However, it’s quite easy to get so caught up in the excitement of applying for a rental property that you forget to ask some important questions that could change your decision.
You don’t want to get stuck in a lease agreement only to find out afterward that there are some major issues with the property or certain management regulations to adhere to.
So, here’s a list of five incredibly important questions that (unfortunately) many renters forget to ask their landlord before they move into a new space.
1. Whom do I contact if you’re not available?
Since the landlord is typically the person you have the most contact with during the rental process, most tenants assume that they can contact their landlord any time there’s an issue. However, landlords are people, too. They have days off, take vacations and they’re not always available around the clock.
This is especially true if you’re renting a property where the landlord or property manager is not on-site, like in a single-family home. While there may be a maintenance person you can contact in case of a water leak or an electrical circuit breaks, you need to know how you can get in touch with someone if certain issues arise. Be sure you clarify this with the landlord early on.
2. What are your security protocols?
Unfortunately, many landlords skimp on home security in an effort to save themselves money. This puts tenants at serious risk since homes without security systems are 300 times more likely to be burglarized.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, renters who live in single-family homes and small apartment buildings are also more likely to have a break-in than people who live in larger complexes.
For some expert insight on the topic, we asked Travis Goodreau, retired burglary detective, who now advises for SafeHome.org, to share his take.
“Burglars tend to target homes that have lower occupancies, vulnerable windows and obviously, fewer security measures,” said Goodreau. “They will often scope out properties beforehand to see whether or not the residents have alarms set or security cameras in place.”
It’s also interesting to note that 65 percent of break-ins occur during the daytime, and burglars are in and out in under 10 minutes! So, it’s best to know ahead of time what kinds of security protocols are implemented on the property to keep you and your belongings protected.
If you’re considering a unit in a complex, ask if there’s security on-site and how you can contact them in case of an emergency. If you’re moving into a smaller unit or a single-family home, ask if there are cameras or if they would be willing to install an alarm system.
3. What is the guest policy?
You probably want to invite friends and family over to show off your new place. But some landlords are quite strict about having house guests and parties in a rental unit. Lots of landlords will have set “quiet hours” included on the lease to dissuade tenants from hosting rowdy parties. Some will even limit the number of people you’re allowed to invite over.
Many landlords will only allow guests to stay for a set period of time as well, like no more than three days or a maximum of a week. So, if you plan on having friends or family stay with you on their vacation or if you have a significant other that may be sleeping over often, it could be an issue. Be sure that this is all cleared up before you sign any paperwork.
4. When were various appliances purchased?
Running into maintenance issues can be a major hassle, especially when you need things to be fixed urgently, like a broken AC unit in the middle of July or a refrigerator full of food that suddenly stops running.
Unfortunately, 40 percent of renters said that they were not satisfied with the amount of time it took to correct urgent maintenance issues.
If the stove is 20 years old, you’re far more likely to run into an issue with it. Older appliances like dishwashers or fridges could also be less efficient and use more energy, racking up your electric and water bills every month.
One way that you can potentially protect yourself from running into these kinds of problems is by checking to see how updated important appliances are within the home you’re going to rent.
Don’t forget to ask about the more hidden appliances, as well, such as the water heater, HVAC unit or the washers and dryers in the building.
5. Am I allowed to make changes?
Even though you may not own the property, you still want to make it feel like yours. Decorating a space is arguably the most fun part of moving. But some landlords are stricter than others about how you turn a rental pad into your new home.
Be sure to get super specific about the changes you would like to make and run them by your landlord first. For example, are you allowed to paint the walls as long as you paint them back to the original before you move out? Can you install new light fixtures or hang up curtains in the windows?
Some landlords will deduct from your security deposit if you even make holes in the wall to hang up artwork, so be sure that you ask about the decoration policies before you start fantasizing about the interior design of the place.
Get the answers
Finding a new place to call home should be an exciting process, but don’t let your eagerness to move in get you into trouble. You need to make sure that you have all the information you need to make a smart decision about the next place you rent, so remember to ask your landlord these questions before they hand over the keys.