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Asking Questions When Renting a Place? Here are 9 Good Ones

MyApartmentMap - Aug 9, 2011

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It’s always vital to ask questions about your, could be, future new home. Despite all the obvious questions such as price, payment date, late fee, and utilities to name a few, there are some other questions that are pretty important to ask as well. Landlords want to rent their place, and willingly will not give you information that will deter you from renting their apartment. They aren’t going to tell you what the stain really is from, that your electricity bill will most likely be high because of bad insulation, and since the building is so old you will always have mice running around. It’s your job as a tenant to ask these questions. Below are a number of questions to ask your landlord. Remember, that no apartment is perfect so pick and choose what’s the most important on your list.

Insulation and Windows

No landlord is willingly going to tell you that the windows in the rental aren’t isolated and about 30 years old. What they will tell you is how heat is included and the windows in the apartment are extremely large. That sounds great, but read in between the lines. Large windows, with no isolation means air will come in easily. In the winter, if heat is included landlord’s will normally keep the temperature lower to save on their bills. Therefore, big windows and low heat mean a freezing winter, especially in Northern states such as New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Maine.

What to ask: How old are the windows? Are they isolated?

HVAC System

There are times when you have enough insulation in the house, but the HVAC system is just outdated, untuned, or has been neglected. Not properly working HVAC’s could have a really big effect on your energy bill and make you spend more than you should. It is vital to make sure your landlord check’s to see if the system is working properly, otherwise you will be in for an expensive surprise comes bill time. Then there comes the problem that the system is fairly new and tuned, but the air filter hasn’t been changed since the system was installed. This make the unit work even harder which will increase your electricity bill.

What to ask: How old is the system? When was the last tune up on the heating/cooling system? When was the air filter changed last? Who is responsible for changing the air filter? Where is the air filter located?

Rodents

Rodents and bugs are awful house guests. They always leave a mess and never clean up after themselves. Also, they are just gross. There are easy ways to get rid of rodents such as with exterminators, but remember this is your landlord’s responsibility. One caveat in older apartment buildings there is the possibility of having infestations of rodents. Infestations of mice and roaches are problematic in places such as NYC with construction in old buildings. So make sure you ask a lot of questions if you have an older building, especially in bigger cities.

What to ask: Have any tenants had a rodent/ bug problem? What kind of rodents/bugs? Did they fix the problem ever? Who is responsible for paying for an exterminator?

Pets

We are pet lovers at MyApartmentMap and all have at least one pet, plus we have a whole database devoted to Pet Friendly Pads on our site.  This question is actually at the top of the list when any of us are looking for a place to live. When you talk to a landlord make sure to figure out if pets are allowed and what the rules are. Many places allow small dogs and cats. Also find out where the closest dog friendly park is, so that you can take your pet out to play, especially if you’re living in an apartment. The poor pup will get bored and needs to release some energy. Don’t forget to check out past blogs on How to Help Your Pet Acclimate New Place, Things for Pet Owners to Consider When Preparing to Rent, and Pavlov’s Law for Moving to a Smaller Pad. Each one of these blogs gives some good advice for pets that are moving and how to prepare them.  We also are running a contest on the Ultimate Pet Friendly Pad, check it out if your digs are decked out for your pet!

What to ask: Are pets allowed? How big can the pet be? Is there any extra cost (you may just wait for the landlord to tell you this one!)?

Parking

You found the perfect place, it’s cute, big closets, balcony and is affordable. You are just about to sign the lease, but then realize you have a car that you need to park. You ask the landlord about parking and you realize your cute new home, is just not for you. Parking can be hassle, and in a lot of cities parking is “Permit Only” such as Boston and most times you only get a permit if your car is registered in that state. Whereas, in other cities parking is free, but due to the overpopulation of people you’ll spend hours trying to find someone where to park like NYC. It’s important to know where you can and can’t park if you have a car. If can’t have a car see how the public transportation system works, and the see where is the closest stop to your new digs.

What to ask: What is the parking situation like? How do I get a free permit? Do I need to be a resident of the state?

Cell phone service

It sounds crazy. A home without cell phone service, but it’s true. There are still areas that don’t have cell phone service.  In mountainous areas and on the coast, such as Rye, NH, the citizens of the town do not want to put cell phone towers to preserve nature. There are also many other places that don’t have service, but those are the two biggies. So, it is possible to not have service, as unbelievable as it sounds. It’s easy to get around by having a, gasp, landline. But for those that are connected to their phones, this is an important question to ask.

What to ask: Is there cell phone service in the area? Do you get a lot of dropped calls? Also, when you go visit the place, check and see what your signal is like. Go ahead and make a phone call.

 

Responsibility

Whenever you move into a new place it’s always good to ask the landlord who is responsible for repairs. If an appliance breaks, a toilet is clogged, or something needs a lot of cleaning it’s important to know who is going to pay to fix it. Every landlord is different, some pay for everything while others only pay for repairs over $50. By asking the landlord in advanced, there is no room for confusion later on when it’s time to pay for the repairs. Another question that is sometimes overlooked is who pays for weekend repairs. What happens if your toilet breaks on a Sunday? Who’s responsible for the payment of the toilet breaking on a Sunday?

What to ask: Who is responsible for which repairs? Who pays for the costs on the weekends/ late at night? Do I find someone, and just bill you? OR Does the landlord find someone? Do I have to be home when the repairs are being done?

Landlord Location

After determining who fixes which items, it’s important to see where your landlord lives. Most times, the landlord does not live on the property. Therefore, if something breaks it can take forever to get fixed. It’s important to know where your landlord’s whereabouts, so you know how long it will take for items to be repaired.  Therefore, see how long is the response time for the repair. Be straight up and ask the landlord, because if you don’t then they will wait to respond to your repair request when it best fits their schedule. Again, ask about weekend repairs.

What to ask: Does the landlord live in the building? Do they live close by? If not, who takes care of repairs? How long is the response time for repairs? What about on the weekends?

Breaking the Lease

Sometimes, situations arise where you have to break a lease. It happens and there’s nothing you can do about it. You lose your job, you get sick, your job relocates you, your roommate turns into a vampire, whatever the situation is, it was not something that you were expecting. So, what happens to that one year lease you signed two months ago? Are you going to go to jail if you bail on the lease? Most likely, no. But you may have to pay a hefty fine. It’s good to know in advance what the consequences are to breaking a lease, just in case, although it won’t’ happen to you.

What to ask: I’m not expecting to, but what happens if there’s a situation where I need to break the lease? Is there a fine? Can I sublet? What happens to my security deposit?