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?
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?
- 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?
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/