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Questions to Ask When Renting

Apartment hunting can be tough. If you don’t ask the right questions and talk to the right people, you may end up signing a lease that ties you to a miserable existence for a year or more. On the other hand, the right approach can land you in an apartment you will enjoy for years. 

When searching for an apartment, talk to some of the tenants as well as the landlord or apartment manager. You’ll get honest answers and a different viewpoint. If most of the residents work during the day, visit at least once in the evening so you can talk to several different people and try to meet your potential neighbors.

Some questions to ask (and who to ask) include:

  1. Ask the manager what is and isn’t included in the rent. If utilities aren’t included, ask about average utilities. This can be tricky – a manager should be able to show you representative bills (with names blacked out) from previous months. If he or she can’t, but sure to ask some tenants about their utility bills and for details about their usage, i.e. do they use their AC, etc.
  1. What are the noise rules in the building? Is there a noise problem? Do the apartments have sound proof walls? Again, you’ll want to ask not only the manager about this, but residents, as well. The manager may tell you there isn’t a problem, but tenants may tell you it is  noisy on weekends or sometimes at night. The only exception would be if the building has sound proof drywall, a feature that is becoming more and more popular. The apartment manager will probably mention if the building it is soundproofed. Soundproofing enhances privacy - a huge selling point.
  1. Ask the manager about crime rates in the area and the location of the nearest police station and fire house. He or she should be able to provide the contact information for each of these.
  1. What is the policy on pets? If pets are allowed, what types and how many? If the prior tenants had pets, ask the landlord to have the apartment professionally cleaned to eliminate any pet dander before moving in. If you will be bringing pets, ask about any leash rules or other guidelines.
  1. Ask about the apartment building’s dispute resolution policy. If you have a complaint about a neighbor (loud noises, they block your parking space, etc.), how will the manager handle the situation and are you okay with that?
  1. Ask the manager how you may alter the apartment. Will you be allowed to paint or hang pictures on the walls? If you have a long-term lease, can you complete major renovations such as knocking out a wall, updating the kitchen, or installing sound proof walls? In some cases, particularly in higher end condominiums or lease-to-own situations, permanent improvements are allowed with prior written approval from the landlord.
  1. Ask neighbors what the general mood of the apartment building is like. Are neighbors friendly with each other or do they keep to themselves? If you are hoping to socialize, tenants that have community parties and keep an eye on each other are a good fit. If you want maximum privacy, however, you don’t want neighbors who drop by all the time. Find a community that suits your lifestyle.

f possible, ask the manager for permission to spend an hour or two in the apartment you are considering on a Friday or Saturday evening. This is a good way to get an idea of the apartment’s privacy level, noise level, and overall appeal. Bring a cup of coffee, your MP3 player, and a good book, and spend time in each of the rooms. Open and close windows, listen for outside noise, and try the faucets and light fixtures. Take a stroll through the building and surrounding area to get a feel for the atmosphere and vibe. By the time you’ve asked all the questions and had a “test-run,” you should know if the apartment is right for you.

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