When you start looking at apartments you will have a chance to ask questions directly to your new prospective landlord or their in-house leasing agent. The following is a list of recommended questions.
Lease and Money
1. What is the monthly rent? This is not as straightforward as it seems. In some cases a landlord's real rent is different than the advertised rent. Always double check since this can help you get the apartment at its best price.
2. What is the total amount that I will need to move in? Some landlords require first month's rent with an equal amount in the form of a Security Deposit. Others will want first month, last month, and one month security deposit. And yet others may want first month with a much smaller security deposit. Getting accurate information is crucial before you sign a lease.
3. What is the security deposit and is it refundable? Typically, a security deposit is refundable within 30 days after you move out.
4. Can I sublet the apartment? This is a tricky one because some people don't want to disclose if they are planning to sublet. Keep in mind that if you have a no sublet clause in your lease, you may be in breach, and the landlord may have grounds to evict you should you fail to keep up your end of the deal.
5. Can I have roommates or additional roommates? Roommate situations fluctuate. Someone leaves for another job in another city, someone else decides to move in with their partner and others will decide to go find a place of their own. You want to know what your particular landlord needs in order that you may rent a room to someone else.
6. Do you have a penalty for late rent and if so what is it? Some landlords have late fees. Find out the details. Sometimes you will pay the rent on the 1st of the month but the landlord may use a particular software that logs it in a couple of days later. And voila you've got a late fee penalty on your next monthly rent bill. Ask up front how they make the determination and then make every effort to pay the rent on or before the 1st of each and every month.
7. If I need to move is there a penalty if I break my lease? Breaking a lease is the last option you should ever consider. It may make you less desirable to future landlords. However, if you've just received a job offer in another city or country and you simply can't refuse living in Paris then you've got to find out how to best resolve this issue. Some landlords will understand and request you find them a satisfactory tenant replacement; while others will hold you to the full rental amount of your lease and your security deposit.
8. When is the rent due? Most landlords have a first of the month rule even if you move in mid-month, while others (mostly smaller landlords) will write up a lease for say the 15th of the month and this is when your rent is due. You want to make doubly sure because if you don't know you can be penalized for paying the rent late.
9. If I decide to stay what are the terms for renewing the lease? Landlords typically send you a renewal lease (with their requested rental increase) approximately 2 months (or 60 days) before the end of your lease term. However, each landlord has their own rules and you should know what their procedure is.
When is the apartment available? A must-ask because the lease start date may be different than the move in available date. You don't want to be surprised after you've packed up to move into your new place only to discover it isn't ready for you for another three days.
When can I move in? Similar to the question above and a much more direct question since available doesn't always mean move in ready. Quickly follow up with where do you pick up your keys, when can you pick up your keys, and who is the person who will have your keys.
Is the unit currently occupied and when is the current tenant moving? Even if a tenant has a lease expiration date at the end of the month there are times when the current tenant may opt to move out a little early (giving you the opportunity to move in with less stress a day or two earlier). Or, the tenant may move out later. You need to know with certainty when their current tenant plans to move out so you can plan accordingly.
Pets, Utilities, and Amenities
Do you allow pets? Some landlords have a "pets allowed" on a case by case basis. While others have more inflexible terms. If you like an apartment and it doesn't explicitly state "Pet Friendly" there might be some leeway (again depending on the landlord).
Do your charge a pet deposit and if so is it refundable? A must know since you don't want to show up at your lease signing and have to cough up additional monies you were not expecting.
Are there limitations on my pet? There are breed and weight restrictions. More information can be found on our Pet Friendly page.
Are any utilities included? New York State law requires landlord to provide heat and hot water. In some cases when buildings have undergone renovations there might be a "utilities included" to mean electric. Some landlords with affordably priced apartments will advertise their rentals with a "hot water and heat included" -- please do not let these gimmicks fool you into believing you are getting a deal. This is the landlord's legal responsibility and a bad ploy to appeal to the less informed rental consumer.
Which of the utilities am I responsible for? As stated above heat and hot water are your basic rights as a tenant. Electricity is a common utility you will have to pay for. Con Edison is New York City's provider.
Is there laundry on the premises? If there is a laundry room in the building (or even nearby) you should know since we all need convenient access. Please remember, however, that not every building with have on-site laundry facilities but there are public laundromats literally on every block.
How is trash removal handled? During your tour of the apartment you also want to know where you will be throwing out your garbage. You don't want to move in and find out everyone is throwing out their garbage in front of your window. (This is applicable to ground floor rentals usually in brownstones). In larger apartment buildings you want to know if your apartment is next to the trash disposal. If it is you will want to make sure it isn't going to be a constant loud noise that will interfere with your quality of life.
Are there any rules regarding parties, or quiet hours? Quiet hours in New York City are typically before 9am and after 9pm. Not adhering to these quiet hours by playing your guitar or having loud parties can result in a complaint from neighbors which can then result in an eviction notice.
Additional questions you may want to ask
What modifications am I allowed to make to the apartment? (Temporary walls, painting, wall papering, installing shelves, hanging pictures, etc.)?
24-hour number for maintenance emergencies? How fast can I expect for someone to respond to a maintenance problem?