You want to rent an apartment or house, you have found an interesting place that looks right, and now you are ready to make a decision? Great! But before you move in and before entering into a contract, make sure you have the answers to some basic questions, so you know in advance what to expect, and so that you are aware of your tenant rights and responsibilities.
Ask These Questions to Learn Your Tenant Rights and Responsibilities
Duration of the lease
The agreed-upon duration of the lease is one year – but what happens, if you need to move out prior to the end of the determined period? Will you be able to sublet the place, or will you incur a penalty fee? Or in contrast: Will there be an option to prolong the lease?
Responsibilities and contact for maintenance problems
Especially if the landlord does not live close by or if he owns several renting units, he might not be the actual first point of contact when it comes to maintenance problems and necessary (maybe even urgent) repairs. Ask about a resident superintendent on call/on the grounds, or a designated contractor? Make sure in advance that you understand the process of whom to contact (or in urgent cases hire directly?). And as a bonus: Are there any aspects of maintenance that the tenants are responsible for themselves?
Access and security
Are there any security cameras or other means of surveillance on the grounds? In case of a multi-unit building, is there a door-person or other guard on duty, or are there other means of controlling who accesses the building/grounds? Are the common entrances locked, especially at night?
Ask which utility costs are included in the rent, and what are the estimated costs for the rest (water, electricity, gas). Will your costs be calculated by individual meters, and will you be able to monitor these meters in order to keep an eye on your utility expenses?
Cell phone coverage
How good is the cell phone reception in your building and the surrounding grounds? Make sure that there will not be in any coverage-related “blind spots” (or at least are aware of where they are).
How is the heating handled in the building? In case of a multi-unit building, can it be controlled/regulated individually, or is it a shared system?
Are there any additional amenities you can use that are included in the rent, like a shared gym, swimming pool or garden?
Read the (whole) lease agreement
Of course, asking for a sample copy of the renter’s/lease agreement is probably not the question you should be leading with, when you apply as a tenant. But make sure that you read the whole agreement, including the fine print, before you actually sign it.
As a side note: The landlord as the other party of the lease agreement should of course be the addressee of the above mentioned questions. But that does not mean you have to rely solely on his information. Make sure to research the neighborhood online (crime statistics, public transport, schools, shopping and medical facilities etc.)