Renters: Don't forget to ask these questions

Maybe that apartment has the dishwasher you wanted, but do you get cell-phone reception?

By Leah at MSN Real Estate Aug 28, 2012 2:50PM

Ingram Publishing/SuperStockThere is no shortage of rental advice, from how to find your first apartment to how to screen your landlord. But there are a lot of things you may not discover about your new digs until after you move in. And while you can't find out everything, Ilyce Glink at CBS MoneyWatch came up with a list of 10 questions renters often forget to ask.


One of the most essential questions on her list is, "Does my cell phone get reception?" It's frustrating enough to work in an office building without cell-phone reception or to spend time at a restaurant or business that deliberately blocks cell signals, but you certainly want to be able to make phone calls from your home.


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Glink points out that because vacancies are down, some renters may think they should take what they can get, but you shouldn't settle for an apartment that won't meet your needs.


Here are a few of her other important questions (see all of them here):


  • How is the water pressure? No one wants deal with a shower that barely drizzles. Turn on the water, and ask a current tenant how long the water takes to get hot in the mornings, when lots of the building's occupants may be trying to get ready at once.
  • Are there windows, where are they, and do they open? You want to know whether you're going to get any natural light, whether your view consists of a trash can in the alley and whether you'll be able to open the windows for fresh air.
  • Who handles package deliveries? If you don't have a doorman in your building, what happens if you're at work when the fresh-baked cookies from your grandma in Minnesota arrive via UPS or FedEx?
  • What's the deal with the heat? If you're apartment hunting in the spring, you're probably not thinking about the chill of winter. But it's important to know whether your heat is controlled individually, if it's efficient and how much it generally costs during the winter months.


Keep in mind that your priorities for a home are personal, so think about what your needs and daily routines are, and make sure you find a place that suits you.

As Lee Lin, a co-founder of no-fee apartment listings website, puts it:


"Everyone has a different set of priorities and preferences. Some people are willing to pay an extra $200 for a terrace … Know what you want and make sure you're not overpaying for features."


If you're renting, you need to treat every apartment showing as a property inspection. Don't be afraid to poke around and make sure the place will be comfortable – and safe.

Happy hunting.


– Leah L. Culler is a freelance journalist and longtime renter. She believes that keeping up with the rental market means you have to keep on moving: She has lived in 10 rentals in six years.  She hopes to someday own her own home – and stay there awhile.

Tags: rentals
Dec 22, 2012 10:11PM
Unfortunately for many renters, the vacancy rate in the better areas (near areas of recovering employment) is declining while rents are climbing as fewer renters can afford to be homeowners and many prior homeowners, who lost their homes during the recession cannot qualify for a mortgage for a few years, are competing for what availibility there is. Beware of the scammers who will take your deposit money while pretending to rent you a unit they don't own or represent especially if the rental price is too good to be true.
Dec 22, 2012 9:53PM
What!! After you "Kick the tires" try just taking videos and pictures of every room and I mean everything in every room on the way in, taking note of questionable items. Most things can be fixed by the tenant and billed to owner. Even in an apartment. Look up renters laws in your city/state to know things like carpet cleaning is not a deductible item from a deposit. 

Then take pictures and videos on the way out. Saved me money when a worker put a hole in the wall after I left.
I have always gotten 100% of my deposits back for my entire rental life. 

PS. Take a pic/ video of everything!! Open and close doors and cabinets. I was hassled about the grass but I had pictures from beginning to end to prove I was right. Some landlords are trying to get you. I rented one home and never got the keys. She tried to sue me for new locks and even sited the law about their return. I had it documented I put locks on for my use and replaced the original locks when I left and how I never received keys. In Tx you get up to 3 times deposit plus $100 for not getting a deposit back on time. 
Dec 22, 2012 5:02PM
Better be sure you know who's above you. I rented an apartment for me and my 3 children(all girls). My girls were very quite but the neighbor upstairs directly above our heads and less than 6' above was out of town when we were shown the apartment. Turned out it was a woman with some young kid living with her and she had 2 ADHD kids and 1 was a bit autistic. We were woke up every morning at 4,5 and 6:15 am with constant stomping to the point of rattling the dishes and doors on the hinges. All pictures had to be straightened daily and the smoke alarms were starting to hang down from all the stomping. It had gotten tot the point my 10yo girls would lay down in the walk in closet because it was the only quite place the kids upstairs didn't stomp. That kid through at least 2-3 fits a day and jump as high as 2 feet coming down on bare floors. And the management didn't do crap about it. We left after 6 months, countless youtube vids and several noise complaints and I promised I'd sue the $hit out of them if I ever heard their name mentioned from them or they ever reared their faces in my remaining life.
Dec 22, 2012 12:50PM

A few more thoughts. Check the history of the rental unit and landlord. How long did tennants stay, did landlord refund deposits and or last months rent when tennants left appropriately. Did things get fixed when needed. Is the landlord nit picky  or medalsom, after all this is rented to be your HOME. If it is a house does the landlord dictate to how you do the landscaping and what you put in your yard? Ask questions of the landlord as if they were renting from you and if possible talk to past tennants. Why did they move? Get monthly average of bills from all of the utilities. Also, is the place up for sale? If it goes up for sale and sales how much notice will you get and will you be compensated for the inconvienence of the showing of the home. And make sure that if you do have a lease that it address things such as sewer lines, dryer and washer vents.



