Personal Notes for Renting an Apartment

Before signing a lease for a new apartment, there are important questions to ask and things to look for to make sure you have a comfortable living environment. I listed several things to ask the landlord when touring a potential new home.

Questions to Ask

  • What is the application process like?
  • Which utilities are included in the rent and which are the tenant’s responsibility?
    • Electricity
    • Gas
    • Water
    • Internet
  • What is the procedure for monthly rent payments?
    • Available payment methods?
  • What is the policy for breaking a lease?
    • Need to break the lease because of a new job offer in another city.
  • Is it possible to renew the lease?
    • Can the lease be renewed for a shorter term (e.g. three months)?
  • What is the process for submitting a service request?
  • What furnishings, if any, are included in the apartment?
  • How often are the locks changed?
    • If there is a high turnover rate at the apartment, you don’t want previous renters having access to your new home.
  • Is subletting allowed?
    • Short term travel (~3 months) to other locations.
  • What are the upfront costs, including first and last month’s rent?
    • How much is the security deposit?
  • Are roommates allowed?

Things to Look for

  • Signs of pests or rodent infestations: Look for droppings or signs of termites, ants, or cockroaches.
  • Check all faucets: Turn on all faucets in the kitchen, bathroom sink, shower, and tub to ensure they function properly and aren’t leaking.
  • Flush the toilet: Make sure it flushes correctly.
  • Test the lights and ceiling fan: Check that all lights and fans work properly. If a light doesn’t work, ask whether the bulb needs replacing or if there’s an electrical issue.
  • Test the thermostat: Make sure the heater and air conditioner work, and ask who’s responsible for changing filters.
  • Test the stove and oven: If it’s a gas appliance, ensure it lights correctly and there’s no smell of leaking gas when in use. If electric, make sure the burners heat properly.
  • Check the refrigerator, freezer, and kitchen cabinets: Ensure the refrigerator and freezer are empty, clean, and in good working condition. Check the cabinets for pests and leftover food.
  • Test electrical outlets: Bring a small charger and ensure all outlets work. Look for any burn marks and point them out if found. Make sure they are safely grounded.
  • Check building and unit security: Ensure locks are fully functional and assess building safety by asking about controlled entry and security cameras. Check if tenants have propped open main doors.

Things to bring

If you want to fill out an application on-site after the tour, make sure to bring all of your information. This may include your recent paystubs, employment verification, credit report, check for the security deposit, and your ID. You can also bring a list of questions and a pen to make personal notes as you tour the location.


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