Four Questions to Ask When Renting an Apartment

By Aidan Cannon on September 22, 2023

One of the quintessential parts of the college experience is renting an apartment. While living on campus in dorms is fun and offers a great opportunity to make friends, after a few years it becomes time to leave and learn how to live in a place of your own. Of course, living off campus presents its own challenges, like navigating relationships with neighbors and landlords. You should assume landlords will always try to protect themselves and act in their own interests, so it’s important that you do the same by asking questions and getting as much information from them as you can. This will prevent you from being taken advantage of and help you understand which apartment is best for you. Asking these four questions will give you a good baseline of information about each place when searching for an apartment to rent.

Image from Pixabay.

Does the apartment come furnished?

One of the first questions you should ask a landlord is whether or not the property you are looking at is furnished. Furnishings can include furniture such as chairs and couches, but also carpets, curtains, lighting, and other decor. If furnishings are included, that alleviates a significant amount of research to find them for yourself (not to mention saving your wallet from some serious hurt), but if they are not, you’ll need to budget for these extra expenses. If the apartment is staged when you are visiting it and you see a particular piece of furniture or decor that catches your eye, you may want to ask if it is included with the space, as it might be the property of the current tenants. Assuming the space is fully unfurnished, you should ask your landlord if they have any movers they personally work with or recommend so you can get help moving big objects like couches into your apartment.

Are any utilities included in the cost of rent?

One of the financial hurdles that comes with getting a place of your own is paying for utilities. These are bills for the various expenses that come with operating a residence, such as water, power, gas, and internet. While any prospective renter should account for having to pay these fees themselves, there is a possibility you won’t have to pay for all of them. Some landlords cover the cost of utilities and include them in your monthly rent check, allowing you to pay all your expenses in one convenient bill. However, you should consider that having some or all utilities built into your monthly rent may cause your rent to be higher than other comparable properties, and you will lack the ability to choose which companies are supplying you with these services. For example, if internet is included with the property, but the plan your landlord is paying for is subpar, you may be out of luck. Ultimately, the choice comes down to whether or not it’s more convenient for you to make one payment to your landlord or if you would like to be in charge of your utilities.

What kind of decorations am I allowed to put up/what changes can I make?

When you decide on a place to live, you’re going to want to make it your own. This generally means making changes to your apartment’s aesthetics and layout so it better fits your tastes and lifestyle. Sadly, you need to remember that this space doesn’t technically belong to you; you are just renting the property from your landlord. Thus, any major changes you make must be approved by them beforehand. Different landlords have different expectations for how you handle their apartment, and the amount of time you plan on staying may also affect their perspective. For example, if you plan on staying in an apartment for an extended period of time, such as a stretch of multiple years, you may be able to talk to your landlord about significant changes, like painting the walls a different color. Smaller alterations might also be in order, like reorienting the furniture or moving appliances. Regardless, make sure you talk to your landlord before making any changes; you don’t want to get in trouble or be hit with fees.

How much is the security deposit?

A lot of first-time renters may be under the impression that getting a new apartment is as simple as paying for first month’s rent and picking a day to move in. Unfortunately, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Along with your first month’s rent, you will also be asked to pay a security deposit. A security deposit is an additional fee you pay a landlord that they can use to pay for damages or alterations that need to be made during the duration of your lease. Thus, when you finally decide on a place to live, you need to pay the first month’s rent as well as the security deposit. Figuring out how much the security deposit is will reveal the true upfront cost of moving into your new apartment.

Moving into your own place for the first time is incredibly exciting! It symbolizes a new opportunity for personal growth and a further step into adulthood. However, it can be a complex process with a lot of important questions you need to ask. Following this guide will help you navigate meetings with landlords and get the perfect apartment for you!

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