Crucial Questions You Need to Ask
Your Prospective Landlord
Raise your hand if you love moving! Hahaha, just kidding. Hunting for an apartment can be a super exciting time in your life…but it can also be one of the most stressful things other than death, marriage, or starting a new job. Yikes!
Did you know landlords must legally comply with Fair Housing laws? I once went on a showing with a landlord who violated five Fair Housing laws in a sentence. I wasn’t even mad; I was impressed. One sentence!
Fair Housing laws came into effect during the Civil Rights movement in 1968 and outlawed discrimination in the rental or sale of housing. The Federal Fair Housing laws state that landlords cannot discriminate based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, or disability. Other Fair Housing laws are in effect, too, but it varies by city or state, so it’s good to check with your local ordinances.
You want to make sure you are going to find the home that is the best fit for you. I have moved one hundred million times throughout my life, and with each new hunt I learn something new still. A good landlord or property manager will ask questions to help you find the apartment that will work best for you. Oftentimes, prospective renters may feel pressured to make an on-the-spot decision by a pushy landlord – keep in mind that you don’t have to make a decision right away, unless that is what you choose to do. If a landlord is being rude when you are only looking at the apartment, imagine how they will treat you if you were a resident. This is what I call the “Honeymoon Period” - they should be wooing you, not deterring you.
The Crucial Questions to Ask:
1. Have you had or do you currently have issues with pests like cockroaches, mice, or bed bugs? If you currently have an issue, what preventative measures do you take, such as bi-monthly pest control treatment?
This is so important, because if there are current minor issues and you choose to move in, you won’t be surprised. A good landlord will be honest and upfront about any past or current pest issues, because a good landlord cares and doesn’t have anything to hide – they want you to be happy in your home.
2. Is this the actual apartment available for rent?
In the state of Minnesota, a prospective resident has the right to view the actual apartment available for rent before signing any lease documents. If it is a model home, schedule another appointment to view the actual home for rent. Sometimes the model unit will feature all upgraded appliances or brand new carpeting, whereas the actual unit for rent might have original appliances from the 1960s and shag carpet. Hey, vintage is back in, though, if that is your style!
3. How often are the locks changed and the carpets shampooed?
Good landlords exhibit good turnover etiquette by changing the locks and shampooing the carpeting after each resident as a minimum. Some landlords put on a fresh coat of paint throughout, too.
4. Are there quiet hours?
A lot of rental communities enforce quiet hours after 10:00 pm. Find out what their policy is to ensure you will have the right to peace and quiet.
5. Have you had any recent issues with flooding and/or recent mold or mildew damage? If so, how was this remediated?
The last thing you want to do is to move into a moldy apartment that has been freshly painted to give the semblance of a clean, habitable apartment.
6. What is included in the rent?
Most landlords cover the basic utilities: heat, water, trash, and sewer. Sometimes these utilities are not covered, or maybe only one of them is covered. Always ask what utilities are included. So, if you think you’ve found your dream apartment and find out it costs $200 per month to keep it warm during the winter, you might want to rethink your monthly budget or rethink your choice.
7. Do you offer a lease break or lease buy-out option?
Hey, you might score your dream job out of state and need to move on a whim. If your prospective landlord offers a lease break or lease buy-out option, you can rest assured knowing your rental history will not be tarnished should you follow the proper notice guideline and fee schedule associated with this option.
8. What is the turnover of maintenance requests, and when can I expect my request to be complete?
If the landlord does not know – move on somewhere else. A good landlord or property manager will know exactly how long it takes for maintenance requests to be completed. A good average is approximately 1-4 days, depending on the nature and severity of the request.
9. Do you offer after-hours emergency maintenance?
It’s not bad if a landlord doesn’t offer that, but if they don’t it’s best to find out right away in the event you get locked out at some point in your residency. If it is not offered, find out if there is a caretaker or resident manager that resides on-site, or who to contact in the event of an emergency. If the landlord does offer after-hours emergency maintenance – congrats! You’ll know you can trust someone to come out and help with the issue you are experiencing.
10. Can I customize the apartment?
If painting is important, you will want to find out the paint policy, if such one exists, prior to signing your name on the dotted line. Some landlords don’t allow any cosmetic changes to the apartment (including hanging pictures), and some will only allow so with written permission and you will need to restore the unit back to its original condition. If you are curious about hanging your 52” TV on the living room wall – find out if you can. Each landlord has their own set of rules when it comes to decorating and/or customizing your home.