9 Questions Every Renter Should Ask Before Signing a Lease
OK, so you’re not committing to a mortgage here—but a friendly reminder, folks: A lease is a legally binding agreement. Which means you need to cover all your bases before signing on the dotted line. Below, nine questions to always ask a future landlord...before it’s too late.
What happens if I need to break the lease?
Naturally, you’re not looking for this to happen—but life is full of curveballs and who knows if a job or personal situation will cause you to bounce before you intended. Investigate what fines or penalties would be associated with breaking a lease, as some landlords are much more lenient than others.
How much notice will I get before a drop in?
In other words, what are the expectations for your landlord showing up for things like meter readings, general inspections or apartment viewings? Make sure your lease indicates a window of advance notice and furthermore, that that window is in accordance with state laws (because privacy, people). No one wants the electric company guy to show up at their door unannounced!
What changes can I make to the space?
Can you paint the dated kitchen cabinets? Can you hang up your prized gallery wall? How about swapping a light fixture? Some landlords are very strict about cosmetic changes, while others welcome it. Double-check what your policies are and get them in writing to avoid any penalties down the road.
What prep work will be done?
If you’re seeing a place that’s either occupied or recently vacated, chances are you’ll want a few fixes, a deep clean and a fresh coat of paint. Get these requests in writing so that you don’t have to fight for them after you’ve moved in.
What’s the process for maintenance problems?
It isn’t pretty but it’s the truth: Life in a rental may include a surprise flood or a family of mice. Is your landlord nearby and open to 24/7 texts? Is there a super on speed dial? Should you call an exterminator directly and deduct the cost from your next payment? Find out the process and make sure it’s amenable to you before signing anything.
What is the guest and subletter policy?
If you’re a fan of apartment swaps or extended visits from your vagabond sister, ask your landlord to outline his or her guest policy. Again, some have super-strict guidelines about these things, while others couldn't care less. Make sure you know where you stand and are clear on rules regarding sublets.
What’s the pet policy?
If you have a pet, you’ve probably made sure they can move into the apartment with you. But what if you might want one down the road? And what if you're your bff's de facto dog sitter? Furthermore, if you're not a pet person, you'll definitely want to know the building policies. (You know, should a hypothetical Doberman upstairs end up keeping you up at all hours.)
what payment methods are accepted?
The best landlords will make payment easy for you, the tenant—but not all are flexible or up to date on things like Venmo. Find out how yours likes to do business, so you can make sure the money is always in on time.
Will I be able to renew my lease?
Moving is, plainly, an expensive hassle. Check if your landlord plans on selling or personally occupying the property in the near future. It’s all about managing expectations—and budgeting for your next move accordingly!
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