Asking the right questions when meeting your potential landlord or property manager will give you insight on relevant information relating to a future housing situation and set the framework for further interactions with management.
Renting a new home is technically a business transaction and you will benefit from treating your interactions with any potential managers or landlords professionally. When you meet with a prospective landlord, take advantage of this time to get answers to your questions. You want to dress professionally and act the part to demonstrate your maturity and how much you value the relationship and the time they are taking to meet with you. Unless you are renting with a roommate, it is best to go to your appointment alone.
Pay attention to how receptive your potential property manager is when you ask your questions. Are they friendly and responsive? Are they annoyed by your questions? Their behavior in this initial interview can be an indicator of how they will act throughout your landlord-tenant relationship. If you get a bad feeling about them in the initial meeting, there’s a chance you won’t enjoy dealing with them throughout your tenancy.
Landlords and property managers can benefit from reviewing this list of questions and being prepared with answers. A potential tenant that asks these questions demonstrates the seriousness and maturity in the apartment search process. Landlords and property managers can also prepare themselves by providing marketing materials with the following information included to save you time during tenant interviews and showings.
Questions for landlords and property managers should reveal information about rent, the lease, the application process, maintenance, and utilities.
Questions about Rent and Money
- How much is rent?
- How much is the deposit?
- Do you collect first and last months rent at the start of tenancy?
- How much is due at the beginning of the lease term? How much will be refundable?
- What day is rent due?
- Do you have a grace period? (Grace periods are the window of time a landlord will accept rent payment after a due date. Although rent paid during the grace period is technically late, a landlord may choose to not charge a late fee during this time).
- What is your policy for late rent? (Don’t focus too much on this question, as it could raise suspicion that you have a habit of paying rent late. But it’s important information all the same, in case the situation ever comes up. It is never a good idea to pay rent late!)
- Do accept separate checks from roommates or do you want one check every month?
- Where do I pay rent? Mailed to you or dropped off at a management office?
- Can I pay rent online?
Questions about the Lease
- What is the lease term? 1-year, 6-month, month-to-month?
- What happens after the lease ends? Do I need to move out or does the fix-term lease become a month-to-month lease?
- How do you manage lease renewals?
- What is the policy on subleasing?
- Do you require a cosigner to sign the lease?
- Do roommates each have a separate lease agreement with you or do we all sign the same lease?
- When are the move-in/move-out dates? How much notice must I give if I decide to move out?
Questions about the Application Process
- Is there an application I need to fill out?
- Do you plan on running my criminal background, reviewing my credit report and contacting my rental references?
- What kind of supporting documents do I need to provide with my application? Bank statements? Letters of Recommendation? (You may find it useful to offer a Rental Resume that has all your relevant rental information).
- What is the application fee?
- If I don’t get approved, is my application fee refundable?
- Is there already a waiting list for this property? How many people have applied before me?
Questions about Maintenance
- Does management live onsite or near this rental property?
- Who do I contact about emergency maintenance issues? Is there a 24-hour emergency maintenance number I can call?
- How do I submit maintenance requests for small issues, like a dripping faucet or a broken garbage disposal?
- What is your policy regarding emergency maintenance and non-emergency maintenance?
- Are there any issues with bugs or rodents? What are the extermination policies?
- Have there been any major repairs or renovations done in the past year? Are there any planned for the upcoming year?
- Who is responsible for removing snow and ice in the winter?
- Who handles the landscaping of the property?
- Who is responsible for handling what repairs, including small ones?
- Would you consider offering a discount if I manage repairs myself?
Questions about Utilities
- What utility services are included with the property? (water, electricity, gas, Internet, trash)
- Do you have a list of what local companies I need to contact to set up utilities not included with rent?
- Is the property heated with gas or with electricity?
- Do you have an estimate for what normal utility bills tend to be at this property?
- What is the policy/cost for parking?
- Do you have guest parking?
- Do you have restrictions on guests visiting the property?
- Are there common areas that can be reserved for private events?
- What is the pet policy? (Pet deposit? Pet fee? Pet Rent?)
- What are the nearest grocery stores, coffeehouses, dry cleaners, health clubs, restaurants, bars, banks, gas stations, libraries, and parks?
- How close is public transportation?
- Is there additional storage space elsewhere?
- Have you or when will you change the lock on the door from the last tenant?
