Before you sign a lease on your next apartment, make sure you read it carefully and fully understand what's included in it. The last thing you want is to be tied into a lease you've signed and then find out something you don't agree with or are not happy about. Also, based on what's documented in your apartment lease, you might need to adjust your budget to accommodate certain costs outside of your rent.
Finding an affordable apartment is important but so is being knowledgeable about your apartment lease when living on your own. You need to know all of the details prior to signing your lease.
Top 10 questions to ask when signing an apartment lease
Here are some important questions you want to make sure your lease answers. Or, you can address them directly with the landlord and request an update to the lease before you sign it.
1. When is rent due, and is there a grace period?
This is a pretty obvious and basic question, but it's a significant one. You want to be clear on when your rent is due as well as the grace period you have to pay. Clearing this upfront ensures you include the correct dates on your calendar and avoid paying late at all costs. Late rent equals late fees (and depending on how late, a negative remark against you), and you don't want that.
2. What are the payment options, and what is the late fee?
When it comes to options to pay your rent, you want to factor in how long it will take for your landlord to receive the payment from you in relation to the due date of your rent. Landlords will not factor in postage times or transfer delays as a reason not to charge you a late fee. If your rent is delayed due to one of these reasons, communicate with your landlord and let them know ASAP. Also, if they charge a late fee you want to so you are ready for it.
3. How long is the apartment lease, and what happens after the lease ends?
Once you confirm the terms of your apartment lease, you also want to find out what happens after the lease ends. Do you go into a month-to-month contract? Does the lease automatically renew for a set period of time? Do your rent payments increase until you sign a new lease? It's important that you find out.
4. What utilities and routine maintenance will your rent include?
Don't make any assumptions here. You need to know for sure what utilities and maintenance items your rent will cover so you can build the rest into your budget. For example, will you be responsible for water and electricity? What about snow removal and grass cutting? Who will cover pest control? Again, all things you need to know.
5. What about maintenance issues?
Who should you call for maintenance issues? Is there anything that the landlord does not cover? This is an important part of signing an apartment lease because you need to ensure you can budget for unexpected expenses if you are responsible for covering them.
6. Before signing a lease, ask what fees they will charge if you end your lease early
Sometimes life happens, and you need to move before your apartment lease ends. However, there may be steep costs associated! You want to make sure you are aware of them to factor them into your budget in advance.
7. Are you allowed to sublet your apartment as an alternative?
Subletting is not something all landlords allow, and you can be charged a hefty fine for going against this. So be sure you know whether you are allowed to sublet your apartment if you need to move out early. Also, be aware you will be responsible for paying the rent until it can be sublet if your landlord agrees.
8. Is your deposit fully refundable?
Some landlords might include costs you have to pay upon moving out. For example, they may deduct fees for repainting, repairs, and pet deposits. So before you start making plans to spend your security deposit, first confirm whether you are getting it all back or not. Also, if your deposit is refundable, you want to know the terms of that as well.
For instance, if you clean the apartment and leave it in good condition, then more than likely, you will get back the full amount. However, if you take off and leave a mess behind then, the landlord will have to use the deposit to pay for it to be cleaned. You also want to leave on good terms because your new landlord will check references when you go to rent another place!
9. Ask if you can have roommates before signing a lease
Whether you plan to live with someone or not, this is still a good question to ask before signing a lease. Your situation may change, and you may need a roommate to help cover the rent, or you may get into a relationship and decide you want to live together. Ask if they allow roommates or how much extra it would cost to add another person to the apartment lease.
10. Are there landlord inspections, and how often are they?
An inspection is when a landlord comes in to view the property to ensure there is no damage while you live there. For example, some may enter the apartment every 60-90 days. When signing an apartment lease, you want to have it include how often and what type of notice you will get before they enter your place.
11. Before signing a lease, ask if you can have pets
If you are a pet owner, you want to be sure you are allowed to have that adorable fur-baby before you sign the lease. Some places have weight restrictions on dogs or what type of pet you can have.
Also, you will likely have to pay a pet deposit in addition to the standard deposit and possibly a monthly fee too. A pet deposit can run you between 40-85% of the rent. So, if you’re rent is $850 a month, your pet deposit may cost between $340-$725.
The monthly fee or “pet rent” depends on the type of pet and its size. For instance, a cat may cost less than a dog because they are a smaller animal. So, be sure to get the details on how much extra it will cost you.
12. Ask if there are other policies you should know about
The thing about renting an apartment is every landlord is different. So, be sure to ask if there are any other policies you should know about. For instance, are you allowed to smoke in the apartment, or is there a designated area for that?
Are you allowed to decorate and hang pictures or repaint if you want? Some landlords may let you paint but require you to paint the place back to a neutral color when you move out.
Don’t forget to ask if they have a “quiet hours clause.” For instance, some apartments may have a no excessive noise ordinance between 10 pm and 6 am. So you want to be sure you comply with whatever rules they have in place.
Sign a lease confidently
Do you object to anything in your apartment lease? Let your landlord know before you sign it, and be sure to have any changes documented directly in the lease or as an amendment to the lease.
One other thing to consider when moving into a new apartment is renters insurance. It will protect your personal property from theft, flooding, or fire. Your landlord's insurance will not cover your personal property.
Prepare your questions in advance and you will be able to sign an apartment lease confidently and be ready financially for your new home!