Dec 22, 2012 7:47AM
First thing to do before interviewing the Property Manager, find out who owns it, are they behind in property taxes and or payments, all can be found out for free at the county offices. Check with the local Police to see how many calls they have made to that address and  for what, was it a Meth House.  Make a walk thru before signing any papers, if you don't get that "warm fuzzy feeling" get out of there. 
Dec 22, 2012 7:45AM
I ask first if pets are allowed.  If they are not, that landlord won't hear from me again.  My pet is part of the family.  If pets are first allowed, then banned, the landlord better grandfather that rule or be ready to be sued.  My pet is as much a part of my family as peoples' kids are a part of their family.  I will not tolerate a landlord who tries to force me to rehome my pet or suddenly have to move because I won't, AND be forced to find a person to move into my apartment after suddenly changing the rules when first allowing pets.  My pet is trained in advanced obedience, and I show her in obedience trials very successfully. She is housetrained better than most peoples' kids, and she behaves better than most peoples' kids, as well, so my pet's conduct would not be a problem. Additionally, I am one of the few in our apartment community who actually picks up after my pet, using a bag to pull up the solid stool from within the bag.  Most others are too lazy to go through that trouble.  More than once, I have stepped in other peoples' dogs solid waste because they didn't pick up after their dog. It is pet owners like this that tighten pet rules in apartment complexes. Those of us who are responsible pet owners are held to the lowest common denominator of the worst of pet owners, right down to people who don't bother to housetrain their puppies, so most apartment complexes won't let you keep a dog less than six months old in a unit.  Having to get a "late puppy" or young adult dog for obedience training means that I have to work around other peoples' poor or absent socialization of a young dog.  This lack of socialization means the dog is likely to be shy, and is MORE likely to be a fear biter.
Dec 22, 2012 7:36AM
There is some good advice here and I will add a few more bits. Some things the managers can't tell you due to federal or local laws.   If possible I would be there in the morning and/or afternoon when the school bus comes or goes. This will give you an indication of how many children live there and what their ages are. Also how they behave when getting off the bus. Drive through during the middle of the day. If the parking lot is full of cars its a good sign that many of the tenants don't work.  Also come around at night and see if there is adequate parking available. The landscaping is always nice near the rental office and model apartments. Look around the development away from these areas for trash and debris.Check the areas near the dumpsters, these can really be nasty.  
Dec 22, 2012 7:33AM
Right now, landlords won't let you out of a lease unless you are military.  If you've lost your job, tough. You are stuck in your lease, no way to get out unless your landlord allows you to find someone to move into your apartment when you move out.  Otherwise, if you have to move out before your lease is up, you better find some way to seemingly have dropped off the ends of the earth because the landlord will find you and make you pay months of back rent, and if that landlord has filled the vacancy of your apartment, collect that rent as well, though I think that in some areas, that is of questionable legality.  Landlords from hell don't care what the law says. They can usually strongarm themselves out af any legal entanglement. Most of us are not that powerful or intimidating.
Oct 13, 2012 5:26PM

I find this article intresting in that some of the suggested  questions to ask. but some of them may be Illegal to ask. as to driving through a renal after the office is closed or talking to teh neghbors that may be tresspassing in many complexes now. The complex my wife and I live in is very spotty and we know that many times others get away with things we can not get away with. I know we are required to have one provider of cable/ phone/ internet, one electrical company.

As to being shown one apartment then switched to another they have model apartments and you cant see teh unit you get till lease is signed and you are moving in.

Oct 13, 2012 4:56PM
Don't be shown one apartment and leave a deposit then come back a week later and finish the paperwork to find out they want to put you in another. They did that to me and my children and 3 days later the upstairs neighbor came home and we found out she had 2 ADHD kids and ones autistic. When they showed us the apartment they were out of town. We've had stomping over our heads for 4 months now and fits with stomping. It rattles the fixtures,china, doors on the hinges. But we're out of here. They won't enforce the same lease I had to sign on her or apparently they choose the "option" not too. Therefore they've neglected to provide me and the children the peaceful,quite tanquil setting they implied they had in the lease. 4 months of being woken up at 4am,5am,530,555 plus my own kids sit in the closet to do their homework or go in and lay down a pallet to nap on when they don't feel well because its the only place the retard doesn't stomp on top of. We're outta here and I'm seriously considering suing the crap out of the apartment owners due to the negligence of taking care of the woman upstairs while she breaks the rules of the same lease.
Oct 13, 2012 4:28PM

Ask if they are contracted with certain compaines for your electricity and cable. I moved into my apartment complex and they were contracted with a cretain electric company and I didnt realize that until I was calling around to get cheaper rates. They later on signed a contract with a certain cable company and we were told that we either signed on by a certain date or we would no longer have cable services. I will definetly ask these questions when I move.

Oct 13, 2012 10:52AM
Ask what municipality its in.  I rented a place on the outskirts of a city that had a municiple income tax in what I thought was a suburb.  Mailing address said the suburb, but found out later I was actually in the city and owed a lot to the city.  Landlord still says its a suburb, but the municiple maps say otherwise.
Oct 13, 2012 9:03AM
Ask about rent increases, how often and how much on average!  If you are single or retired and need quiet ask if kids will be living around you?  Drive thru the complex or around the neighborhood at different times of day to check out what is going on!
Oct 13, 2012 9:01AM
Ask what utilities you will need to pay.  Apts are charging for everything nowadays.  Also if you are single or retired and need quiet ask if kids are allowed in the section you will be living in?  Ask about parking and laundry facilities too. 
Oct 13, 2012 8:38AM
Don't forget to look into whether there had been a drug bust at that residence or building.  Cooking meth happens everywhere and unknow to the unsuspecting renter toxic chemicals lurk long after with severe health risks.
Sep 5, 2012 9:35PM
Wonderful blog.... I liked this very much.....please go through  for real estate business
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