5 Money Questions to Ask a Landlord Before You Rent an Apartment

If you’re moving and plan to find and rent an apartment, you need to know how much it will cost, including both the upfront fees and how much you'll need to spend each month.  All of which will add to both your moving budget and the cost of moving in.  This should include all extra costs and down payments.  And before you even start looking, make sure you determine what your rental budget is and how much you can spend on your new place.

Then take this list of questions about rental costs with you to each rental viewing. It’ll help keep you focused and ensure that you ask everything you need to know before you sign the rental agreement.

Are utilities included?

This is one of the most important questions to ask when deciding on which property to rent. Often, additional utility costs add a substantial monthly fee. Utilities include water, heat, hydro and garbage removal. Most apartment complexes will include utilities while renting a house will likely mean that utilities will be paid by you.

If utilities are paid by you, ask how much they’ll cost per month. If possible, ask the current renter since they’ll have a better idea and may provide a more accurate amount. Utility companies can sometimes provide you with details, looking up your address and what previous tenants averaged will give you an idea of what you may pay.  But the landlord should be able to give you a good idea as well.

How much is the security deposit?  

Again, the security deposit and damage deposit adds a substantial amount to your rental fees. Find out the stipulations for holding each deposit and what’s required to ensure you get your money back.

There's a difference between a security deposit and a damage deposit and most rentals charge both.

  The security deposit ensures that you'll follow through on your rental agreement, that is, if you break the lease early, or don't pay your monthly rent, you could lose the full deposit.  Breaking the lease usually means that you don't give sufficient notice of moving out, which is many cases, is thirty days.  If you do provide a thirty-day notice, make sure you get your security deposit back. 

How much is the damage deposit?

The damage deposit is an upfront fee that the landlord holds onto until you move out, so if any damage occurs while you're living there, the fee can be kept to pay for any needed repairs.  This is why it's important to do a walk-through with your landlord before you move in to make sure you're not being charged for any damage you didn't do. Remember that your landlord will expect your apartment to be clean and pretty much move-in-ready when you move out. So make sure you clean it well before you leave. 

Is there a fee for pets?

If you have pets, ask if there’s an additional fee charged. Some rentals now charge a pet rental fee on top of your monthly rent. It can sometimes be as much as $75 per pet. In addition, most units will charge a pet damage deposit in case your pet causes significant damage to the apartment while you're living there.

Again, make sure you note any damage to the apartment before moving in so you can be sure that you're not charged for already existing damage. 

Is laundry included?

While this is a straight-forward question, it’s important to find out how much laundry fees will be if it’s not included in the suite. If you do have laundry facilities in your apartment, remember that this will increase your utility charges. Either way, laundry costs will add to your monthly rent. 

Is parking included?

Many rental units will include one parking space with your monthly rental fee. But if you have a second car, then you could be charged for an extra parking space.  However, it’s important to ask as some buildings charge a set amount per parking space per month.Or if you require street parking, you may want to check to see if your city charges for special permits.