As a renter, it is very important that you make sure you are renting the right property.

After tons of research online and tours, it is almost time to choose the right place.

At this point, many of the general questions have probably been answered, like:

  • How much is the monthly rent?
  • How long is the lease term?
  • Are any utilities included?

and more. However, these are very general questions to ask during the application process, and may not give you a complete picture.

In this guide, we will be going over the top 20 most important questions to ask when renting or about to rent.

These questions will grant the renter a better understanding of the rental property and what the experience will be like.

So, without further ado, let's begin.

Top 20 Questions Renters Should Ask Before Renting

Below is a complete checklist of the top 20 most important questions that tenants should ask before renting out a property.

1. Can you clarify the monthly rent and any other fees or payments?

This is probably one of the most important questions that a renter should always ask. There are a few things that this question should accomplish.

The first thing that it will accomplish is that the landlord or property manager should give you an accurate and up-to-date monthly rent. Since rent prices, especially apartment prices, fluctuate regularly, you may be paying more than you should. For this reason, it is always good to make sure you are aware of what you will be paying.

This question will also allow you to gain insight into any other payments the landlord is expecting. This could include late fees, utility bills, property taxes, or anything else. All this is included in your budget so it's essential that you are clear on everything.

2. How much is the security deposit?

The next question that should be asked is about the security deposit. Since the security deposit can be a very large sum of money, it is important you have it noted to include in your budget.

By asking this question, you can also discuss the possibility of using security deposit insurance. This kind of insurance allows you to pay the security deposit the same way you pay rent, every month. If you want to learn more about this kind of insurance, you can read all about it in DoorLoop's Security Deposit Blog Post.

3. Under what circumstances will you enter the property?

This is an important question that both the landlord and the renter should be clear on. There are various state and local laws regarding this so this could be a good chance to point out any red flags in the landlord.

Most states require the landlord to give proper notice to the landlord before entering the property. This applies even when they are entering for an inspection or for maintenance.

4. How will I pay for utilities?

If you found out from one of the previous questions that you will be personally responsible for paying utilities, it is important that you know exactly which ones you are paying for and how you will be paying for them.

For example, the landlord may cover electric and gas but you still have to pay for water and internet. To get an idea of how much you will be paying, you could take a look at the water, electric, and gas appliances. These will often tell you how much it costs per month for regular usage.

If not, you can politely ask the landlord for an estimate of how much it costs per month. They typically have that information or, if not, they can ask other tenants in similar units how much they pay.

5. What are the application criteria and what does the screening process consist of?

Rather than going with the flow, it is important that renters know exactly what the process is like. This means asking about any background checks, screening fees, or anything else.

By doing this, the renter has a clear idea of what to expect before being able to rent out the apartment. It is also important to inquire about the credit report the landlord will run and whether it is a soft or hard inquiry. If the landlord does not know the difference, it is likely that the credit report will hurt your credit.

6. What is the parking situation on the property?

For many people, having a good parking situation is extremely important. If the renter has a car and lives in a busy neighborhood, having parking within the property could be a dealbreaker. Especially for buildings in the middle of cities, driving around the building searching for street parking may not be appealing.

There is also the possibility that the tenant must pay for parking. This usually applies to an apartment building that has a parking garage within it. So, if you own a car, make sure to include parking in your apartment hunt and only search for apartment complexes with parking in them.

7. What is the pet policy?

Finding out whether or not there are pets allowed on the property is essential for those renters who own pets. It is especially important to ask about these policies when renting an apartment as they can get more complicated.

After being told that pets are allowed in the building, make sure to ask about any restrictions on the type of pet. This is because some landlords restrict the breed or weight of the pet. After everything is cleared, you may move on to the next question.

8. How much is the monthly pet rent/pet fee?

If the apartment is allowing your pet to stay, you will most likely be charged for it. It is important that you are clear on exactly which pet fees you will be charged for having the pet.

