Thinking about renting a home? Be sure you know about these important questions to ask before signing a lease!
“I’m a wife and mom of 3. My husband and I may be selling our home to be in a better financial situation. I share your heart for wanting to bless others and we’re ready to get out of debt. We would need to rent for a few years at least. Would you mind sharing some questions you should ask before signing a lease?” – Maria
Because we always had a goal to pay cash for a home, we have rented for 11 of our 17 years of marriage.
We’ve been in multiple different rentals — including apartments, duplexes, and houses. So we have a lot of experience renting different types of homes.
We’ve also been on the other side of the coin, because we were landlords for years and rented out three houses in Kansas for quite a while.
If you’re getting ready to rent a home, these are the top 10 questions I would recommend you ask before signing a lease…
Questions to Ask Before Signing a Lease
1. What is your landlord like?
Who are the landlords and will they take good care of you? Having good landlords is the #1 thing I recommend when it comes to renting a home.
More than anything else, your landlords are going to make or break your rental experience.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the most amazing house in the most amazing area with everything you ever wanted in a home. You’ll have a bad experience if you have terrible landlords.
You’re dependent on your landlords if something goes wrong and there’s a problem. You need the kind of landlords that will step in and help you out.
If they’re hard to get a hold of, don’t care, are rude or mean, or aren’t helpful, it’s going to be very difficult when you encounter a problem.
Over the years we’ve had to contact landlords for a lot of issues — including getting termites, having a hot water heater break, and the AC going out. And having good landlords made those situations much more bearable.
Pay attention to how landlords and apartment managers interact/engage with you — if they’re responsive, if they seem to care about you as people and will take care of you, whether they answer your questions, and if they seem like they want you to have a great experience.
And be sure to look online at reviews of property management companies and apartment complexes. Do your research!
2. What is the rental lease agreement?
Pay really close attention to the rental lease agreement and make sure to read all of the fine print.
Look for answers to these important questions:
- Can you get out of the agreement? If so, what does that look like? Are there consequences for breaking the lease?
- How much notice do you need to give if you don’t plan to renew?
- Does the landlord have plans to sell the home at any point while you’re renting?
- How long is the rental term agreement?
- How do you get the deposit back at the end of the lease? What are the requirements for that?
Some of these questions might seem silly or obvious, but we once didn’t get our deposit back, simply because we hadn’t fully swept out the garage!
So be sure to protect yourself and be prepared by reading and understanding all the terms of the rental agreement. And also be sure to get renter’s insurance for extra protection.
3. Will the home serve your family well?
Make sure you can walk through the house/apartment before signing the lease.
(We had to rent a house sight unseen when we moved to TN, and even though we had friends do a video tour for us, I do not recommend it.)
As you do the walk-through, imagine you and your family living out a typical day in the home. Does it have everything you’d need or want in a home?
Is anything missing? If so, can you live without it? Or is it a non-negotiable that makes the home not suitable to your family’s needs?
It’s never going to be perfect, but as much as is possible, try to find a home that you’ll be comfortable in and that will serve your family well.
4. What is the neighborhood like?
I recommend exploring the potential neighborhood at several different times of day to get a feel for the neighborhood and make sure you like the area.
If you want to get an idea of the types of neighbors you’ll have, you might stop by around the time people get off work.
And if at all possible, check out what the neighborhood is like at night. A lot of times, neighborhoods are totally different at night than during the day. You might discover that neighbors throw parties or play loud music late at night.
It’s important to like the area you live, so don’t forget to ask yourself this question before signing a lease!
5. How convenient is it?
Look on Google Earth and drive around some. Make sure it’s convenient and works for your family.
How long will it take to get to the nearest grocery store or gas station?
Where will you shop? Where will your kids go to school?
All of these things are important!
6. How do repairs & maintenance work?
Make sure you understand how the repairs work in the home you’ll be renting:
- Who does the repairs? How do you contact that person?
- What is the time frame you can expect repairs to be done in?
- Do you have to pay up front and get reimbursed? Or will it be paid for?
Also, be sure you ask what exterior maintenance you’re responsible for. Some landlords take care of lawn maintenance and others expect you to take care of it yourself.
7. What are the rules about improving & decorating the home?
Make certain you clearly understand the rules about improving on the home.
Can you paint the walls? Can you hang photos? Are you allowed to do upgrades?
One time while renting, we got approval to do some improvements on the house we were in…only to find out that we were expected to undo all of it before moving out — even though it was adding value to the home!
So you never know. It’s always important to ask this question before signing a lease.
8. What extra costs are you responsible for?
Make sure you know what extra costs you’re responsible for and which costs the landlord pays.
For example, you might want to ask:
- Are utilities included?
- If not, what are the typical costs? (You can call the power company and ask what the bill typically runs for that address.)
- Is there a washer/dryer or will you have to pay for a laundromat?
- Do you have to pay for a trash/recycling service?
9. What’s the pet policy?
If you have pets, make sure you know the pet policy.
- Do they allow pets at all? If so, which kinds?
- Are there any size or breed restrictions?
- Is there a pet deposit? Is there pet rent each month?
- Are they willing to make any exceptions to those rules?
If pets are an important part of your family, don’t forget to ask this question before signing a lease!
10. Are there any amenities that you get access to?
If you’re in an apartment, town home, or gated community, be sure to ask about amenities that are available.
There might be perks you don’t even know about if you don’t ask — such as a pool, exercise room, playground, and more!
And if you do have access to these amenities, make sure you understand how to access them easily.
Every family is unique and has different needs, but if you go in prepared, you’re much more likely to have a better renting experience!
- Paying Cash for our First Home
- How We Paid Cash for our Forever Home
- Why We’re Choosing to Rent Right Now
- Why Our 3 Kids Share a Bedroom
- Renting Our House We Couldn’t Sell
- Why We Rent: Unexpected Lessons From Home Ownership
- How We Paid Cash for a Rental House
Are there any other questions you’d recommend asking before signing as lease?
I would suggest going thru the house and listing every flaw you see. Holes in the walls from pictures that were hung… stains on the carpet… everything! Then have the landlord sign it. Then they can’t keep your deposit for something that was already there. We lost the deposit on our first home because of nail holes that were there when we moved in. The company my husband worked for after that moved us a lot and provided us with a form to fill out and landlord to sign. Worked like a charm!
As a former landlord as well, this is a pretty good list! Definitely do the research beforehand! So worth it.
I’d also say if you’re planning on signing a lease, make sure you are being honest!! Just a simple thing of having integrity goes a LONG way- saves you money, time, hassle, stress…. we sadly learned this the hard way. So do yourself and your landlord a favor in this! I promise it does pay off.
Definitely a great tip! Thanks for sharing!! -Meg, MSM Team