This article will discuss the ideal questions to ask when renting an apartment. It also offers renters some suggestions for where to begin when searching for the perfect place.


Is the rent cost-controlled?

This is probably one of the main questions to ask when renting an apartment. Many naive renters enter agreements assuming that the rent will remain fixed at the initial rental rate indefinitely. This is seldom the case, as many landlords and property companies escalate the rent by 10-20% or more after the initial agreement expires.

While this figure won’t be a problem for some renters, other renters – such as students or temps on a project with an indeterminate or awkward length – may be put into the unpalatable position of having to sign a second, unwieldy lease. If a temp or a student has to leave shortly into the second lease, there could be considerable sub-leasing or early termination fees.

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It’s important for all renters to know what the cost could be after the initial 6-12 month term, even if the renter only plans on being in an apartment or rental property for a relatively short time period. This is not information that landlords are likely to volunteer, so it’s incumbent upon renters to get concrete numbers on potential rent increases early in the process.


What is the total cost to move in?

Most renters anticipate costs equal to one-to-two months’ rent, plus a security deposit or perhaps a third share equal to the monthly rent figure. But many developments and landlords have a handful of extra expenses – HOA, water or trash services, application fees, pet fees, and so on.

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All of these fees, combined with the rent charges and security deposit, could put a strain on a young professional’s budget. Long before committing to an apartment or unit, a renter should investigate any and all of the potential fees that he or she will be responsible for at move-in.


Which utility costs are the renter or tenant responsible for?

Another one of the most important questions to ask when renting an apartment is which utilities will be covered by the landlord or development, and which are the responsibility of the renter. This information can not only significantly impact a renter’s monthly budget, but also serve as an incentive to pick a particular property or apartment.

As suggested above, many complexes and landlords figure smaller utilities such as water or trash removal into the monthly rent. Some communities will include free Wi-Fi service as part of the amenities package, and this inclusion can be significant, saving renters $50 or more per month in internet charges.

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If a renter is looking for apartments in cities that get extremely hot or cold during the summer and winter months, then it would also be a good idea to get an estimate of average heating or electric costs from the landlord.

Someone renting in New York City should inquire about what the prior tenant paid for heating or electricity during December and January, or perhaps get a cost estimate from a similar-sized unit in the same building. The opposite would apply to renters looking for apartments in cities such as Miami or Tampa: What is the average cost of running the air conditioning during the summer months?

If the landlord or property manager refuses to divulge this information or address these concerns, it could possibly be a red flag. Potential tenants can contact local utility companies to get an idea of what it might cost to run electric or water service to a given unit if the landlord doesn’t provide utility cost information in a timely manner.


Am I responsible for appliance breakdowns?

Just to be safe, a renter working out an agreement with a smaller landlord should also find out if the tenant is in any way responsible for breakdowns to air conditioning or heating units, as well as how timely a landlord will be repairing these units. Spending several weeks in sweltering heat due to a broken air conditioner is no way to spend the first summer in a new city.

In any event, the best practice is for a renter to know which utilities are the renter’s responsibility, and which are rolled into the monthly rental cost. This could have a strong bearing on a renter’s decision to go with a particular property or apartment.


Can I make changes to the apartment?

Lastly, one of the smarter questions to ask when renting an apartment is which changes a tenant can make to the apartment. This can vary a great deal from location to location.

While renters staying in a city or town temporarily won’t be apt to make major changes to an apartment, renters on longer timelines may want to personalize their apartments by decorating or repainting. It’s important to know which changes are permissible, and which ones potentially violate a lease or rental agreement.

Say, you’re naturally artistic or plan to put your imprint on a rental unit. Make sure to discuss the type of changes that you want to make with your landlord or property manager. This, again, is something to discuss in the preliminary stages of apartment hunting. You definitely don’t want to put this off after you’ve already signed a year-long lease.

At move-in, be sure to inspect and photograph the current state of the apartment in case you are later held liable for any damage due to alterations.


Consider a furnished apartment

Renters who want to remove some of the complications of moving into a new city and shorten their rental checklists may want to consider renting a furnished apartment. This approach can remove a lot of potential headaches of chasing the perfect apartment and help renters budget more easily.

People who work remotely will have their own checklist of considerations beyond moving. Temps and roamers will also want to investigate options for renters insurance. They should also ensure they have enough coverage.

Digital nomads, students, professionals working temp assignments, and people working on shorter window projects may want to consider Blueground as a solution. Blueground homes are ready to go and have utilities already hooked up. This removes a great deal of haggling and hassles out of the rental process.

Moreover, they include a handy neighborhood guide in the Blueground Guest App. The app guides short-term renters toward the best gyms, grocery stores, and pharmacies in their new neighborhood.

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