One of the best things about being young is being free of obligations that keep you tied to one place. When you don’t have a mortgage, children or an amazing career, you’re free to move pretty much anywhere you want to go.
But before you run off to another city, you need to think about what that city has to offer. Are there plenty of entry-level jobs in Denver? Can you stand the dry heat of Las Vegas? Can you find Orlando apartments within your budget?
If you’ve found a few cities where you’d like to move and are seriously considering renting an apartment, make sure you ask good questions before signing a lease. Especially when moving to a new state, renting an apartment may be a process that’s entirely different from what you’ve heard about or experienced in your hometown.
Questions to ask a property manager
If you’ve never seen a lease before, it can look a little intimidating. And the use of legal language sometimes makes it hard to decipher what you’re actually agreeing to. So ask good questions before signing a lease, and if the landlord or property manager agrees to something verbally that’s not in the lease, ask for that to be added to the lease.
Here are some questions you should ask:
1. What’s required in order to move in? With few exceptions, landlords will run both background and credit checks on prospective tenants. Even if you’re not looking to start renting for a few more months, make sure your credit is as close to perfect as you can make it. Pay your bills on time, pay off old debts and get errors taken off your credit report. Make sure you also have enough loot stashed to pay for the first and last month’s rent, plus security deposit.
2. Does my rent cover utilities, and which ones? Water and electricity might be covered, but you could be on your own for phone, cable and Internet. Ask about the typical costs of the utilities that are not included in the rent. If the landlord isn’t sure, you can call utility companies and ask for estimates for a particular address. You should also find out if you’ll need to pay any utility deposits.
3. What should I do about minor repairs? Make sure you and your landlord / property manager are clear on what you are responsible for. Sometimes those expectations are not fully clarified in the lease. While it’s not a big deal to change a light bulb or the batteries in the smoke detectors, it’s good to know who is responsible for specific maintenance tasks, and who to call when you come home to a leaking faucet or a washing machine that refuses to do its job.
4. What type of decorating can I do? Can you put nails in the walls or repaint a room? Some properties will allow limited decorating, but there may be an expectation that you return the property in its original condition, or risk losing your security deposit.
5. What are the penalties if I break the lease? No one plans to break a lease, but things happen. Job loss, changes in relationships and annoying neighbors are the cause of many a broken lease. Knowing exactly what you’ll need to do, and how much you have to pay, will help you determine whether you stick it out or pack up if the unlikely happens. Find out if you can sublet your apartment, in the event you have to move out before the lease expires.
6. Will I be charged if I have overnight guests? While you might expect to pay an additional fee when you have too many people in a hotel room, most renters are not aware that some landlords may tack a fee onto your rent if you have overnight guests, or guests that stay for a long amount of time.
7. Finally, make sure that you never sign a lease until you’ve read it all the way through. Most leases are drafted by lawyers, and they’re designed to protect the property holder from loss. So once you sign on the dotted line, you are legally bound to abide by the lease. And if a property manager won’t answer your questions, that’s probably a sign you should look elsewhere for a place to live.