I’ve spent the last several weeks searching the web for questions to ask prospective landlords, but I have been thoroughly disappointed. Most of the lists I’ve found mention only obvious questions, or pose such weird questions that you’d sound completely silly asking a landlord them!
Since Ryan and I have actually been asking questions to potential landlords lately about signing leases, I thought I’d share what we’ve been considering!
Here are 15 questions that we asked our landlords that you rarely find on other question lists:
1. What payment methods will you accept for rent?
This is a valid question that you’ll want to clear up way in advance. If you’re renting from a home owner, you’ll probably have to pay via check, which means you’ll want to order them as soon as possible (they can sometimes take two weeks to come in). If you’re renting from a real estate agent or company, you may be able to pay online via credit or debit card. In some situations, you might even need to pay in cash, but if that’s the case, make sure you always get a receipt!
2. Are we allowed to hang photos and/or outdoor decorations?
Anything with nails involved should be approved in writing before you do it. That means before putting up nails to hang your Christmas lights on or before hanging that photo, you need to make sure it’s okay with your landlord (and the neighborhood’s HOA!). You don’t want to end up losing all or some of your security deposit over something that could have been avoided with a little 3M tape.
3. Can we document any existing damage and do an inventory?
The answer, of course, should be yes. You want to note any current damage so that the landlord can’t withhold your security deposit for something that is already there. Even mark something as small as a knick in the carpet!
It’s also a good idea for you to walk through and do a quick inventory of the rental. Things like a dishwasher, microwave, shower curtain, or anything else in the house that doesn’t belong to you should be written down. That way, it won’t be disputed later!
4. Are there any HOA rules that we need to know about?
When we were looking into houses, we found out that a lot of communities have seemingly-arbitrary HOA rules. That said, you still have to follow them. Don’t get your landlord in trouble by failing to abide by the rule of keeping your trash cans out of sight or removing snow from your front sidewalk!
5. What is included in the rent?
Some utilities might be included in the rent. Also, ask if you won’t have to pay extra for things like lawn care and trash pick-up. Each rental is different, but it can’t hurt to ask!
6. What utilities do we need to have turned on?
If they aren’t included in the rent, it can cost money to have these utilities turned on. If the landlord keeps them going from tenant to tenant, however, you may be able to avoid this fee. Either way, it’s nice to know up front!
7. Can you hear the neighbors through the walls?
Living in an apartment, townhouse, or duplex? Then this is an important question to ask! A lot of places have quasi-soundproof walls, but if they don’t, that could be a deal-breaker for you.
8. What’s the neighborhood like?
Who lives around here? Is it mostly college students? Older people? Families? Young couples? Also, ask who lives next door, especially if it’s an apartment, townhome, or duplex. Knowing what to expect going in can really help ease the transition into your new home.
9. Are there any HOA perks we should know about?
Will you get access to a pool, dog park, or playground? Is there a list of available pet sitters or baby sitters in the neighborhood? All good info to know!
10. How should we let you know if there’s a problem?
You’re responsible for incidentals like lightbulbs and clogged toilets, but if there’s a leaky faucet, a broken air conditioner, or burst water heater, that’s stuff that the landlord should handle, and in a timely manner! Find out how they want to be contacted in case of a maintenance problem or an emergency. Also, if they’re out of town, who should you call?
11. Who usually does the repairs?
Do they hire a maintenance worker/contractor for each individual problem? Do they use a company? Do they do them themselves? It never hurts to know what to expect!
12. Do you do regular inspections?
In most states, landlords need to give you some notice before they enter your house or apartment, usually 24 hours. That said, if they plan on doing an inspection once every few months, it’s good to know up front!
13. What is the plan for when the lease is up?
Will you transition to a month-to-month residency? Will you need to renew your lease? Will you need to leave? Even if your or their situation changes by then, you’ll want to nail down a rough plan so you both know what’s coming.
14. What is the crime rate for this area? How are the schools?
This is something you can look up yourself, but if you’d like to ask the landlord, they may know, too!
15. Did you change the locks since the last tenant stayed?
The answer should be yes! You don’t want anyone showing up uninvited.
You may not have to ask all of these questions, but it should get you started! Good luck in your new rental!