questions renters should ask

You’ve probably spent a lot of time choosing a place to live, and you’ve examined it top to bottom. You know what features it has, what neighborhood it’s in and where you can fit your sofa, bed, and dresser. Still, these aren’t all the facts to know before you sign the lease.

Every renter — that includes you — should have a frank conversation with their potential future landlord before renting a place. Of course, this discussion will only prove fruitful if you know what to ask. Here are six less common questions to start with.

1. How Can I Pay Rent and When?

Every landlord has a preference when it comes to collecting your rental payment, and each option has its advantages and disadvantages. For instance, you could go with the classic check, but it lacks the convenience of a digital option. On the other hand, you could pay electronically and keep it hands-off, but you need to make sure this option works with your credit card or bank account.

You’ll also want to find out when rent is due each month so that you can begin to figure out your budget. This is especially true if rent payment comes relatively long after your paycheck hits. You don’t want to be tempted to spend it before you have to send it, so find out when and where you should send the money — and what late fees you can expect.

2. Did Previous Tenants Have Any Complaints?

With this question, make it clear that you’re not asking if the prior tenants got along with the landlord. Instead, you want to know how they felt about the building — were there noisy neighbors? Or others who smoked? Once you’ve pinpointed any possible issues, ask your landlord how you should handle them.

Their answer will give you some insight into their management style. They’ll probably prefer to take these problems on themselves to avoid any inter-building conflict, and their willingness to help should make you feel more comfortable renting with them.

3. How Do You Respond to Maintenance Problems?

Every tenant will be different about their electric, water and gas usage. You probably already know to ask how much tenants typically pay for utilities. Rent is only a part of the picture, after all, so these bills should be an important part of your decision.

But you can request even more information about property maintenance to find out how efficient your pipes, HVAC and water heater are likely to be. When you’re looking at a unit, ask if you can turn on a tap to gauge the water pressure and whether the filter on the air conditioner has been recently changed.

While this stuff isn’t your responsibility and likely won’t be make-or-break for you, your landlord will probably share whether they’ve had any problems with pipes or updated any amenities recently. You can a) find out if your unit has modern facilities and b) get a better idea of your landlord or property manager’s willingness to fix common issues.

4. What Are Your Restrictions on Long-Term Guests?

Since your rental will be your home, you don’t need to worry about having a friend over for a weekend. But if you anticipate having longer-term guests, politely ask if your landlord has policies in place. Many property owners put a cap on the amount of time a person can stay if they aren’t on the lease, largely because unknown guests can be a major liability.

This limit often comes back to bite those with boyfriends or girlfriends who stay over for multiple nights each week. While some landlords will issue a warning, others might have stricter policies. For example, you should find out at what point you might need to add extra rent for an extended guest.

Don’t jeopardize your chance of getting the apartment by suggesting that you’d ever take in a squatter. But clarifying expectations, even if they don’t affect you in the short-term, can help you avoid violating your lease agreement due to sheer ignorance that there’s a problem.

5. What Am I Allowed to Change?

There are plenty of ways to redecorate an apartment without renovating or even modifying the bones of the place. Still, your future landlord might have particular stipulations about what you can and cannot do — some might only want you hanging art on the walls with specific materials, for example.

Ask what projects would require landlord approval and how long it would take to get approval. That way, if you want to make some cosmetic changes, you can do so properly and get started as soon as possible.

6. Do I Have Options to Break My Lease?

Even if you’re settled in your current job and city and see no signs that you’d ever leave, you should always find out the answer to this question. Life can happen quickly. You never know what might force you to move out, so ask your future landlord if you could break the lease or find a subletter to take your place without incurring a huge penalty. Doing so will give you peace of mind, especially if you find yourself in a difficult situation that’s forcing you to move.

Become a Savvy Apartment Hunter

These are only six of the many questions you might have for your future landlord. Don’t be afraid to ask — the right information will help you figure out which property is best for you and how you can develop a great relationship with your new property manager.