Questions to Ask When Looking to Rent or Lease

These are some questions you will want to ask any potential property landlords or managers while you are searching. Even when you are getting close to making a final choice you should ask these questions before committing to an agreement.

There are a lot of questions, but these can help you make a smart choice. If you are signing a 12-month lease, or even putting a deposit down, you don't want to find out that you made a mistake. It could be that you realized you are too far from a bus stop, there is no place of worship for your faith, and/or you didn't realize you needed to pay extra for a pet.

Many times you can find the information you are looking for via the property website.


Rent

  • How much is the monthly rent?
  • How many of us may rent and live at this rental address?
  • May I rent from you for a twelve-month, nine-month, or lesser time period?
  • Where and when must rent be paid? If rent is paid after that date, do you charge a late fee?
  • How much are late fees?
  • If one month’s rent payment is late, does the lease contain an acceleration clause?
    • An acceleration clause is if you miss a payment it causes all remaining rent to become due and payable.
    • May each roommate pay his/her portion of the rent with separate checks?
    • What other services or utilities are included with the rent/lease agreement?
    • Are any of the following utilities billed separately from the rental or lease agreement?
      • Heat
      • Water/sewer
      • Hot water
      • Electricity
      • Parking (What about guest parking)
      • Air conditioning
      • Garbage collection
      • Repairs of any kind. If so, why?
      • Cable TV
      • Are pets allowed? What are the fees associated with having a pet?
      • Is the property using gas, electric or oil to provide heat and cooking fuel? (This is more important if you will have to pay for this utility.)


Facilities and Amenities

These will vary from property to property. Some may be available to you but at an additional fee per month or for an additional deposit.

  • Is the apartment furnished or unfurnished?
  • Are a stove and refrigerator provided?
  • Are drapes and curtains provided?
  • Are there screens on the doors? Windows? Sliding Glass Doors?
  • Is there a fire extinguisher in the apartment? Are there smoke alarms? How often are they checked and tested?
  • Has the apartment been insulated or weather-stripped for more energy efficiency?
  • What are average heating/cooling bills?
  • Is a laundry available on the premises? If not, where is the closest Laundromat?
  • Is a storage area outside of the apartment provided?
  • How is access to the area obtained? Is a fee charged?
  • Is indoor or outdoor bicycle storage provided?
  • Does a bicycle have to be registered? If so, with whom?

 

Questions to ask while filling out lease or rental applications

An application for a rental or lease is separate from an actual lease or rental agreement. The application for an agreement is to see if you are qualified under the guidelines set by the landlord or property managers.

  • Must prospective tenants submit an application for a lease?
  • Is a fee required with my application? If so, what happens to that money?
  • Does the act of submitting an application commit me and/or my parents to sign a lease?
  • What are my obligations if my application is accepted?
  • Can you give me a copy of the lease at this time?


Security Deposits

  • How much is the security deposit?
  • When must it be paid? When is it returned, or may it be used as my last month’s rent?
  • Do I receive interest on my deposit?
  • What must I do to have my security deposit returned in full?
  • Which bank will hold my security deposit?


Damage Report

  • Will someone help me complete the damage report when I move in and out?
  • How much time is allowed to report damage that wasn’t initially apparent (e.g. a broken refrigerator-shelf support that won’t stay up when groceries are put on it)?

 

Lease Obligations

  • Who are the landlord and/or the landlord’s property manager? (Many times for multi-apartment properties, the landlord will have property managers handle the operations of the property.)
  • What are their addresses?
  • Will the lease be written or oral? (As a note it is safer for both the landlord and yourself to get a written agreement)
  • What rules and regulations must I follow upon signing the lease?
  • Are there any set property rules or regulations?
  • How much notice is needed to renew or terminate the lease?


Lease Guarantee

  • Do the payments for the lease agreement need to be guaranteed? If yes, by why and by whom?
    • This is a clause that somehow ensures the payments of the lease even if the tenant fails to make payments. Like having a cosigner who will agree to pay in the tenant fails to pay.

