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Questions to Ask Before Signing a Lease Agreement

Moving into a new rental can be both stressful and exciting.


In the hustle of looking for a new place, it can be simpler to skip the gritty details for the sake of brevity and get on with the moving process. But, renters are doing themselves (and their respective landlords) a disservice when failing to ask questions before signing a lease agreement.


No one wants to end up in a bad rental situation, but you are guaranteeing trouble if you forget that renting a home (while a deeply personal process for renters) is at its core a business transaction. You will benefit from treating your interactions with any potential managers or landlords professionally and taking advantage of your meetings with them by getting answers to any of your questions.


Tenants should treat meeting their prospective landlords like a job interview--if you get a bad feeling about them in the initial meeting, there’s a chance you won’t enjoy dealing with them throughout your tenancy. And landlords and property managers should know that A potential tenant that asks these questions demonstrates the seriousness and maturity in the apartment search process.


The next time you are searching for your dream rental, don’t forget to touch on these questions to get the full details on rent, the lease, the application process, maintenance, and utilities.


Financial Questions For Your Landlord:


  1. What is the cost of rent?

  2. How much is the deposit?

  3. Do you require 1st and last months’ rent at the start of tenancy?

  4. How much is due at the beginning of the lease term? How much will be refundable?

  5. What day will rent be due?

  6. Is there a grace period for rent? (Grace periods are the window of time a landlord will accept rent payment after a due date. Although rent paid during the grace period is technically late, a landlord may choose to not charge a late fee during this time. Some states require a grace period be offered to tenants.)

  7. What is your policy on late rent? (Do not focus too greatly on this question, or you may raise a red flag to your prospective manager who may think you will be likely to pay late.)

  8. If I have a roommate, do you accept separate payments, or us to pool funds and write one check per month?

  9. Where or how do I pay rent? Mailed check, office drop-offs, or online payment?


Lease Questions:


  1. What is the lease term?

  2. Will the lease auto-renew, or turn into a month-to-month agreement after the term ends?

  3. If the fixed-term lease ends, when do I need to move out?

  4. How much notice must I give if I decide to move out?

  5. How do you handle the lease renewal process?

  6. Do you allow subletting?

  7. In what circumstances will you require a cosigner to sign the lease?

  8. Do roommates each have a separate lease agreement with you or do we all sign the same lease?


Questions about the Application Process

  1. Do I need to fill out an application? Is there a fee associated with it?

  2. If I don’t get approved, is my application fee refundable?

  3. Do you plan on running my criminal background, reviewing my credit report and contacting my rental references?

  4. Do I need to provide any supporting documents along with my application? Bank statements? Letters of Recommendation? (You may find it useful to offer a Renter Resume that has all your relevant rental information).

  5. Is there already a waiting list for this property? How many people have applied before me?


Questions about Maintenance

  1. Does management live onsite or near this rental property?

  2. How do I address emergency maintenance; is there a 24-hour number I can call?

  3. How do I submit minor maintenance requests, like a dripping faucet or a broken garbage disposal?

  4. What is your policy and turnaround for maintenance requests?

  5. Have there been any past issues with infestations?

  6. What are the extermination policies?

  7. Have there been any major repairs or renovations done in the past year? Are there any planned for the upcoming year?

  8. Who is responsible for removing snow and ice in the winter?

  9. Who handles the landscaping of the property?

  10. Who is responsible for handling what repairs, including small ones?

  11. Would you consider offering a discount if I manage repairs myself?


Utility Questions:


  1. What utility services are included and what am I responsible for?

  2. Do you have a list of what local companies I need to contact to set up utilities not included with rent?

  3. Is the property heated with gas or with electricity?

  4. What is an average utility bill for this property?


Additional Questions:

  1. Is there a parking policy and additional fee?

  2. Do you have guest parking?

  3. Do you have restrictions on guests visiting the property?

  4. Are there common areas that can be reserved for private events?

  5. What is the pet policy and fees associated with pets?

  6. What are the nearest points of interest locally? (Grocery, banks etc.)

  7. How close is public transportation?

  8. Is the property in a walkable location?

  9. Have you or when will you change the lock on the door from the last tenant?

  10. What happens if I get locked out of my apartment?

  11. What should I do if I notice another tenant violating the lease? Like smoking on the property or late night parties that violate the noise policy?

  12. How often do you perform property inspections?

  13. How much notice are tenants given before routine inspections or maintenance?


This may seem like a lot of questions for a future landlord, but having the answers upfront can prevent you from entering into a legal agreement for a rental situation that will not fit your needs. Being prepared ahead of time with the knowledge of how your landlord handles common rental tasks will save you time in the future and help when making an important housing decision – like signing a lease!

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