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When choosing an apartment, what questions should you ask them?


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Kind of a follow-up to my last post. I have 3-4 options that I've already done tours of their model rooms and asked basic questions such as how often is pest control (1x/week), do maintenance men come by appointment (rarely), and what standard repairs are done when a tenant moves out.

I feel there's a lot more I could ask. Current or former apartment dwellers, which things do you wish you would have asked when you were selecting a place?

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What is included.

Which appliances (A/C, microwave, etc). Does it include heat/hot water? Do you pay gas or electric. Parking, laundry facility, other amenities it includes.

Lease terms. Year, 6 mos, mo. to mo.? Pets. Smoking. Security deposit 

Don't waste time asking about exterminators, repairs and other things required by law.

Look the tenant/landlord laws in your jurisdiction. Most of all determine precisely what you are getting for the money and what rules they have.

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If you work from home, check how many electrical outlets there are. See if there are individual water heaters or if there's just one big one for the entire complex. Is the building wired for Internet? Which services? Can you get cable? Satellite TV? Is there central air or individual AC units? How is the rent paid, via online portal or check/MO? What maintenance are you responsible for? How about parking, is there designated parking spaces or first come, first served? How about guest parking? How responsive is maintenance and how do you submit requests? Is renter's insurance required (always best to have this even if it's not mandatory)? Where is mail delivered? How are package deliveries handled? Have there been issues with package theft, vandalism or break-ins including car break-ins? What amenities are available?

I've had some awful experiences and some very good ones. The best experiences I've had were when I rented from private owners rather than an apartment complex. I found private owners were much more responsible when it came to maintaining the property and responding to issues. 

Hope this helps and you find a great place!

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Not a question to ask but I learned the hard way that when renting, go look during different times of the day and get a feel for the neighbourhood and the vibe at the rental. They aren't going to tell you things like if there's an odour that drifts in every night, if a light will be beaming in your window, if management lets kids play in between the units, if there's lots of activity coming and going, etc. The other thing you can do in this regard is do a bit of research on the management company and the properties in particular you are interested in, by looking at reviews and talking to people. Don't just look at what the company itself has to say about itself. 

How exciting for you!! Good luck!! You are doing great, much more thorough than most starting out! 

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Upfront payment:  first, last and security?  first and security?  is security the same as the rent or a different amount?

Monthly payments:  is there a discount for paying on or before the first of the month?  what is the grace period?  what if the grace period expires over a sunday or holiday?  will day after be considered late?  what are the late payment penalties?

Lease renewal:  is there a cap on percentage rent raise yearly?  how far in advance is the renewal offer presented (usually 60 days before lease end, but might vary in your state)?

Repairs:  what types of repairs are tenant responsibility?  for example, if tenant breaks garbage disposal because they put avocado pits or chicken bones in it, I would make them pay for the repair or remove the garbage disposal.  if their kid flushes a toy down the toilet and clogs it, that is tenant responsibility.  if an appliance dies, landlord replaces unless it was clearly abused by tenant.

Moveout:  when does the walkthrough happen? what is considered standard wear and tear?  is there a cleaning fee at moveout?  if you move in and every light bulb works, does the replacement fee for burnt out bulbs come out of your security at moveout?

A/C filters:  provided?  if so how often changed out?

Pet policy (fish fowl serpent canine feline equine etc)?

Parking policy?  assigned spaces, how many, guest parking, etc.

Amenity rules, clubhouse, pool, common area rules?

Paint:  if you stay multi year, will they offer paint touchups?

As per wiseman ^^ investigate your state landlord tenant laws.  states often vary with the finer points vis-a-vis security deposit, rental rate increases, renewal timing, vacancy notifications, security deposit return timeframes, etc.  also appliances.  in utah, for example, landlords provide the hookups and tenants are expected to bring their own washer/dryer

All I can think of at the moment.  Good luck in your search!

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First, thank you everybody for the awesome questions!

21 minutes ago, boltnrun said:

I've had some awful experiences and some very good ones. The best experiences I've had were when I rented from private owners rather than an apartment complex. I found private owners were much more responsible when it came to maintaining the property and responding to issues. 

How did you find your private owners? My 4 options right now are all apartment complexes I found on apartments.com. I looked on Zillow for private owners and came up with zilch.

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I just want to reemphasize the importance of having renter's insurance. Very inexpensive (I pay about $125 per year) and it covers responsibility for fire and flooding/water leaks and will replace my belongings if they are damaged as a result of a building fire or water incident (leaking or burst pipes and/or plumbing issues). Otherwise you're responsible to pay for repairs and replacement.

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2 hours ago, Needinghelp101 said:

Kind of a follow-up to my last post. I have 3-4 options that I've already done tours of their model rooms and asked basic questions such as how often is pest control (1x/week), do maintenance men come by appointment (rarely), and what standard repairs are done when a tenant moves out.

I feel there's a lot more I could ask. Current or former apartment dwellers, which things do you wish you would have asked when you were selecting a place?

