19 Questions to ask before renting your first apartment

By Jared McKinney

Knowing what questions to ask when renting an apartment and knowing what to look out for during apartment walkthroughs are some of the most important aspects of the apartment search process and can make or break finding a great new home.

From seasoned renters to those moving out for the first time, there’s almost always something that we forget to acknowledge when looking for our next apartment for rent. Sometimes it’s not a big deal such as forgetting to ask if blinds come with the windows. Other times, forgetting to remember to check if you have reception in your prospective apartment could lead to months of inconvenience.

Our Apartment Checklist should help you finalize that lease agreement so you can be rest assured that your new apartment is perfect.

Questions to ask your leasing agent:

Are utilities included? How much do they generally cost?

Obvious, but always necessary. Utilities range across buildings and cities. Your leasing agent should know the answer and in many places you can call the utility providers to get estimates from them directly.

What’s the parking situation like for your vehicles? How close are guest spots and extra spots to your apartment?

Are spots reserved or first come? Can you pay extra for additional reserved spots or a garage?

Will your apartment fit your storage needs? Are storage sheds/garages available?

Especially when you are sharing an apartment with a roommate, knowing exactly how much room you have will prevent you from choosing an apartment that will leave your closets jam-packed for your entire lease.

What is the path of the sun over the available apartment? Will you receive lots of natural lighting or will your apartment feel like a cave?

Light is important for both people and pets. If you work from home or you have a furry friend, having plenty of natural light will be crucial for yours and your pet’s happiness.

Questions to ask about your lease agreement:

Is there a fee if you have to break your lease?

Is your rent prorated on half months?

What’s the policy around subletting?

Under what circumstance can a landlord terminate your lease?

Most importantly, get everything in writing. If your leasing agent promises you anything that is not within the lease, have them write it down for future reference (and ideally in an email so it’s clearly dated). Also take lots of photos upon your initial move in and email them to your landlord, highlighting any issues so there are no discrepancies when you move out.

Questions to ask and things to do as you tour an apartment complex:

How much cell phone reception do you receive on the property? In your prospective apartment?

Forgetting to do this is more important that you could ever realize. Unless it’s happened to you already.

Do other residents say hello first to the leasing agent? Or does the leasing agent initiate conversations?

A leasing agent is going to be as friendly as possible to you and everyone that you run into while you are on an apartment tour. To help gauge how friendly and liked (and likely how helpful) the leasing agent is, look for the conversations initiated by the residents. If the residents are genuinely happy to see their leasing staff they’ll speak first and that’s a great sign of good management.

What are the other residents like?

Given Fair Housing Laws, the leasing agent can’t legally say a whole lot about this. So, look for signs. Are there a lot of child-oriented things like bikes and toys on balconies? Is there a college nearby that would give easy access for college students? However, they will tell you if they accept Section 8 Housing and convicted felons. Also, ask about any preferred employer discounts to get a sense where the community draws its residents from.

What’s the quality of the property? Is it well-kept? Do the buildings need renovations?

While the majority of properties are kept in decent shape, if the one you are looking at does have any signs of poor maintenance, that’s a red flag that the management might be negligent.

Check to see if the outlets work

It’s always a good idea to bring a phone charger to make sure all the outlets work.

How pet friendly is this property?

Are there open areas for you to walk your dogs and take them to the bathroom? Are doggy bags supplied? Is there a dog park? Be responsible for your pet and look at your potential apartment community through their eyes.

Questions to ask in order to get an understanding of the area and location:

How convenient is transportation?

How close is the highway? What types of cars do you find on the street? Is there public transit nearby and how close to the property does it come.

Is this property in a good school district?

Is there a school nearby? What kind of ratings does the school have?

What are the businesses nearby?

How close is fast food? Gas stations? Pawn shops? Is there a bar in the immediate neighborhood? What kind of crowd does it draw?

How safe is the neighborhood?

Ask about the neighborhood’s crime area. You can also check out crime reports of the area online or call the local police department.

What’s the area like during rush hour? During nighttime?

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