Entering any new relationship involves evaluating goals, interests and values. Finding the right living space to rent requires the same sort of level-headedness and patience rather than jumping feet first into commitment with the first one to become available. There are a few important things to know before signing a lease agreement, even if you already love the appearance of a location. Bring these questions along with you as you hunt:
What are the lease terms? Ideally you should be aware of when the lease begins and ends prior to your appointment. In case you are not, ask to confirm your move-in date and move-out date, as well as the length of the lease in months. Inquire about late charges, grace periods and any other common lease terms such as quiet hours, decorating restrictions or painting policies.
What, if any, are the move-in fees? Each rental property handles move-ins completely differently, so be sure you know what moving in will look like for you financially as you make your visits. For instance, do they require first and last month’s rent at the lease signing? Is a security deposit required? Are there moving fees? If you’re adding up costs in your head and the expenses are quickly rising, you may need to consider a different location.
What is the pet policy? Whether you own a pet or not, you should absolutely inquire about the pet policy. Most importantly, are pets allowed? If not and you have or want one, it is best to move on from the location. Trying to hide a dog or cat could become quite costly down the road. If they do allow pets, ask about deposits and fees. Pet policies vary widely, but most properties will charge at lease a non-refundable pet deposit to cover deep cleaning after you and your pet move and any damage that your pet may cause. There may also be an additional per monthly charge per pet.
Is there a guest policy? Most leases will mention a guest policy, but some are more strict than others. For instance, in some places, having a visitor for longer than two weeks is technically not allowed, meaning a friend staying for a month or more over the summer is not an option.
Is renters insurance required? Renters insurance provides coverage for all of your property in the event of fire, flood, possibly theft or other such occurrences. It may also cover injuries that happen within your rental unit. This type of coverage tends to cost very little per month, so it’s a good idea to secure a policy. Some rental properties actually require renters insurance, which makes it very important to ask prior to signing a lease.
What is included in the rent and what is not? Rent is almost never the only expense you will have when living in a rental unit, but many property managers and landlords roll some utilities and other amenities into the cost of rent. Often, things like water, gas, heat and cooling are included in rent, for instance. It is best to be very clear about what is and is not included in order to determine the total monthly cost of living in a particular location. If rent is cheap but covers no utilities, cable, Internet or anything else, it still may end up above your budget.
How are emergency repairs handled? Even if everything in the dwelling appears to be in good working order, ask how emergency repairs are handled. You definitely do not want to find yourself with a broken furnace in January any longer than necessary. Be prepared well in advance, know maintenance numbers and inquire about availability and average response time. Ask the same regarding non-emergent repairs. Find out if you may be able to make minor repairs yourself and deduct the cost from a month’s rent.
How secure is the property? Ask the property manager to cover what security features the location has, including buzzer system, security lamps or cameras and anything else. Ask about the neighborhood. Is it a relatively safe area? Walk around at different times of day before putting down a deposit on the rental unit.
How often are rent increases implemented? Some rentals increase upon renewal of the lease, thought these charges may not be spelled out in the original lease. Be sure to know prior to signing how much you can expect to pay if you intent to live at the same address after the lease term has ended. If you are seeking a long-term rental unit, but the rent increases significantly each year, this may not be the one for you.
What is the parking situation? If you own a car, parking should be high on your priority list. In many neighborhoods, especially in larger cities, street parking can be difficult to secure and rather expensive to boot, so finding living quarters with included parking may be necessary. However, a personal parking spot or pass is often an added charge.