What to Ask Before You Rent

When renting an apartment, there are a multitude of things you need to know in order to make an informed decision. While there are certain things that may seem obvious (the rent, security deposit, etc.), many others are not as obvious but just as important. Making sure you understand your lease will ensure that you pay your rent on time, stick to the rules, and get a good recommendation from your landlord if and when you decide to move out.

Financial Questions

1. Are there income requirements?

Oftentimes, you must make a certain amount of money per year to rent an apartment that is set at a specific rate. If you do not make that amount you are usually required to have a co-signer or guarantor, someone who can guarantee the rent if the tenant is unable to pay it, on the lease.

2. How long is the lease?

Some apartments are available for multi-year leases. In doing this, you set a specific rate for that apartment, and it is guaranteed to not increase during the term of your lease.

3. What is the monthly rent?

This one may seem relatively self-explanatory but be sure to have your landlord or management company specify the exact rent amount. This way there is no confusion.

4. What utilities/services are included in the monthly rent?

Is leaf removal included in your monthly rent? What about any utilities like gas, electric, hot water, etc.? Make sure you know what is included before you sign your lease.

5. Just in case, what are the late fees and how are they assessed?

If you happen to have to pay your rent late, you want to know what the late fees are, if you have a grace period (some places offer a 5-day grace period), and if there are other penalties associated with late payments in advance of signing your lease.

6. What is the security deposit?

A security deposit is in case of damage beyond normal wear and tear and helps offset the costs of a tenant breaking their lease early. Oftentimes, a security deposit is one-to-two months’ rent in addition to your initial month’s rent. This deposit is usually returned in full to the tenant upon moving out, as long as the apartment is in appropriate condition.

7. What form(s) of payment do you accept for monthly rent and security deposit?

Sometimes you have to mail a check to pay your rent. Nowadays, you can also do automatic payments through your bank that go directly to your landlord or management company’s bank account. Maybe instead of mailing a check, you drop one off at the on-site offices. Be sure to find out!

Environmental Questions

8. Is there access to laundry on site?

Having access to laundry facilities is a game changer. If there is an accident in the middle of the night, you can start the laundry immediately. A washer and dryer are available at all our apartments in both Hillsborough County and Brevard County.

9. Who is responsible for maintenance and how do I contact them?

At Garden Communities Florida, we have 24-hour emergency maintenance available to our residents. If something goes wrong (a pipe bursts, your air conditioning stops working in mid-July, your key is not working), you can contact us immediately. Find out who oversees maintenance and how to contact them.

10. What is security on the property like?

You want to be safe. You want your family to be safe. Make sure you ask what the security is like on the property. Is it a gated community? Is there plenty of lighting? Visit the community at night to see how you feel about it.

11. How many designated parking spots am I assigned?

Apartment communities will often offer parking for the tenants. But an important question to ask is whether it is per apartment or per person. If there are two people living in the apartment who both drive cars, are they offered two parking spots? Is there an additional fee for a second parking spot?

12. Am I allowed to paint and/or make holes in the walls to decorate my apartment?

This one is a big one, as we all want to make our homes feel like our homes. Being able to paint the walls or hang artwork is not always allowed in apartment communities, but don’t let that stop you. There are plenty of ways to decorate your apartment without losing your deposit.

13. Are pets allowed?

We all want to bring our furry friends to our new home. But make sure it’s allowed! You may have to pay a pet deposit or a little extra in your rent per month, but you have to ask before you move in. And if you already live there and want to adopt a pet, find out what you’ll have to do to be able to do that. Communication is key.

14. Who has access to the keys for this apartment?

You want to know who has access to your home. It will likely only be the tenants and the maintenance team, but find out before you move in.

15. Is renters’ insurance required?

Some apartment communities require renters’ insurance. This can cover theft, water damage, fire damage, and other unpredictable problems that can come up.

16. What is the guest policy?

If you have a security desk, chances are your guests will have to be announced or will have to sign in upon arrival. You also want to find out where guest parking is, so that your guests do not accidentally take up a resident parking space.

Renewal Questions

17. How much notice am I given for a rent increase?

The general time to receive notice of a rent increase is 30 to 60 days. It will be laid out in your lease but finding out early will help ease your mind. A rent increase will almost always coincide with an offer for a lease renewal.

18. How much notice do I have to give upon moving out?

Again, the rule of thumb is 30 to 60 days. Letting your landlord know you will not be renewing your lease within this time frame gives them time to list your apartment and allow for potential updates to the space.

19. Can I sublet my apartment?

This is an important one to ask right away. Most companies will not allow you to sublet your space and having that in writing is prudent.

20. What is the penalty for breaking my lease, if an emergency arises?

We know that situations arise when people have to terminate their lease early. Maybe they’ve bought a house, are moving in to take care of a loved one, are moving for work, or some other reason. Find out before you move in what happens if you have to break your lease early.