- What happens if I get locked out of my apartment?
- What should I do if I notice another tenant violating the lease? Like smoking on the property or late-night parties that violate the noise policy?
- How often do you perform property inspections? What kind of notice will I receive before you enter the property for routine inspections and maintenance?
These may seem like a lot of questions to ask your future landlord. But they address situations that are bound to come up during the course of your tenancy. Being prepared ahead of time with the knowledge for how your landlord handles common rental tasks will save you time in the future and help when making an important housing decision – like signing a lease!
What other questions are important to ask before you start renting a new apartment? Let us know in the comments!
This article was originally published in February 2018 and has since been updated.
Great guide for prospective tenants, know before you sign.
Thanks John! It’s important for both parties in the landlord-tenant relationship to be informed and prepared before entering into a housing agreement. Thanks for stopping by.
Is it possible for the landlord to ask me, the tenant, to sign a new lease. I have lived in this building since 1998, she and her father bought the building in 2007. She is not new neither am I. Help me please!
Yes, this is possible. If you are currently on a month-to-month lease, your landlord can ask you to sign a new lease at the end of the month, as long as proper notice is given, per your state laws. If you are in the middle of a term lease, the new lease would go into effect at the end of the current lease. It’s actually a good idea for you to have a current lease or rental agreement in place, as it protects you and your landlord.
Thank you for telling me that I should pay attention to the property manager’s way of communicating with us whenever we’re asking questions. My husband and I are planning to look for possible homes we can rent while our house’s renovation project is ongoing, and we’re hoping that we can have a good relationship with our landlord. I’ll keep your tips in mind once we have visited actual places that we can rent.
Hope the search goes well for you and find a lovely new home!
Is it common practice for management companies to assess monthly utility fees for utilities in the “common areas”, such as water, sewage, gas, electricity, & garbage removal? This is in addition to the tenants being responsible for utilities in their own units.
It is fairly common for commercial property management to charge what’s called a Common Area Maintenance fee but rarely common for residential rentals. That being said, there are some states that allow the practices with some stipulations so I would recommend you contact your local housing authority for more information on if it’s appropriate in your state and under what circumstances.
Requesting your guidance please,
On 26 May 2021 at approximately 1245 I opened my door to discover a notice stating:
“Maintenance will be stripping the parking lots May 26, 2021 at 10:00 am prompt. If your car is not moved and off the parking lot by 9:00 am your car WILL BE TOWED, NO EXCEPTIONS.”
Flyers were passed out on the afternoon of 25 May 2021 which gave me less than 12 hours notice to move my vehicle. I was required to spend $243.06 out of my fixed income which has left me in a financial bind.
Is there a Minnesota state statute that addresses landlord and tenant laws? If so, where would I locate guidelines?
Thank you for your time!
Hi Randy, I’m so sorry you had to go through this difficulty. Notice timing can certainly be tricky. From my experience when handing out those types of notices, it is based on the delivery time and not when the notice was read. If delivered before 9pm the night before, it appears from this 2019 Minnesota Statute that they complied with the 12-hour advanced notice: (Subsection 3.b.(7)) but I’m not sure if it’s been updated or applies to your circumstance.
And because I am unable to offer legal advice, would suggest reaching out to your local housing authority to discuss your situation to get the best answers.
In the meantime, I was also able to find this that might prove helpful: Minnesota Landlords and Tenants: Rights and Responsibilities
Is email a legally binding document that can amend the lease? I’m signing a renewal lease and there were some separate charges written. I asked the leasing office what those charges are for and they emailed me back saying I can disregard this as it won’t apply to my lease. I understand for the convenience they just use original form only changing the rent amount and terms for each unit, and if it’s a normal situation, I would ask them to amend and re-send the lease for me to sign. But since we exchanged emails back and forth several times (and I asked for concessions), I feel cautious not to get on their nerves by asking them to revise and send it again.. There wasn’t any serious issue with the leasing office before, so as long as his email works as a legally binding document, I would like to proceed with signing the lease..
So about 3yrs ago my friend was moving out of her apartment and I wanted to move in.. The owner agreed to let me take over the unit when she’s out, no deposit, no application I could just move in so I did. It’s been 2yrs nd I never seen an lease agreement, but now she’s trying to take my friend to court. Can she do that?