25 Questions To Ask a Landlord When Renting a Home
When renting a home, you want to make sure it's the right one for you. There are plenty of things that can impact whether or not a home will be the right fit for you and some of those things aren't obvious or known until it's too late.
You can avoid making the mistake of choosing the wrong place by asking the landlord questions about their property.
Questions every renter should ask their landlord
Although the property may look fine, it's wise to arm yourself with more information by knowing which questions to ask when renting a house. This will help ensure you understand all parts of the rental agreement and what it will be like living there.
1. What is the monthly rent and how are utilities handled?
Obviously, you need to know how much your rent is each month to make sure it's within your budget and reasonable for the property you're renting. You'll also need to understand how the landlord handles utilities.
Landlords may have you put them in your name and you pay them directly to their respective companies or the landlord may keep all utilities in their own name and add the cost to your rent each month.
2. Is the deposit refundable?
While some states require refundable deposits under certain conditions, others do not. You'll want to get an idea of what things may warrant your landlord keeping the deposit (even if it's just part of it), such as damage to the home or cleaning fees when you move out at the end of the lease.
You don't want any surprise payments upfront or later on.
3. Are there other fees and are they refundable?
Additional fees you need to pay upfront or each month (like an HOA fee), which may or may not be refundable, might come up.
A refundable deposit upfront for having a pet in the house could potentially come up, plus an additional non-refundable monthly payment, for example.
4. When are you looking to fill the unit?
You'll likely be moving into your new home from another rental property, so it's important that you can move in when you want.
If the move-in date is two weeks after your previous lease ends, you'd have to figure out where to live for two weeks. Or the landlord may want to fill the unit a month before your previous lease ends, which means you would be paying rent for two places during that month or it is probably not the place for you.
Whatever the situation, make sure you know the move-in dates so you can plan accordingly or decide if you want to rent the property at all.
5. What's the procedure to get things fixed, especially in an emergency?
If something breaks, you don't want the stress of not knowing what to do about it. Find out how the landlord handles repairs, so you can follow the correct process and get things fixed in a timely manner.
6. What payment methods do you accept?
Being on the same page as your landlord when it comes to payment methods will make it easier for both of you when paying rent, especially if you can do it all online. In any case, be sure that there is a written confirmation that you've paid your rent each month so that both you and your landlord remember and can look back to any point in time without confusion.
7. What is your pet policy?
If you want to have a non-human friend live in the property with you, make sure the landlord allows it and you know all of the rules and expectations that go along with it.
There may be restrictions on the type of animal you can have in the home and there could be additional fees.
8. Are there late fees or early-termination fees?
Most landlords have late fees if you don't pay your rent on time. Some landlords may require that you pay extra if you're going to break the lease for any reason.
While you hopefully won't need to worry about paying any of these fees, in the slight chance you do, you want to know about it ahead of time.
9. How long is the lease and is it negotiable?
While many leases are 12-months, not all are and the timing sometimes is negotiable for six months or even month-to-month. If the landlord requires a 12-month lease and won't budge on that amount of time, but you're only looking to live somewhere for six months, find somewhere else to live.
10. Is the lease renewable?
While most landlords just want to make rent money on a property, some might want to move into the property themselves or allow someone they know in after you move out. Sometimes, too, they may plan on selling the property once your lease is up. Check ahead of time if you'll be able to renew, or if you'll be back in the position you're in now by the end of the lease.
11. How much notice do you give before visiting the apartment?
Some landlords are very active with their properties, while others like to stay away and only come by occasionally. Whichever one you're dealing with, make sure you know what their timeline is for visits.
You have a right to privacy, and in most cases, they should give you at least 24 hours' notice before coming by. Don't be afraid to push back on this if they give a different answer.
12. What maintenance work is my responsibility?
Not knowing who is responsible for what work on a property is one of the biggest causes of tension and conflict between a tenant and landlord. Make sure it's clear from the beginning what you're responsible for taking care of and it's spelled out specifically in the lease.
