Ask Potential Landlords These Crucial Questions Before Signing a Lease

When renting a home or apartment, it’s always important to go over the terms of the lease before signing. A lease is a legally binding document, so signing on the dotted line obligates you for the term of the lease. Be sure to ask the right questions so there aren’t any unpleasant surprises after you’ve moved into your new home. A good landlord will have no problem answering your questions and will be forthcoming about any potential issues so that you’ll want to extend your lease at the end of the year.

Here are some important questions you should always ask when talking to a potential landlord or property management company:

Is this a long-term lease or a short-term rental agreement?

A lease is generally binding for a full twelve months, although you can also get a six month lease from many landlords. If you want a shorter time period or want to be able to move elsewhere on short notice, a rental agreement that is month-to-month may be a better option for you. Be sure you know how long you’ll be tied to the property.

When and how is the rent due?

Some landlords want payment at the beginning of each month, others will have a date in the middle of the month. Be sure you know when the rent is due and how. For instance, if rent is due by the 15th of the month, does that mean a check has to be in the landlord’s hands by then or does it mean that it has to be post-marked by then? This is an important question, as some landlords add late fees to your rent if you’re late making payments. Ask about late fees and penalties as well, as these costs can add up.

If you’re moving into an apartment in the middle of the month but the rent is due on the first of the month, ask the landlord if he or she will pro-rate the first month’s rent. Some will, some won’t; it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Are the utilities included?

Ask what utilities, if any, are included in your rent. These may include water, electricity, gas, cable and Internet. If you will be responsible for utilities, ask to see copies of past utility bills for the house or apartment you’re renting so that you can budget accordingly.

Can I personalize the house or apartment?

Don’t paint the walls, hang artwork or make any changes to the house or apartment without asking the landlord about the rules surrounding these changes. You may want to paint the bedroom pink, but the landlord might deduct the cost of repainting the room after you move out from your security deposit.

Can I have overnight guests?

For the most part, landlords have no problem with overnight guests in rental houses unless they become a nuisance. They will often stipulate the length of time they can stay, however. More people means more potential for damages.

Can my dog/cat/lizard/fish stay with me?

no pets allowed

Ask your landlord if pets are allowed. In many instances they are allowed, but you have to pay an additional fee of between $50 and $200 a month to cover the cost of any potential damages. Most landlords also have limits. One dog may be fine, three dogs may be too many. Also ask what kind of pets are allowed. Some landlords won’t allow exotic pets or large pets. Others may not allow aquariums because of the potential for water damage.

Will I get my deposit back?

The security deposit on a rental is designed to cover the cost of any damages caused by tenants. In most cases, a landlord will refund all or part of the deposit once the tenant moves out, but be sure you know what constitutes “damages.” Before moving in, do an inspection of the unit with the landlord. Take pictures and make note of the condition of the house, then add the signed inspection to the lease agreement so that you aren’t charged for damages that you didn’t cause.

Who is responsible for repairs and maintenance?

If you’re renting an apartment, most repairs will be the responsibility of the landlord, but be sure to ask. If you’re renting a house or duplex, the question of repairs may be more complex. You may be responsible for maintaining the yard while the landlord is responsible for repairing any included appliances. Also be sure you know who to contact and how if there is an emergency such as broken pipes, a furnace that doesn’t work, etc.

It’s always better to ask about any concerns you have before signing a lease or rental agreement in order to avoid problems down the road. If you’re unsure of anything, be sure to talk to the landlord so that there aren’t any problems. By having a clear understanding of your agreement, you can ensure that your relationship with your landlord is a good one. Ask!

Look At My Homes has several houses for rent in the Ellwood City, Cranberry Township and Koppel areas that are move-in ready. Call 724-714-9758 or email joey@lookatmyhomes.com for more information. To see what homes are currently available, visit the Look At My Homes rental page

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