It happens to all of us: we think of a thousand questions the day after looking at an apartment, and wish we’d had better presence of mind in the moment. Here’s a list of questions, loosely categorized by topic that you may wish to ask a potential landlord about your apartment. Remember to ask questions respectfully and refrain from gasping at any answer, even if it seems outrageous. If this isn’t the apartment for you, just move on. If you’re not sure you understand the answer to a question, don’t hesitate to rephrase or ask a follow-up question. This list assumes you’ve already actually seen the apartment and don’t need to ask the basic questions (where in the complex is it located?, how many bedrooms/square feet?, etc.). Keep in mind that this list designed as a guideline to help you remember to ask about what’s important to you. It’s not a litany of questions you must ask in every situation.
- When is rent due? Is there a grace period?
- What are the late fees? When do they take effect?
- How should I pay rent? Can I pay with cash? With a credit card?
- Is rent collected at the office?
- Are any utilities included in the rent?
- Do I need to set up my own electrical or other services?
- Are utilities charged to individual apartments or averaged between residents?
- How long have you been in business? Do you manage other properties?
- Where can I submit a complaint about management or maintenance, if I have one?
- Are there any move-in specials on rent? Any special gifts for new tenants?
- Do I get reduced rent if I refer a friend?
- How large is the maintenance staff?
- How do I file a request for maintenance services?
- How long does it usually take for services to be completed?
- How does management staff handle complaints about maintenance?
- What are your most common maintenance requests?
- When is the last time the unit I’m looking at was updated or remodeled?
- What modifications do you make to units between tenants?
- How do you handle pest control? What are your most common pests?
- Does maintenance ever enter apartments without giving notice?
- What types of people live in the complex?
- Does management organize any community events? What types?
- What facilities are offered (pool, gym, business center)? What are the hours?
- Do I need passes to use these facilities? Can my guests use these facilities?
- How often do you update your facilities? How often is the pool cleaned?
- How can I submit a request to have the facilities cleaned or updated?
- Is there a community bulletin board or other way for residents to communicate?
- How can I report problems with another resident? How do you handle such issues?
- What is the most common complaint by residents about other residents?
- Are there many children in the complex? Are they well-attended?
- Are there community baby-sitting services?
- How is the parking situation?
- Do residents have assigned spots?
- Do I need a parking pass?
- Can I get covered parking? A garage?
- Are car break-ins a problem?
- How safe is the apartment?
- Is the community gated? Does the gate open with a code, a card, or another method?
- Have you had any break-ins in the past year? How did you address them?
- What is the most common safety complaint of residents?
- Do the windows lock? Can I have my windows barred?
- Does the door have a deadbolt? Can I have one installed?
- How can I verify that you’ve changed the locks between residents?
Tip: contact the police department to get complete information about crime in the area. Landlords will likely try to downplay any criminal incidents, but the police should have full statistics on any situations that have happened in the area. They should also be able to let you know if any registered sex offenders or other tracked felons live in or near the apartment complex.
After asking all—or even just some—of these questions, you should have an excellent idea of whether or not an apartment is for you. If you haven’t exhausted the landlord (which you might if you go through all of these questions in order!), feel free to ask follow-up questions regarding any topics that concern or interest you. Do keep in mind that this list is to help you remember to ask about particular subjects; don’t just become a drone reciting a list of questions. At the same time, it is a landlord’s job to answer questions and convince you that you want to live in this particular apartment. If you don’t feel that the person you’re talking to is truly receptive to your questions and concerns, you may want to move on—even if the answers to some questions were acceptable. When you’ve gathered all the appropriate information and learned how your potential landlord deals with people, you should be able to decide whether this apartment is right for you.