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.

FEES

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?)

PRICES

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?

CREDIT CHECKS

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.

PETS

  • 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?

SECURITY DEPOSIT AND PAYMENTS

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?

PARKING

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

MAINTENANCE

  • 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?

DECORATING POLICY

  • Do you need written permission before painting or decorating?

CHECK THEIR REACTION

  • 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 – https://www.landlordology.com/state-laws/

The Ultimate Apartment Hunting Checklist

 

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