 

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 I used to work in the apartment business. Most can and will wave certain fees if they know they are in a bidding war. What kind of environment do you want? Singles, families? Ask If you're looking to socialize with your neighbors, is there a common area like a courtyard or club house?  If a complex has several empty units or new ones becoming available every month, that suggests people leaving when their lease is up. Not good.  If you aren't too shy, you could strike up a conversation with one of the tenants you see on the property and ask. Might be awkward. But this will be your home. It's worth it. Good luck!

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Ask for a copy of the lease. Everything you are legally bound to is there.  Pay attention to your responsibilities, especially in the event should you break the lease and the vacating procedure.

When touring pay close attention to common areas, the parking situation, noise level. what's the safety features (smoke alarm, fire escape, fire extinguishers)

Ask for references 

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Ask what the smoking policies are and whether the building checks your smoke detectors and filtration systems.  Also check when quiet hours are.

Funny -when I finally moved out and rented an apartment the city I lived in was so popular and the rental market so hot that you needed to basically grab what was available -little luxury for the nitty gritty questions!  I remember running to the bank to get the first/last month's rent and security deposit, praying no one else would get the apartment. 

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40 minutes ago, Batya33 said:

Ask what the smoking policies are and whether the building checks your smoke detectors and filtration systems.  Also check when quiet hours are.

Funny -when I finally moved out and rented an apartment the city I lived in was so popular and the rental market so hot that you needed to basically grab what was available -little luxury for the nitty gritty questions!  I remember running to the bank to get the first/last month's rent and security deposit, praying no one else would get the apartment. 

When was this?

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9 hours ago, Needinghelp101 said:

First, thank you everybody for the awesome questions!

How did you find your private owners? My 4 options right now are all apartment complexes I found on apartments.com. I looked on Zillow for private owners and came up with zilch.

Sorry, I somehow missed this. There are a couple of ways. You could get a link to the local MLS to search (search Google for "*city* MLS link"). Another option is to contact an actual real estate agency in your area and an agent will help you search and schedule viewings.

I happened to have a friend who is a real estate agent and she sent me a link to the MLS. I searched the listings and then sent her the MLS numbers of the properties I was interested in. She then contacted the owners and arranged for viewings. Once I chose a couple she contacted them to find out how to apply. I applied and then was approved.

I had the best experiences with private owners. Rent was lower, properties were much better maintained and the neighborhoods themselves tended to be safer and also better maintained.

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11 hours ago, Needinghelp101 said:

When was this?

In the 1990s. My first apartment I sublet from a cousin at a deep discount.  Big mistake.  4 months later I moved into a nearby and new highrise.  3 years later I moved out for a few months to live with a fiancee.  We broke up and I moved back into the highrise.  I saw the apartment that morning and put down the security deposit etc likely before lunchtime.  

We rent now.  I would never ever consider renting from a private owner.  I love that we have maintenance staff onsite.  They are extremely responsive. And tips are not allowed. 

I see so many posts in my facebook parent groups about landlords who won't fix anything or drag their feet.  We have a huge garage here, building social events, building amenities, a small fitness center (key for me) a business lounge/center with computers and coffee and good security features. 

It means everything to me to know if an appliance breaks, a high up light fixture goes out, there is any sort of leak or issue -they will come and I can simply book an appointment online or call 24/7 for emergencies.  It depends what you want.  We've been renting this apartment since 2008. It wasn't as urgent to rent when we chose this apartment but I remember there wasn't endless inventory either.  We'd loved another apartment which would have been sublet from my husband's coworker who was going to live abroad and he backed out last minute (and it was good as it was furnished in white leather furniture -and a month later I found out I was pregnant LOL).  That's what I mean about the annoyances of private renting -much less likely a large corporate landlord would simply change its mind like that. 

  I have no interest in buying anything and having that sort of responsibility as a home owner.  Husband is happy too. We also have the slight chance of needing to relocate again for his job.

I also am not into interior decorating or matching furniture, I don't care that the kitchen is not eat in, etc -so we've saved a lot of $ using furniture from my husband's former life, from mine and even antiques from our parents and grandparents.  I don't entertain in my home but we have the pool and the business center here, a lovely large courtyard, etc and parking for guests.  Works for us.  

Also I don't have to banish myself to the suburbs (how it would feel to me -I respect those who like that lifestyle) and can walk almost everywhere and live down the block from a gorgeous, breathtaking huge park.  Buying something right here would be doable for us financially but the resale value since it's not the burbs might be a problem.  

So I know you're not looking into being a long term renter - but I like the advice not to buy things specifically for an apartment because you might move to another rental and/or meet someone or buy a home and want to redecorate.  That's why I've mentioned what we have done.  

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11 hours ago, Needinghelp101 said:

When was this?

If you are looking at apartment complexes, there are laws that cover a lot of things. You don't have to ask about exterminators, fire alarms, smoke detectors, etc. You'll also have more autonomy. There are building code laws and tenant-landlord laws in every jurisdiction.

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59 minutes ago, Batya33 said:

In the 1990s...

