Renting can be a complicated process, with lots of different factors to be aware of. Your landlord will usually make you aware of most of the things you need to know upfront, like when rent is due or if you’re allowed pets in the apartment. However, they won’t always tell you everything you need to know.
In particular, be sure to ask them about these nine things to make sure you’re giving yourself the clearest possible picture of your living situation:
Rent May Be Negotiable
Sometimes, especially if you’ve lived in the same apartment for a long time, you may be able to negotiate with the landlord to keep your rent from being increased, or try to limit how much it rises. Leverage the fact that you’ve been the perfect tenant for however many years, and the landlord might just see the benefit of keeping you in the unit over having to look for another tenant.
How Much Utilities Cost
Some apartments come with utilities included. Most do not. This means that you could be in for a nasty surprise when your first bills arrive. For instance, you may find that the large windows that made the property so appealing to you also turn the unit into a greenhouse in the summer. This means that your A/C bill could be incredibly high as you try to battle the sun. Ask the landlord for a recent copy of the utility bills to avoid any such surprises. If they can’t provide this, try to speak to the utility companies directly.
Things Won’t Be Repaired
No landlord is going to admit that they have no intention of maintaining the unit, and they especially aren’t going to let you know if things are already broken before you’ve moved in. If the landlord owns several units in the same building, it might be worth speaking to some other tenants to see what they’re really like as a landlord.
You Won’t Get Your Security Deposit Back
You’ve probably heard horror stories about landlords claiming ridiculous expenses after a person has vacated a property — from little things like broken light bulbs to stains on the carpet that were there before the tenant even moved in. Unfortunately, some landlords are unscrupulous and will try to find a way to keep every cent of your deposit. Make sure that you take pictures of everything in the apartment before you move in and after you move out to ensure that there is no way the landlord can pull one over on you.
Pests Live Here, Too
A landlord is expected to take reasonable steps to rid their tenant’s home of vermin, but it is possible for them to try to skirt this by pretending the issue only arose after you’d moved in. Tenants also have a degree of responsibility to keep their unit free from pests. If you let trash pile up or keep food out in the open, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for your landlord to assume you caused a mouse problem yourself, so make sure that you keep everything clean and tidy to avoid any such issues.
What the Neighbors are Like
At the end of the day, a landlord just wants to let their apartment. They’re likely not going to mention if the previous tenant has complained about loud neighbors partying at all hours, or people using the apartment building as a meeting place for shady dealings. Some landlords may decide to ignore any issues that one renter has with another, especially if the problems are perceived as minor. Sometimes tenants have issues with each other that aren’t breaking the law, such as noise complaints, and therefore it may be more convenient for the landlord to pretend it isn’t happening.
It’s an Illegal Rental
These are surprisingly common, especially in cities with housing shortages. Illegal rentals could include basement apartments or converted garages that don’t conform to the legal minimum requirements of a rental property.
Kids Aren’t Allowed
Although it’s technically illegal for a landlord to discriminate against families with children, they may not be thrilled about the idea of them, either. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing against families with children under 18 years, as well persons who are pregnant or in the process of obtaining legal custody, with the exception of retirement homes or similar. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t try to find another reason to refuse your tenancy if you have children.
If the Property is Going to Be Sold
Best case scenario, you may have to deal with viewings of the property for potential new owners. Otherwise, the new owners may have bought the property with the intention of living there themselves. They may want to renovate it and charge higher rent. Either way, you may be looking for a new place to live. Potentially even worse, the property could be foreclosed on and your new landlord would be the bank.
Not everyone is going to be keeping things from you, of course, but if you’re a first-time renter, or just see the best in people at all times, make sure you keep these things in mind when speaking to a potential new landlord.