Before you sign your rental lease, read through the following apartment hunting checklist to avoid any unwanted surprises and ensure a smooth transition into your new home.


Be prepared! Different communities will have different fees and costs based on location, type of housing community and available amenities. Know what the up-front or non-refundable fees will be.

  • Application fee
  • Credit check fee
  • Pet fee
  • Late fee
  • Screening or background check fee
  • Early termination fee (Tip: You may want to avoid landlords who say that you cannot break the lease for any reason. Emergencies can happen!)
  • Security deposit fees (Can any fees be applied to the security deposit?)
  • Acceleration clause fees (If you miss a payment, will that cause all remaining rent to become due and payable?)


Know what will be included in what you’re paying.

  • What is the current price? (Tip: If the price is higher than advertised, you can often negotiate to get the lower price.)
  • Are any utilities included in the price? If so, what are they?
  • What amenities, if any, are not included in the price?


Know the type of credit pull being used. If a credit report is required, ask if it’s a hard or soft inquiry.

  • If the landlord doesn’t know, it’s probably going to hurt your credit to apply.
  • If you already have an idea of what your credit score is (especially if it’s not great) ask if you can provide a guarantor or co-signer before your credit is pulled.


  • What’s the apartment’s pet policy?
  • Does it require a pet fee or deposit?
  • Are there any prohibited animal breeds?
  • Are there any other pet conditions to be aware of?


Different communities have different requirements for payments and security deposits.

  • What is the security deposit–and what will cause you to lose it?
  • Can each roommate pay his or her portion of the rent separately?
  • What payment types are accepted? (Tip: There may be convenience fees attached to different methods.)
  • Is there a grace period before a payment is late? What is the late fee?
  • How much lead time do you need to give before you move out to get your security deposit back?


  • What are the parking policies?
  • Is there assigned parking?
  • How are parking violations handled?


  • How old is this building or home?
  • How are emergencies handled? Who should be called for emergency maintenance?
  • How are repairs paid for?
  • What’s the procedure for submitting a maintenance request?
  • Who typically makes repairs? (Beware: If the landlord doesn’t have a definitive answer, then they’re probably not great with upkeep and may ignore your requests.)
  • Who is responsible for pest control?


  • Do you need written permission before painting or decorating?


  • How’s the crime in the neighborhood?
  • Has the property experienced any break-ins, thefts or assaults? (Did they answer immediately or was there a long pause?)
  • What’s your guest policy? (Tip: Some landlords don’t like when a girlfriend or boyfriend is at the house “too much” so it’s good to establish boundaries up front.)

TIP: Know Your Rights. See rental laws by state –

The Ultimate Apartment Hunting Checklist