Whoa! Thank you for this. I was leaning toward a company-owned apartment complex too. I found a few private places as options, but I do feel more peace in mind with a place that has management. 

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3 minutes ago, Needinghelp101 said:

I do feel more peace in mind with a place that has management. 

Absolutely. You're more protected by laws and not at the mercy of some landlord who might be nosy or argue about repairs.

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I did not find private owners to be nosy or argumentative about repairs. They responded much more quickly than large complexes. They had maintenance companies they used regularly. For example, the water heater blew out spectacularly and they had someone there the same day it happened. On the other hand, at my current complex the front door has been broken for three months and the management company refuses to have it fixed. And landlord-tenant laws apply whether it's a complex or a private owner.

But of course you should do what makes you most comfortable.

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2 hours ago, boltnrun said:

I did not find private owners to be nosy or argumentative about repairs. They responded much more quickly than large complexes. They had maintenance companies they used regularly. For example, the water heater blew out spectacularly and they had someone there the same day it happened. On the other hand, at my current complex the front door has been broken for three months and the management company refuses to have it fixed. And landlord-tenant laws apply whether it's a complex or a private owner.

But of course you should do what makes you most comfortable.

In the past few years I have seen exactly the opposite in many many posts about private landlords.  Our maintenance team responds automatically to emergencies and usually within 24 hours otherwise and wear masks/foot coverings/take into account our time schedules. I'm really glad it worked out for you!

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Honestly I wouldn't overthink it.  I haven't rented in about 30 years so I know A LOT has changed in that amount of time (namely the rent rates, holy cow!) but from what I remember, my only real question was what is their income requirements.  Some apt complexes wouldn't approve you unless you made 4 times the rent, some would allow triple the rent.  Some had waiting lists (the vast majority do nowadays, I'm told, or at least in my area).  It's not at all unusual to be told you're on a 6-month to a year waiting list.

I just read on FB from a friend last night that her young adult son was looking at a small one-bedroom apt advertised for $900 (which sounds outrageous to me--my mortgage payment on my large two-story house on acreage is less than that) but when they got there the price had been raised to $1,100.  People were telling her that's still a deal as the going rate is $1,100 to $1,300 for a small one bedroom (YIKES!) and still others told her there's lots of bait and switch going on so you can expect the prices not to match what's advertised.  And what are you going to do?

If I were you, OP, I'd start contacting some of these places and see if there's a waiting list and what their income/credit check requirements.  Because that's another thing, some are denying potential renters for not having enough of a credit history.  Even if you don't have negative credit, having little credit is just as bad and if you have no rental history it might be a tougher road than you think.  Of course, markets vary so it might not be as bad (or it might be worse) in your area.

Good luck to you.  I wouldn't want to be a young person right now just starting out, I can tell you that.

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I would love to pay only $1300 for a one bedroom lol! But of course prices depend on the area, neighborhood, complex and demand.

Yes, rentals are in short supply these days, for sure. They're also getting snapped up quickly. I decided to wait until after the summer rush to seriously start looking as I don't need to move immediately. I can wait two months.

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You don't seem ready to move out on your own.  The first principal of real estate is: location, location, location. That means the area and the apt community and the apt itself.

If that means a studio in a better neighborhood or building, that's a better choice. You also seem to be severely limiting yourself to places that offer W/D hookups, because of some obsession with this. It's not like a sofa. You need the appropriate venting, drainage, installation etc. Also a 1Br is more expensive to furnish than something smaller.

You need to check your credit  score, because they will. You need to prove income with a W2 form or similar. You'll be required to get renter's insurance and Only your ins. agent can tell you what it costs and what it covers.

 You need to ask about pet, smoking policies, etc. Also is parking covered, assigned, a lot or street ( not included, worst option, could raise your car ins.). Asking about exterminators etc. is pointless as they are a business that has to answer to the board of health and building code laws.

If you are anxious and worried about ambient living noises, apt life is not for you. A top floor guarantees extra A/C costs but not necessarily peace and quiet. It's often luck what kind of people live next door and the overall quality of the building. First floors get the most street noise. 

 Stay at home until you decide what you want and do more research.

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Posted (edited)

I thought I made all that clear in previous posts. I thoroughly outlined my budget and have received several quotes for car and renters insurance. My credit score is great and I know how to prove my income. Location is the first thing I check -- safety is paramount to me, and all my options are in great locations, right across from safe suburban neighborhoods and in highly-rated towns. I ask about pets, smoking, parking each time I visit, and they often tell me before I can even ask while they're touring me.

I have a select few options, but the best of the bunch I'm just waiting until they have availability for their next room, which they tell me as soon as it becomes open via email and text updates. The 2nd floor one I mentioned the other day -- one leasing consultant I've been talking to regularly actually emailed me about its availability before they even opened it on their website, to see if I wanted first crack at it. It just went fast.

I know what I want, including anything but the 1st floor for safety reasons. My planned move-out was always in September. I'm just waiting now and the next thing that pops up, I'm jumping on it.

Edited by Needinghelp101
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