Going off to college is one of the single most exciting things to happen to teenagers. You're going to be on your own (no curfews, woo!) and you're overwhelmed with things you're going to learn and do. So many life experiences are about to come your way. However, some of those life experiences aren't the fun kind. They're the 'learn from my mistakes' kind. I was lucky enough to have parents to help guide me through finding an apartment and what questions to ask my landlord before I signed the lease. Not everyone is as lucky as me, though. So here's 12 questions I think all people should ask their landlord before signing that lease.
1. Are utilities included in the rent?
A lot of apartments or houses advertise these low prices for rent, 'ONLY $325 A MONTH' but that's how they trick you. The rent is so cheap because you have to pay your own water, electricity, garbage, you get the idea. It adds up. Be sure to clarify this because you may think this apartment/house is a steal, when in reality, it's just regularly priced.
2. What is the grace period for rent and how can I pay?
Most places allow a 5 day grace period for rent. Say rent is due the first of every month, but most places won't place a late fee until the fifth. Which, if you're like me and bad at planning and don't happen to have the cash on the first, that is such a RELIEF. Also, some places have an online website where you can pay so you don't have to worry about writing a check and dropping it off during office hours.
3. Does the landlord require renter's insurance?
My first apartment I lived in didn't require renter's insurance, honestly I didn't even know what that was. However, my current apartment does. At first I was confused and kind've annoyed that I had to purchase this insurance but after thinking about it and discussing it with my parents, I'm really happy it's required. Now if someone in my apartment decides to forget that a candle is lit next to their books and the building catches fire, I have insurance on all my belongings.
4. Are pets allowed and is there a pet deposit?
Many college students get a pet while they're in college. A pet is a friend who won't change majors or transfer to a new college and who will love you unconditionally. However, not all apartments allow pets and of those that do, most ask for a pet deposit AND charge extra on rent per month per pet. So make sure to do your research and find if you're getting the best deal for your little buddy. Another thing to look for: is there grass near my apartment/house where I can walk my dog and let them use the bathroom.
5. Am I promised parking?
College makes students vicious about parking. And if you're spending all day fighting over a parking spot and then still walking 10 minutes to campus, you don't want to go home and have to fight over parking there, too. Make sure there's plenty of parking at the place you're looking at and that parking is promised in your lease.
6. Can I have guest stay and where can they park?
College also means SLUMBER PARTIES WHENEVER YOU WANT! Staying up all night gossiping and drinking wine is one of the best ways to spend the night with a BFF in college, but you want to make sure your friend can park at your new place. The worst thing is inviting someone over and waking up to their car being booted. A lot of places allow guest passes from the front office or have specific parking for visitors. Make sure to ask, though. You don't want to sign a lease and then find out that guest aren't allowed. BUMMER!
7. What happens if I need to terminate my lease early?
We all hope for a smooth ride through college, but sometimes life happens and you have to deal with it. That might even mean having to leave college and move home for a bit, maybe even in the middle of the semester. Be prepared and make sure to ask your landlord the conditions for early termination or if it's even possible. Most places won't allow an early termination, but they will allow someone to sublease for you. Always ask! You never know what life is going to throw at you.
8. Is there a maintenance man and how long does he usually take to fix a request?
If you're like me, you have bad luck and things constantly break. If you're a lot like me, you're also clueless on how to fix ANYTHING. That's why anywhere I live, there needs to be a maintenance man who I can call to come when I'm panicked because my washing machine isn't working. Living somewhere where there's a maintenance man makes all the difference to me, but also ask how long it usually takes to fill out orders or else you'll end up with a broken AC that doesn't get fixed for three weeks in the middle of summer.
9. What is forbidden?
Some apartments/houses don't allow nails in the wall, posters being hung up, things being mounted to the wall, you get the idea. Each place has their own set of rules of what is forbidden and they absolutely don't allow. Make sure that these rules are clear before you sign or else you'll end up with an accidental hefty fee.
10. Which furnishings and appliances are included?
Like I mentioned earlier, some apartments/houses seem like a steal because rent is so cheap! Another reason rent can be so cheap is because they don't come with ANY appliances, so counting rent you also have to go buy a fridge, a microwave, a toaster, an oven, a washing machine, a dryer....it adds up, guys. This is one of the biggest things to ask because any appliances that come with the apartment, it's the apartments job to replace when they break.
11. Is the landlord allowed to enter your apartment without your permission?
Hidden deep in your lease agreement could be a sentence saying that the landlord is allowed to enter your apartment/house with no warning or permission needed. CHECK FOR THAT AND ASK! I don't know about you, but I'd like a warning before someone comes into my place.
12. How's the crime in the neighborhood?
Last but not least, always ask the landlord and any current tenants how the crime in the area is. A place can seem really nice and safe during the day but once night hits it can become an area full of break ins and robberies. Always drive by your potential living place at night to see how the area seems before signing that lease.