Whether you’re making a move to the city of your dreams or seeking change in your very own hometown, apartment hunting is always a tricky task. You want something that’s within your budget, but also fits the criteria of the “three L”s of real estate: location, location, location. And you don’t want to be hit with any hidden fees, or find out your upstairs neighbors are starting nightly renovations … right after you move in.
Before you accept those keys to your new pad, be sure to ask these 10 important questions:
Are utilities included in the rent?
Some apartments include utilities in the rent, and some don’t. Find out ahead of time what services you’d need to install, if any. And if you are in charge of handling all utilities, ask for an estimate of monthly fees.
It’s also worth finding out if there’s a recommended provider for cable and internet. According to US News, you might be able to snag cheaper bills through the building’s property management company.
What are the rules regarding overnight guests and short-term rentals?
Many buildings have a limit to how many days a guest can crash on your couch — typically around 14 consecutive days per month. Some buildings using your space for short-term rentals (AKA Airbnbs). If either of those would be a problem for you, it’s best to know ahead of time. You can check out NOLO for information on legal restrictions for listing your home on rental services.
While you’re at it, ask about subleasing. Even if you have zero plans to leave in the next 12 months, it’s impossible to predict the future. In case something comes up that forces you to move, find out whether a subleaser situation would be permitted in your lease.
Where can visitors and I park?
The landlord should tell you whether or not you get a parking spot. In some cases, a parking area with unassigned spots can be used by anyone; in others, you need to pay monthly and may or may not get an assigned spot. If that’s not an option, ask about parking in the surrounding area.
Be sure to ask about additional parking for visitors, too.
What’s the pet policy?
Pet policies are often more complicated than simply “allowed” or not. Some buildings allow cats but not dogs. Some welcome small dogs but not big ones. And others do accept big dogs, but are wary towards breeds that may not be fit for apartment life.
If having a dog or cat is a problem for the landlord, The Humane Society suggests bringing a “resume” from past landlords and trainers. Or you can request a meeting to show off your furry BFF’s good behavior.
Once your pet is accepted (follow these smart tips for stress-free moving with pets), you’ll likely need to pay a deposit, and in some cases, a non refundable cleaning fee. Prices for a pet deposit tend to vary based on breed and the building policy, so ask before you sign.
Do building amenities cost extra?
If the building comes with some sweet perks like a rooftop garden, a pool, or a fitness center, that’s great. What’s not so great is finding out after you’ve moved in that you have to pay an additional fee for access to each. Ask the landlord before you move in, and if there is an associated cost, make sure the prices outlined for this in the lease match what they’ve told you.
If laundry isn’t included in-unit, then ask whether there’s a building-run option. If so, confirm if it’s coin-operated or if it requires an extra card registration.
Are there any move-in day restrictions?
You don’t want to take the whole day off work, pack all your stuff, and arrive at your new apartment … only to find out you can’t actually move, because of building restrictions.
Yet that’s exactly what might happen if you aren’t aware of the building’s move-in policy. According to the New York Times, many buildings in New York City have a policy preventing move-ins and move-outs on weekends or after regular business hours. The same could go for your building or city.
Ask ahead to be sure, then call on Dolly to bring truck and muscle so your entire move is stress-free!
Are there plans to make upgrades to the complex or nearby area?
This is the polite way of asking whether there’s going to be loud construction raging across the hall or an increase in rent in the near future.
While you’re on the topic of volume, keep in mind that many building managers are often the first to be informed of noise complaints, so they’re a great person to ask about the area’s general noise level.
Do you require renters insurance?
While you might be wondering if renters insurance is worth it, the truth is that some buildings require it. Now’s a good time to learn if you need it.
If the building does require renters insurance, check out a site like Policygenius to determine the best plan for your lifestyle.
Who do I contact in case of a building emergency?
This might not seem like an issue now. But when it’s 3 AM on a Tuesday morning and the pipes suddenly burst, you’ll want to know who to call.
Find out what the procedure is if you encounter a building issue, and ensure you keep that info handy if you do accept the apartment.
What are my lease renewal options?
If you love your place and you want to extend your residency, it’s best to know in advance whether that’s an option.
Take NYC, for example. If you’re lucky to snag a rent-stabilized apartment, you must be offered a lease renewal for a one- or two-year term.
But if your potential landlord is planning renovations in the near future, you might need to leave after your lease is up. Before you get cozy in your brand new city pad, it’s best to know how long you’ll be settling in.
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