If you have found the most perfect apartment, and are itching to sign the documents and start moving furniture, I would advise you to pause and get to know your rental agreement. Renting an apartment might not be the same as buying an apartment. You do have the option of switching apartments, but it will still be your home for one year. You want your home to be a place to de-stress and relax. A place you can call your own for a while.
To make that year peaceful and smooth, here are 10 important questions you should be asking your landlord:
The Rent Breakdown
One of the first questions, you will be asking your landlord would be the rent of the place. But what most first time tenants skip is the nitty gritty of the rent policy.
Your rent will definitely include a deposit and maybe even a few months’ advance fee. It could also include the cost of utilities. Ask your landlord to give you a breakdown of the entire figure. Find out if you can negotiate on the price also.
Some other questions you should be asking are:
- When is the rent due?
- Do any white goods come with the apartment?
- Is the deposit non-refundable (it should always be non-refundable according to state laws)
- What is the lease duration? You should know that after the lease expires, your landlord will probably be increasing his rent.
- How soon can you move in?
- Is renter insurance required?
Ask your landlord how he expects you to pay. There are several ways you can be paying your rent: cash, checks or online payment. I would strongly advise against paying your rent in cash. With cash payments, there is no payment record to show in case of a dispute.
Online payments are usually the best way to pay rent. They offer security and convenience for both you and your landlord. You can also automate your payment system, to avoid missing out your dues. Another surprising thing you probably don’t know is that now you can build your credit by paying your rent.
Late Fee Policy
Somewhere in your rental contract, there is a policy on late fees. State laws allow landlords to charge a small amount for late payment. These should be fair and within the limits prescribed by the state law. If you haven’t, you should read your contract carefully. Also, ask your landlord about late fee policy.
Who Pays The Utility Charges?
Living in an apartment, you will probably be using the standard utilities. There are bills to pay for electricity, water, gas, heating, sewer, internet, cable TV and garbage pickup. Find out what bills you are expected to pay, and which ones your landlord will be paying. Gas and Heating are usually the most expensive utilities.
Apart from these, some apartments might also be charging for parking, pets, and other amenities. Ask about them before you move in.
Policy on Maintenance
If the sink starts leaking one month after you move in, who would be responsible for the repairs? Breakdowns and repairs happen even the newest and best home. It’s just a matter of when you will be needing repairs.
With most rental contracts, maintenance is always a big thorn in the side. Tenants assume landlords will pay for maintenance and landlords assume otherwise. The wise course of action is to settle this before you sign your rental agreement. Your landlord might be willing to pay for regular maintenance but not for unscheduled repairs. Ask what is included in the maintenance policy.
Policy on Subleasing
With Airbnb’s springing up in every country, you can earn some extra bucks by subleasing your apartment. But this often isn’t as simple as putting up your listing on the website. Most landlords don’t have a problem with how their tenant uses the apartment. If there is no clause against subleasing, that usually means you are free to sublet the apartment. In some cases, your landlord may have a screening system for any more tenants you let into his apartment.
Policy on Pets
This could be a deal breaker if you have pets. Even if you don’t, it doesn’t hurt to inquire. You might want to adopt a pet later on and then realize that the building isn’t pet-friendly. Your tenant might have a ‘no-pet’ policy but many landlords are willing to make exceptions if you ask. Some buildings require you to pay a monthly fee, pet deposit or have restrictions on the kind or number of pets. Ask about them also.
Parking Space can be an issue in big metropolitan areas. You might find it difficult to get more than one parking space. If you are sharing the space with your roommate or have two cars, this could be a problem. Ask about buying parking space. This could be expensive and will add to your annual rent cost.
Some apartments don’t have even one parking space. In that case, inquire about public transport options. Use them on your own for a first-hand experience.
In some cases, both the tenants and landlords could have issues in keeping up their end of the contract. The landlord might need to sell his property or has planned a renovation. If that is the case, your landlord should give you an advance notice of at least three months.
The same policy applies to the tenant. If you are moving cities or switching jobs and need a different apartment, you are required to give a three-month advance notice. If the tenant is unable an advance notice, they might have to make it up by paying extra two months of rent or getting a replacement tenant on the same conditions.