see proof of renters insurance. 

  1. How do I pay the rent?

Nowadays, rent is primarily online. However, this isn’t an option for every renter or owner, so it’s important that you know how the rent will be collected each month before you move in. Some places draft the rent out automatically each month while other places expect manual payment. Being aware of this will help you avoid any late fees. 

  1. How secure is the property?

If you are moving in without being able to tour the area or property first, you’ll want to ask about the security. Property managers should be able to inform you of whether the community is gated, how often the locks are changed, and if they have security cameras. You should also do your own research on the neighborhood to make sure it’s up to your safety standards. 

  1. What is the penalty for breaking a lease?

What happens if you have to move suddenly and break your lease? It’s helpful to know what kind of penalties may be in store for you if you decide to break your lease. You may lose your security deposit and end up paying the rent even after you’re gone. 

  1. What will you do to prepare the apartment before I move in?

You probably don’t want to move into whatever mess the last tenant left you. Before you sign a lease you should ask about how they prepare the property for your arrival. Some places have the carpets cleaned, locks replaced, and assess any damage left by the last renter. 

  1. What are the move-in fees?

Prior to you signing the lease and moving in, you should know what extra fees you’ll be charged. While you see the rent numbers, there are also costs for security deposits, parking permits, last month’s rent, and administrative fees. 

  1. Can the property be personalized?

Maybe you want to hang up a curtain rod or maybe you want to paint a wall. Before you make any major changes to a rental property, talk to the property manager. Some places won’t allow you to make any changes while others don’t mind as long as you put it back to the way it was before you leave. 

Don’t be too dazzled by the amenities, square footage, and rent price of a rental property that you forget to ask questions. Know exactly what you are getting into before you sign a lease.