Congrats, you found a great place to rent! But before you sign a lease and commit to living there, get all the information you need from the landlord. Then you’ll really know if the rental should be your next home.
20 questions to ask landlords before renting
1. What’s the exact rent amount, deposit, and cost of utilities?
- It doesn’t hurt to ask for the rent price, in case the amount was wrong in the listing.
- If the landlord quotes you a higher price than what the listing advertised, point out the discrepancy and ask for the lower price.
- The cost of utilities will greatly affect whether or not you can afford any place. Ask the landlord for a detailed run down of how much everything costs.
2. Are there any deposits or non-refundable fees, and what are they for?
- Despite some state laws prohibiting the practice, some landlords include a non-refundable deposit in the lease.
- If they do charge non-refundable deposits or fees, check your state’s laws to determine if that’s legal.
- If the charges are legal, at least you’ll know what to expect financially before signing the lease.
3. What’s your application process and screening criteria?
- Rather than guessing, ask landlords to describe the entire screening process, step by step. It will help you set your own expectations, if you choose to apply.
- Ask if they charge application or screening fees.
- If the landlord requires a credit report, ask if it’s a hard or soft inquiry, so you can protect your credit.
4. How soon do you want to rent the place?
- If you won’t be ready to move until June 1, but the landlord wants someone to move in on May 1, the place might not be a good fit.
- Situations vary though, so ask the landlord why they want the specific move in date.
5. What length of time do you prefer for the lease?
- If the landlord prefers a two-year lease, and you can only commit to a year, then it doesn’t matter how great the place is.
- Sometimes landlords will negotiate on the length of the lease though, so be sure to ask if that’s an option.
6. What types of payments will you accept for rent?
- Landlords can choose which forms of payments they’ll accept, but the best landlords make it easy for a tenant to pay with tools like Cozy.
- It’s not okay for landlords to only accept cash. Be wary of these individuals.
7. How much interest have you had in this unit?
- If the landlord says not many people have been interested, try to figure out why. Maybe the listing didn’t include pictures, or it could be priced too high.
- Without a lot of competition for the place, you might be able to negotiate lease terms, if you decide the place is for you.
8. What’s your late fee policy?
- Late fees for rent payments are typically allowed in every state, but they should be fair, reasonable, and adhere to the state’s limits.
- Be wary of landlord who acts casual about the rent due date. It’s important for both parties to adhere to the terms of the lease.
9. What’s your policy on subletting?
- Ask what’s in the lease. If the lease doesn’t prohibit subletting, or mentions exclusive occupancy, then you can sublet.
- A landlord may require that subletters meet their screening criteria, and under these terms, the landlord can deny unqualified applications. It’s good to have this conversation now, before you sign a lease.
10. Do you allow renters to terminate the lease early, and if so, what are the fees?
- Life happens. Something might come up that forces you to break the lease. A smart landlord will plan for this possibility and provide an early termination clause in the lease.
- Often the fee is two or three months of rent, but sometimes, you might be required to continue paying rent until the landlord finds a replacement renter.
- Avoid landlords who say you can’t break the lease for any reason. Most states require that a landlord mitigates the damage to a tenant by attempting to re-rent the unit.
11. What’s your ideal renter like?
- If the landlord says something like, “I only rent to single white females who don’t have kids but do have a high-paying job,” then the landlord is discriminatory, which is illegal.
- If the landlord answers with a more appropriate answer, you can start to gauge if the landlord is someone you want to rent from.
12. What’s your pet policy, and do you require a pet fee or deposit?
- Many landlords advertise their vacancies as not allowing pets, but they’ll work with renters on a case-by-case basis. It’s always worth asking.
- If there is a pet policy, make sure you ask about prohibited breeds, pet deposits, monthly fees, and other conditions.
13. Will I be able to renew the lease if I want to, or could I switch to a month-to-month lease at some point?
Some landlords plan on selling or moving back into the property at the end of the lease, so they already know they won’t want to renew. Get a sense of their plans, so you know what to expect.
14. What’s the parking situation?
- High-density areas tend to have permit and license requirements, which the landlord should be able to tell you about.
- If you and your roommates have multiple cars, make sure you meet the requirements.
- If there’s no available parking, ask about other transportation options, the follow up and check out those options for yourself. Sometimes “down the street” means a 15-minute walk, or the bus schedule is different than what the landlord thought it was.
15. What’s your guest policy?
Some landlords have specific policies in their lease about guests and when they should be listed as renters. It’s important to ask upfront, so you’re both clear on the expectations.
16. What’s the best way to submit a maintenance request, and who usually makes repairs?
- If the landlord doesn’t have a definitive answer, they may not be on top of upkeep at their property. You deserve to rent from a landlord who pays attention to your requests and makes repairs in a timely manner.
- The condition of the property should give you some clues about how the landlord handles maintenance.
17. How much notice do you usually give before you or your representative shows up at the property?
- Most states specify how much notice is required before a landlord can enter the premises (usually 24 hours).
- Learn your state’s requirements before you have this conversation.
- If the landlord doesn’t know what the required notice should be, or they ignore it, then proper notice will be the least of your issues.
18. Which furnishings or appliances are included?
- In some states, it’s common for renters to provide their own appliances. In other states, appliances are provided by the landlord.
- If a unit is furnished, make sure you find out exactly which furnishings belong to the landlord, and which belong to the current tenant.
19. What kind of crime happens in the neighborhood? Tell me about any break-ins, theft, or assaults that have happened at the rental.
- Asking about this topic will help you get the landlord’s view of the neighborhood. Hopefully, they’ll be upfront about what’s happened at the rental.
- If you want to check on those details yourself, look at police and public records.
20. Would you live here?
- If the landlord’s eyes light up with excitement when you ask this question, you’ll know you found a great place.
- If the landlord says they wouldn’t want to live there, do your best to find out why.