 

Escalator Clause

These are terms that pass on increase costs to the tenant, if an increase occurs. This will increase you payments per month depending

  • Does the lease contain escalator clauses that could cause my rent to increase during the lease period?
  • For example, are any energy-cost increases passed on to the tenant?
  • In previous years, were such assessments made: and if so, by what amount did they exceed the base rental figure?

 

Subletting

A sublease is when someone else takes over your current lease. This option, if available, is great if you move out before your lease term ends. For students who will be living at an apartment for just the academic year, which runs about 10 months, you will still be liable for the last two months. With the approval of your landlord, you can have someone take over the responsibility for the remaining term of your lease. Sometimes the landlord or property manager will assist in finding a sublease but usually it will be the tenant's responsibility to find one.

  • May I sublet or assign my lease?
  • May I find someone who is willing to make a new lease and end my responsibility?
  • Must you approve my sub lessee or assignee?
  • Will you assist me in finding a sub lessee or someone willing to assume a new lease?
  • Are fees charged for these options?

 

Visitors

Be sure to read your lease about visitors. In some cases you may need to clear anyone stay with you for an extended period of time.

  • Does the lease agreement violate a tenant’s legal right to have visitors for a “reasonable time?”
  • Does it attempt to define “reasonable time?”


Renter’s Insurance

Renter's insurance is required, most of the time, in any agreement. Speak with your parents or family members to see what company they use for insurance if you don't know where to start looking.

  • Do I need to purchase it or do you provide it?
  • Don’t forget to get receipts for money paid!

 

Moving In  

  • What’s the earliest date I may move in?
    • This is important if you moving in from out of the area and need to plan other logistics like flights and deliveries
    • May I move in earlier if the present tenant leaves early? Do I need the tenant’s written permissions to do so?
    • Is there a fee for moving in early? (If so, do I pay you or the tenant?)
    • If my apartment isn’t ready, clean, or in good repair, who’s responsible? When will the repairs or cleaning be done?

 

Security

  • Do you change locks at no charge between the moving out and moving in of tenants?
  • Is there a charge for keys?
  • Do you have a dead-bolt lock or other secure locking device that operates only from inside the apartment on all doors?
  • Do you have a mechanical locking device operated only from inside the apartment, other than those manufactured as part of the window or door, on all windows and sliding glass doors?
  • If I wish to install a dead-bolt lock or other locking device, may I do it? Will there be a charge?
  • Do you have a peephole or viewer in solid doors that enables the tenant to see who is at the door before opening it?
  • If I lose my key and want either another key or the lock changed, is there a charge? If so, how much?


Right of Entry

Right of entry are the set of regulations that dictate how and why a property manager or a representative can enter a tenant’s apartment.

  • How much advance notice will I receive before your staff comes to make repairs or conduct an inspection?
  • Do I have to let someone in if doing so is inconvenient?
  • If I am not renewing my lease, will I have to allow people in to see my apartment?
  • How about if I am renewing?


Repairs (paid by the landlord)

  • How do I notify you of emergency repairs during the workday, on weekends, and after office hours?
  • Do you have an on-site maintenance staff to handle normal repair requests?
  • How soon after my request will repairs be made?
  • If I want something special done, may I request that you do it if I am willing to pay for it (e.g. paint my apartment a color other than the standard white)?


Parking

  • How many parking spaces are provided per apartment?
  • How do I get a parking space? Is a fee charged?
  • If I pay for parking, is it assigned? What if someone parks in my space or the lot is full?
  • Do you tow vehicles out of the lot?
  • How are the ones that belong in the lot identified?
  • Can my guests park in the lot? Is there a designated guest parking area?


Finally, a last piece of advice is for you to keep and file all correspondence between you and the landlord or property manager. If you are not sure the communication is important keep it anyway.   It is always best to be safe than sorry later.

Dan Kim, the Off Campus Housing Coordinator is available to answer any questions on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from noon until 5:00pm. Any messages left after 5:00pm on Friday will be returned the following Wednesday.

If you need assistance on Monday or Tuesday please contact Tracy Reed, the Assistant Director of Student Life, at tmreed@psu.edu or call 215-881-7508.