Almost everyone becomes a renter at some point in their lives. It could be you, and it could become your children if you have any. That’s why everyone should know what questions to ask when renting a house.
Learning how to handle the tenant-landlord relationship is crucial to anyone renting a home, so knowing what to look for and what to ask is a cornerstone for navigating what it means to be an adult. To start you and yours on the right path, we’ve compiled a list of questions that you should consider asking as you think about finding housing for rent.
By When Do You Hope To Have The Home Filled?
Start the discussion with the landlord with this question. Having a timeline in place lets you know if you are in a time crunch or if you have some time to make a decision. It also saves you wasted time if you know you won’t be able to meet the deadline they want to achieve.
Even if you’re the ideal tenant, if the landlord needs someone sooner than you’re available, then meeting and talking about the rental isn’t going to do anyone any good.
How Long Is The Lease?
While not quite as open-ended as other questions, this is an important one to ask up front. If you only need some place to live for six months, but the lease requirement is two years, then nothing else really matters from a business perspective.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t ask if the landlord is willing to make exceptions. Occasionally, they are willing, so you do need to know one way or the other before going forward with getting more information about the property you’re interested in.
You can also extend your question into whether or not the lease can be renewed at the end of the duration or if you can continue to live there on a month-to-month basis.
Can You Clarify Rent?
By asking the landlord to clarify the rent, you give the opportunity for them to let you know what the current rent is for the property along with the expected deposit. If the price has changed from the listing, there are a couple of possibilities.
A higher price in the listing may contradict what the landlord is currently expecting. If the price is lower, you can get a better price than expected. If the rate is higher, you can point out the difference and likely get the lower price.
Can You Please Clarify What Is Included With Rent?
Certain properties also include the cost of utilities with the rent. Theoretically, this should be described in the ad that led you to the landlord, but you should ask just to be sure so that you don’t find out that you can’t afford the monthly cost after the fact.
If utilities are included, make sure you know which ones. Some rental properties will include electricity, but they may not include water or trash pickup. Others will include all of the utilities including certain amenities like cable, satellite, or even wifi.
Can You Tell Me More About Deposits And Other Fees?
This question works the same way the rent questions do because you may find out that the deposit is less than you were expecting to pay. It also lets you know if there are any other fees that you will have to pay. You can find out whether or not there is a non-refundable deposit required, too.
Plot twist! Some states have laws in place that say non-refundable deposits are illegal, so check your state laws before interviewing a landlord to make sure they’re not doing anything they’re not supposed to. You may want to steer clear because they are knowingly doing this or they are not keeping up with the laws, neither of which bodes well for you.
Another answer you should listen for is regarding pet deposits if you have a furry friend that you want to have live with you. Many places do have a no-pet policy while others may have restrictions on specific breeds, sizes, or other various conditions.
How Should I Pay You?
Asking about how the landlord accepts payment can very well make or break your decision to sign a rental agreement. If they require payment methods you don’t have, then you’re going to need to decide if it’s worth it to go forward. As an example, if they require a service like Venmo or Paypal and you don’t have an account, you need to decide if you feel comfortable paying like that.
Alternatively, if they tell you that payment must be cash only, there are precautions that you need to take. The best advice is to stay away from a cash-only rental, but if you don’t have any other options, make sure you always get a written receipt that is dated and signed for every payment you make.
What About Late Fees Or Lease Termination?
Most landlords understand that life happens and that people are going to be late on payments every so often or that the lease may have to be terminated. You also need to understand that when you’re late on your rent or need to end your contract early, you may also be putting your landlord’s financial obligations in jeopardy.
As an example, if your rent pays the mortgage on a rental property, when you’re late, there is likely a late fee that is assessed on the payment. Expect to pay that late fee because it’s only fair. There may also be a fee to terminate a lease early because the landlord needs to be able to meet their obligations, too.
Be wary of a landlord that tells you that you can pay your rent when you can or that you absolutely cannot end your lease early — the first means that they’re not great at following their own rules and the latter means that you could be setting yourself up for failure.
Is There A Subletting Policy?
You need to know if there is a policy in place that allows subletting, so add this one to the list of questions to ask when renting a house or any unit. This is useful in case you do ever need to leave early. What it means is that the landlord allows you to find someone to take your place in the rental unit should you ever need to leave.
How Do You Screen Applicants?
You want the landlord to give you details about how they select their tenants. By asking this question and giving them the opportunity to elaborate on their criteria, it lets you know what they expect from you.
Some landlords also require credit reports as part of the process. Find out what kind of report they pull because a hard report has a negative impact on your credit, and a soft report does not. If they aren’t sure about which report they’re pulling, it’s a safe bet that it is likely a hard pull which will hurt your credit.
How Would You Describe Your Perfect Tenant?
This can be a very telling question. Depending on how the landlord answers, you’ll get a glimpse of how the tenant thinks as well as what the landlord expects of the tenant. It will also help you decide if you’re the type of tenant that the landlord wants.
As an example, if the landlord tells you that the ideal tenant doesn’t have kids or pets, if you have either one of those, then you may as well be out of the running. The landlord may also show discriminatory preferences, so if that’s a problem for you, you’ll have a chance to hear it and decide.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask The Questions
If you’re new to renting, you may feel a bit intimidated, so remember that asking the questions can make your life easier in the future. Open-ended questions are the best because you can get your potential landlord to give more information than was initially intended.
Letting the landlord ramble about the property can give you some insight into the property, the landlord, and how they might handle tenants or issues that may arise. If you go in knowing what questions to ask when renting a house, you’ll be ahead of the game.