Some apartments may also require a pet deposit. The pet deposit is typically a few hundred dollars and is paid when the renter is moving in.

9. Are early lease terminations allowed?

If you are signing a month-to-month lease, this does not really apply. However, if you have a yearly lease, this may be important. It is not uncommon for a lease agreement to have a number of clauses dedicated to handling early termination.

Landlords will often charge early termination fees when the tenant decides to break the lease early. This can be around one to three months' rent.

10. Can I sublet the property?

Subletting a property is essentially renting it out to another tenant by the original tenant. Sometimes, when things don't go as planned, it is important for the tenant to know their options. However, it is important to know whether or not subletting is allowed by asking the landlord.

11. Is renters insurance required?

Some landlords require their tenants to have renters insurance when renting out their property. Although this is not too common, it is important to know before starting to rent.

Even if it is not a requirement, however, you may want to consider investing in it. This insurance will cover the cost of all possessions lost or damaged in the property for only around 15$ - $30 a month.

12. How soon can I move in?

Although the landlord is actively searching for tenants, it does not mean that they are ready for a renter to move in. For this reason, it is a good idea to ask when the landlord expects the tenant to move into the property. Sometimes, that date is later than expected and can put off the tenant's plans.

13. Is there an application fee?

Some landlords charge application fees that cover things like background checks and the screening process. At this stage, you should have been made aware of any application fees. However, if you have not, it is important to ask your potential landlord to make sure nothing comes as a surprise.

14. Will I be able to renew the lease?

Although many landlords will not complain about a tenant renewing the lease, some may have other ideas. Sometimes, a landlord is planning on selling the property after some time. In these cases, it is important that the tenant knows that they will not be able to renew the lease.

A renter may also inquire about the possibility of transitioning to a month-to-month lease. However, these typically cost more than a yearly lease so it may not be ideal for long-term renters.

15. What is the guest policy?

Many landlords do not allow others to stay in the property for an extended period of time. This is due to them not being on a lease and potentially becoming a liability. If you plan on having a partner stay in the property, or anyone else, it is important to discuss this with the landlord.

Sometimes, they will explain that everyone staying in the property must be on the lease. Other times, they may simply say that no guests are allowed in the property for too long.

16. Will the rent ever increase or decrease?

Since apartment prices fluctuate daily, along with other property prices, it is important to have a fixed price. If the landlord guarantees that there will be no change in rent and adds it to the lease agreement, you can feel secure that the rent will never change.

However, if this is not discussed and not included in the lease agreement, the tenant may be vulnerable to increases in rent. This may make paying rent impossible the tenant and lead to an eviction.

17. What changes can be made to the property?

Another question that should always be asked is whether or not you are allowed to make changes to the property. Typically, the tenant has very limited freedom in terms of the changes they can make to the property.

However, the landlord may consider allowing changes if it benefits the property. This could include painting, changing furniture, or anything else approved by the landlord.

18. How do maintenance requests work?

Maintenance requests are very important to discuss with the landlord because they can happen at any time. During the tenancy, issues may arise with part of the property and maintenance could be required. At this point, the tenant should know exactly how to report this issue and get it fixed.

19. Are locks changed between tenants?

Locks and keys are typically changed after a tenant moves out of the property. However, it is important to make sure with the landlord. Former tenants having access to the keys to the property can be dangerous, especially if the ending of the lease was not friendly.

20. How is the neighborhood?

Finally, the last question on this list is in regards to the surrounding neighborhood. Although this question should have been answered with the tenant's research, it is always nice to get insight from someone who knows more about it. If you are not sure about the information the landlord provides, you can cross-check it with public records.

David is the co-founder & CMO of DoorLoop, a best-selling author, legal CLE speaker, and real estate investor. When he's not hanging with his three children, he's writing articles here!

Legal Disclaimer

The information on this website is from public sources, for informational purposes only and not intended for legal or accounting advice. DoorLoop does not guarantee its accuracy and is not liable for any damages or inaccuracies.