Sometimes a new apartment can look so great, have the ideal location, and seem to fall right within our budgets that we let our excitement get the better of us. In our zeal to grab the ‘perfect’ place, we race to sign a lease and forget to ask the right questions. Conversely, we may be at the end of a long line of disappointing apartment visits, and we might be getting desperate. If that’s the case, we’re eager to sign on the dotted line to avoid a disaster, but we’ve let our urgency cloud our better judgment.
Remember that investing in a new apartment — even if it’s just for a six-month or one-year lease — is a major decision. You’re always better off really thinking it through and asking the right questions of your landlord. So follow our condensed list of the best and most important questions to get answered before you make the plunge!
First, you’ll want to clear up a number of absolutely necessary questions concerning your rent, lease agreement, and utilities. Knowing if there are proposed rental increases, how much you need to pay for the security deposit, and how and when your landlord wants to be paid (with cash? cheque? direct deposit? first of every month? what about holidays?) is a great start. Make sure you know the fundamentals in your lease. How can you break it? When it’s up, will you have to commit to another term, or can you go month-to-month? Do you have to purchase rental insurance? And are you able to sublet, or will you face sublet fees if you do? When you leave, do you have to pay for a professional clean?
Utilities can be exceptionally costly, so make sure you know who pays what (for electricity, heat, water, and so forth), and how much your average average bill will be. Cable or Internet services might also be provided, as might laundry (coin operated or free!) so find out all this before you commit.
A number of other less vital but nonetheless important questions about policies and permissions can be ticked off quickly. Ask if you can change the appearance of your apartment — can you paint, put up pictures, insert plugs or nails? Inquire about additional storage areas, if they cost extra, and how secure they are. On the subject of security, you’ll probably want to know if the landlord has any security measures in place (finding out about who has key access and how alarm systems work is a must). Another big secondary question is parking: is it available, and if so, how much space is provided, and how much does it cost? Can guests use it? And on the subject of guests, ask about long-term visits.
If the premise has an outdoor area, you’ll want to know how yard maintenance is divided, and how garbage, recycling, and other disposal issues are treated. This should lead you to a conversation about repairs and emergencies in the building. You need to know what your landlord expects you to do in case of a plumbing, appliance, or other home repair issue — especially if it’s a major problem. How quickly will the landlord act? If he or she needs to enter, what kind of notice will they give?
Finally, you can move on to more tricky questions. Ask how your landlord feels about pets and smoking (if relevant), and ask about noise — how noisy are your neighbours? Is there designated quiet times in your area or building? Is there anything to watch out for in the area or neighbourhood? Make sure you ask why the previous tenants are leaving — how long they stayed, and why they’ve decided to move on. It might give you some valuable insight into how the place is operated.
There are countless other questions you might pose to any landlord. Luckily, a number of great online resources can help you compile a comprehensive questionnaire and checklist. Bring this with you when visiting a new apartment, and make sure you get the answers you’re looking for. If you’re polite, courteous, and patient, there’s no reason why a landlord shouldn’t be forthcoming. In fact, if they aren’t, it might be a warning sign that things aren’t what they seem.
Remember, posing questions to a landlord means the hard part of finding a place is over! If you’re still on the make for an excellent new rental apartment, make sure you use our comprehensive directory to help you find a place to call home.