12 Questions You Better Ask Before Moving into a New Apartment
Your lease is up in March, and you’ve decided it’s time to get to know a new neighborhood (preferably one with an ample bagel selection). Congrats—and condolences. Aside from praying to the fickle gods of NYC real estate, here are 12 things you should always do before moving into a new place.
1. Are there any restrictions on decorating?
You’ve already pinned your perfect wallpaper and cast-iron sconces. But before you go all Home Makeover on your walls, make sure there aren’t any rules in the lease about tenant upgrades. (Most aren’t too strict, though: You’d be surprised how many things you can do.)
2. What’s the protocol for maintenance requests?
The intercom worked fine when you moved in…but three months later, it’s on the fritz. Find out whom to contact (super, landlord or someone else) and how long repairs will take. (Just FYI, if your building has more than eight units, you’re entitled to a working buzzer, among other things.)
3. What about emergency repairs?
OK, but what if your heater stops running in January or your faucet explodes? That may be a different contact—ideally someone who will pick up the phone, even if it’s 4 a.m.
4. How’s the cell reception?
No, it’s not rude to whip out your phone during an apartment showing—it’s smart. Better yet, bring a friend who has a different carrier, just to be safe; you don’t want to be the person who has to stand on the sidewalk to get enough bars to make a call.
5. Is there any additional storage in the building?
While we’d argue that there’s beauty in minimizing your belongings to fit whatever space you inhabit, we’ll concede there are some bulky items—suitcases, a bike, Christmas decorations—that might not fit in your bedroom closet. Find out if there’s a utility room in the building, and whether you can claim a corner.
6. What’s the policy on guests and subletting?
You probably don’t need permission for your mom to visit for a weekend. But if you’re thinking of finding a house sitter while you head to Vietnam in June, be careful: Some leases include explicit rules or restrictions if you plan to have someone stay for more than a few days.
7. Can I get a two-year lease?
If you know you’re not going anywhere for a while, lock in your rent at the current rate. It might not go up anyway, but it’s pretty safe to say it won’t go down.
8. What are the penalties for breaking the lease?
On the flip side, stuff happens. Maybe you get an incredible work opportunity out of state, or your friend finally decides to vacate that dream apartment you’ve been lusting after for years. Find out exactly what you owe—a fee, 30 days' notice—if you need to back out early.
9. What’s the pet policy?
Even if you don’t have a pet now, if you think there’s a chance you might start fostering dogs—or you have a very serious significant other who has a cat—it’s better to find out now (and not after you fall in love with Fluffy).
10. Where’s the nearest laundromat?
If there’s laundry in the building, you can skip this one (lucky). But if not, swing by the nearest wash and dry and scope it out—if it's a six-block walk or half the machines are broken, that's worth noting. It’s also a good indicator of who lives in the neighborhood (versus who’s just stopping by for dinner).
11. Can I pay my rent electronically?
We don’t know about you, but paying rent is the only reason we even have a checkbook anymore. While some landlords might insist on being old-school, it’s worth asking if you can pay through an instant bank transfer. No more scrounging around for stamps sounds like a dream come true.
12. Can I get that in writing?
Anything the broker or the landlord promises you doesn’t mean anything until there’s a paper trail. That may sound overly cautious, but if something does go south, you want to make sure you’re protected.