This includes more than household maintenance, like changing light bulbs — it also includes yard work and outdoor maintenance.
13. What amenities does the neighborhood offer?
The neighborhood in which you live is almost as important as the house you live in. You may want specific things close by, like local restaurants and outdoor sports courts, that the neighborhood may or may not offer.
Think about these specific nearby amenities before you sign the lease for a house in that neighborhood.
14. What is the neighborhood like?
Asking about the neighborhood's demographic and overall environment can give you a glimpse into what your life as part of the community will be like.
Are there lots of kids? Is the community tight-knit and does it frequently hold community events? Is it quiet?
Everyone has their preferences when it comes to neighborhoods, so make sure you know what type of neighborhood community you would be joining.
15. What's your ideal tenant?
There's a lot you can get out of this answer. Obviously, the landlord wants someone who always pays the rent on time, but anything else they say gives you an idea of who they are and how they handle things as a landlord. If they're looking for the type of person who isn't like you or their criteria sound discriminatory, you may want to steer clear of the property.
16. What's your policy on subletting?
You may want the option of subletting your rental home, but the landlord may not allow it. Find out if they allow subletting and, if they do, what the rules are — would there be a limit on how long you could sublet it for? What kind of contract would the subletter be required to sign?
17. How often are the locks changed?
This probably won't come up as an issue, but if locks aren't changed often, there's a chance old tenants might still be able to access your house. Ideally, the landlord would change locks every time someone moves in or out. However, if that's not what they say, you should negotiate new locks for your peace of mind.
18. Is there recycling that's picked up on trash day?
Having recycling that gets picked up on the curb on trash day is convenient and eco-friendly. But you may encounter some places where there is no recycling on-site and you would need to save up all of your recyclables to then take to a recycling center.
19. Is renters insurance required?
Some landlords require renters insurance, while others simply recommend it. There may also be a minimum amount that a landlord suggests your insurance covers.
You may already have insurance, making it easy for you. On the other hand, you might not have renters insurance and don't want to buy it, so this place isn't the one.
20. Are there plans to make any updates to the house?
Knowing your landlord is going to update something is exciting, but it often comes with its own challenges. Some updates take weeks or months, so prepare to live without something for a little bit while it's being updated. Or if things aren't updated and need work, you can negotiate the lease to specify that something gets updated in a timely manner.
21. How can I decorate the place?
Even if you don't plan on doing any decorating, find out what changes you're able to make. Some landlords are fine with repainting as long as you check with them first, while others don't even want you putting a nail in the wall.
22. What furniture and appliances come with the property?
Some rental homes come fully furnished, and some are empty and you'll need to bring your own furniture. If the landlord doesn't provide any furniture and you need to furnish it yourself, that's going to cost you. Or if it is furnished, but you have your own furniture you'd rather use, you need to find a way to store your landlord's stuff without it getting ruined.
23. Is there construction here or nearby planned?
Does anyone like construction noise? Maybe someone does, but if you're not them, you're going to want to know if there's anything planned that's going to make your life noisy for the next several months — even if all is quiet and calm now. And though you may not mind the nearby construction, you still should know about it.
24. What's the demand for this unit?
A lot of people could also look into renting this unit. If there are a lot of people looking at it, you're going to need to act quickly. If there's less interest, you'll be in a better position to negotiate for a better deal.
25. Would you live here?
If their answer is an enthusiastic “yes," you've found a good place to live. Otherwise, you might want to think about why. If they're being evasive about the reason or the answers they give aren't convincing, this probably isn't where you want to live.
Reading between the lines can tell you a lot more than any of the more straightforward answers you're going to get about the home and neighborhood.
Ask your landlord the right questions when renting a home
Now that you know the questions to ask a landlord before signing the lease, you can find a home for rent and know that it's just what you need. Always do your due diligence and make sure you know what you're getting before you make it a legally binding contract so you can avoid any messy rental issues.