The apartment is perfect. It’s got just enough space but not too much. The view is nice and parking is easy. There’s a washer and dryer and the pool is gorgeous. Before you jump into a legal agreement in the form of a lease, take a few minutes and consider some questions to ask a prospective landlord or property management company representative. Because once you sign, you’re pretty much stuck.

What does the rent cover? It utilities aren’t included, can you provide an estimate of how much that costs each month? This will help you develop, and hopefully stick to, a monthly budget.

How do I pay the rent? Is there an electronic payment option? What are the late fees if I miss a payment? If you’re dealing with an individual landlord or a small company, they may prefer to be paid by check. Most larger property management companies will have an electronic payment option, but you’ll want to make sure you know the process before it’s time for the first rent payment.

What are the parking options? Not knowing where to park can be frustrating and may involve more expense if you park somewhere you shouldn’t and get towed. The answer also will allow you to decide if the extra cost of reserved parking is worth it.

Is there on-site maintenance or security? How do I request maintenance? Is there a different process after regular business hours? What about in an emergency situation? Find out the answer to this before you need to use it, especially the emergency maintenance request procedure.

What is the refund policy for my security deposit? Knowing this before you move in will help you plan how to care for your new space (you’ll want to get that money back, after all) and to know what the landlord’s expectations are.

Where is the mail delivered? Is there a secure area for package deliveries? Knowing this will help make sure you actually get your mail and packages.

What am I allowed to change in the apartment (ex. paint the walls, use nails vs. adhesive strips for pictures, etc.)? Knowing in advance what you’re allowed to do to make your new space feel like home can save you time and money in the long run. Some complexes don’t even want nails put in the walls, while others don’t care if you paint as long as you return the space to its original condition before you move out. If the policy isn’t explicitly stated in your lease, ask for it in writing.

Will the staff conduct inspections? If so, how much notice should I expect? When can the staff enter my apartment without notice? Generally, you should be afforded notice before an employee enters your apartment, except in emergency situations, but it’s good to know exactly how much notice will be provided and what could be involved in a possible inspection.

Are there guest restrictions? Some complexes have policies about how long guests can stay or ask that they register their cars with the office for security purposes, etc.

What are the penalties if I break my lease? What about in an emergency situation? While you may be planning on completing your full lease, sometimes life happens and you’ll want to know what the policies are if you have to break your lease.

Am I allowed to sublet if I’m away for a length of time such as summer or for an internship? College involves periods where you may not always be in Lubbock. If you’re having to also pay rent somewhere else, you may want to find a way to offset some of that cost, but it can be more expensive in the long run if you sublet in violation of your lease.

What are the pet policies and deposits? Even if you don’t currently have a pet, you might change your mind at some point so know what the expectations are before you sign anything.

Do I have to have renter’s insurance? While renter’s insurance is always a good idea, not every landlord or property management company requires it. Others will make you bring proof of insurance with you to sign the lease.

Will we do a walkthrough to document the current state of the apartment before move-in? If not, can I provide a list of any pre-move-in problems? This documentation will help you get some or all of your security deposit back.

How much notice will I need to give before I move out? Most complexes will require 30 to 60 days, but you’ll need to know if it has to be done in writing, through an electronic form, delivered to the complex office, etc.

Are there any plans to update, renovation or expand the complex? Planned updates or renovations could add amenities you can enjoy, which is a plus, but might also involve construction, which is a minus, that you’ll want to consider before you’re locked into a lease.

Sources: BestColleges.com’s Student Renter’s Guide, U.S. News & World Report “11 questions to ask before signing an apartment lease,” Apartments.com’s “12 questions to ask before renting an apartment”

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