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Top 8 Financial Questions to Ask the Landlord Before Renting an Apartment

Essential Things You Need to Know Before Signing a Lease

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I've hunted for a lot of apartments and every time I look for a new place, I make a list of all the things I need to know in order to make the right decision. These questions also help in comparing apartments so you can determine which one is best suited to your needs, both financially and in terms of physical space.

Top 8 Money Questions to Ask the Landlord

How much is the rent? Now, I know this is an obvious question to ask, but you'd be surprised how many people forget to confirm the rental price after seeing it posted in an ad somewhere. Sometimes, in particular with apartment complexes, the posted rental rate is not necessarily the rate for the apartment that is being shown. Ask the landlord to be clear about the rent and that the price holds for the terms of the lease.

What is included in the rent? It's important to clarify which utilities are included in the rental fee. Often, utilities such as water and garbage pick-up are included, but hydro, heat and parking may not be. Each additional utility will add to your monthly rent so make sure you get the landlord to be specific.

How much will utilities run per month (approximately)? It's a good idea to find out how much extra you'll be paying per month for utilities. This way, you can compare between a more expensive rental that might include utilities with a less expensive one that doesn't. If the landlord isn't certain, ask them to find out. Depending on where the apartment is located and how well insulated it is will affect the cost of heating or cooling the space. It all adds up.

What are the terms of the lease? Some landlords will offer cheaper rent for a longer lease agreement while others may want you to agree to a month-to-month rental. I definitely am hesitant about agreeing to a month-to-month as often that could mean the landlord is looking to sell and wants to be able to get rid of a tenant with only a months' notice. It's much more common to sign a year lease, then go month-to-month once that lease has expired. No matter what you saw posted, ask the landlord about options before you sign so you don't ever need to break a lease.

Are appliances provided? If so, which ones? Most apartments I've rented include appliances in the rental fee: stove, fridge, dishwasher. These are the most common types that are provided, while appliances such as microwaves or washer and dryer are less likely to be included. If no washer or dryer are included, ask if there are hook-ups and whether you can supply your own.

Are pets allowed and is there an extra fee? It's quite common now for apartments that are pet friendly to charge an extra "pet rent" per month. If you're the owner of a couple of pets, like we are, you could be looking at an extra $50-100 per month in addition to your rent - that can add up. Some landlords may opt instead to charge you an extra security deposit for the pets, which usually means you can get most of that money back should your place pass the move-out inspection. If you can negotiate between paying pet rent and an extra security deposit, take the latter option since you can potentially receive that money back when you move out.

How much is needed to secure the apartment? Before you sign a lease, ask how much is required upfront. Most rentals will ask for the first month's rent and a security deposit while others will ask for first and last month's rent. It's a good idea to check your state's rules regarding rentals and requirements before you start to look. Some states have very specific rules around what a landlord can charge a tenant upon signing a lease.

Are there any additional fees? It's always good to ask this final question just to be certain that no other fees will come back to haunt you such as additional parking fees or HOA fees (if you're renting a condo or townhouse from the owners).

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