15 Questions to Ask Before Renting an Apartment

By: ROS Team

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There is a famous line that goes, “Ask the right questions if you are to find the right answer.” And asking the right questions before renting an apartment can help determine the length of time you remain in your apartment.

1. How Long is the Lease?

During your search, you might have noticed the basics such as rent amount and location. But it is equally important to ask if there is a minimum or maximum lease duration. It is especially important to ask if you have been looking for a long term lease.

Don’t forget to include the term your landlord agreed to in the lease as this would be important should you ever have to dispute the terms in court.

2. Are there Penalties for Terminating the Lease Early?

Life takes unexpected turns and you never know what is coming your way. You might have planned your life with meticulous details but still, there is no guarantee of what’s to come.

With that in mind, you need to stay prepared. Ask the landlord about the conditions under which you may break the lease and what penalties would apply.

3. Which Utilities are Included in the Rent?

In NYC, you can expect leases that include utilities in the rent and those that don’t. Generally, the water and waste disposal bills are included in the rent. Occasionally other utility bills are also offered in the rent. Ask if utilities are included in the bill and, if so, which ones and for how long.Which utilities are included in the rent?

4. When May the Landlord Enter the Apartment?

Ask about landlord visits before renting an apartment to avoid future inconvenience or misunderstandings in the future. Though the landlord may exercise all rights over the property, it doesn’t mean he or she can enter the property on a whim.

As a matter of courtesy, the landlord should notify their tenant of their intent to visit the property and the reason(s) for the visit. The landlord should provide the planned date or a list of dates from which the tenant can review and select the date that works best.

5. What’s the Guest Policy?

We live in a socially-connected world and social gatherings are more common for some than others. Although there generally is no restriction, there may be certain building rules that don’t allow an excessive number of guests or have strict visiting hours for guests.

If you like to host gatherings, definitely ask about the guest policy before signing the lease.

6. What’s the Preferred Rent Payment Method?

To avoid any future misunderstanding, get a clear understanding of how the landlord prefers to receive the monthly rent. Is cold hard cash preferred or can payment be made via check? Also, ask if there is any way to submit rent electronically.

7. What Happens If the Rent is Late?

Landlords are always very conscious about on-time rent payments. Nothing bothers them more than having a tenant who has a bad habit of paying rent late. Most of the time, landlords assess a late fee on rent payments made after the due date or after a specified grace period. Ask about the grace period and when fees are assessed ahead of time.What happens if the rent is late?

8. Is Renter’s Insurance Required?

Landlords have homeowners insurance but that doesn’t cover their tenant’s belongings. Most of the time renter’s insurance isn’t mandatory, but some landlords do require it as a condition of the lease. In that case, you’ll need to consider that expense in your budget so it’s good to ask about it upfront.

9. Are Cosmetic Changes to the Apartment’s Interior Allowed?

If you are moving into an apartment or other type of rental space, you’ll have to face the fact that you have little or no say in the space’s interior design. You might or might not like the paint or other interior features at all.

Discuss whether making any cosmetic or structural changes is allowed with your potential landlord before signing on the dotted line. If minor retouches and tweaks are allowed, reach an understanding of how it should be handled should you ever decide to do them.

10. Is the Security Deposit Refundable?

You may be supposed to know that the money you paid to the landlord as a deposit is, in most cases, refundable at the end of the lease. However, there is no set time limit by which the landlord must return the funds.

Usually, the refund period is 45 to 70 days after the lease ends. Ask your landlord how long it will take to receive your refund and what percentage is refundable before you sign the lease.

11. Are Pets Allowed?

If you are a pet lover then this should be your first question. Usually, landlords’ stances on pets are in alignment with the building’s policy. But be advised that some landlords don’t allow pets even if they are allowed in the building. This is something to be crystal clear before renting.

12. Am I Responsible for any Maintenance Expenses?

Even though you will be inspecting the building before signing a lease, no one can ever predict what can or will break down in an apartment. What if there are leaks in the unit or if the air conditioner stops working? Ask the landlord how best to contact them if the apartment requires maintenance.

13. How Frequently is Routine Maintenance Conducted?

There will always be wear and tear no matter how long you live in an apartment. Ask the landlord whether routine maintenance takes place and how often.How Frequently is Routine Maintenance Conducted?

14. What are the Steps to Renew the Lease?

If you plan on staying in the apartment long term, you will be required to renew the lease. Ask about the procedure for doing so and what lease terms are available.

15. Is Subletting Allowed?

While it may not be in your immediate plans, it’s helpful to know whether the landlord allows subleasing in the event you need to vacate the apartment earlier than expected. Discuss this question with your landlord and ensure the lease addresses how this situation will be handled should it occur.


These 15 questions are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to possible questions to ask before renting an apartment. Doing your research and establishing a good rapport with the landlord upfront will help ensure any question you neglected to ask upfront can be asked later on.

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