Searching for an apartment can be a long, cumbersome process. But oh how exciting it is the day you find “the one”! Love can make you do funny things, we’ve all been there. It’s easy to get excited and not necessarily take the time to look at the apartment fine print.
Before you go rushing towards the finish line, pen in hand, to sign an apartment lease, make sure to take your time and gather all information. After all, you took your time finding the right location, the right complex and the right unit…why stop now?
In order to make sure you know everything you need to know, and there are no expensive surprises waiting for you, there are certain questions you should ask about your apartment before signing any lease document. Below we outline our top nine questions to help you be as informed as possible prior to move-in.
What are the upfront costs, i.e. how much is it to move in?
Before getting ready to sign an apartment lease, we assume you already know your lease terms. For example, how much rent is each month, and how long your lease is for, but what about move-in costs? This typically includes first month’s rent, last month’s rent and a security deposit. These costs can add up to large number fairly quickly. This can be quite terrifying for tenants if they are not prepared, so be sure to ask!
Also, make sure to ask about any additional move-in or move-out costs associated with the apartment. That way, you are not surprised when the moving truck rolls up and rolls out.
Are utilities included in the rent? Which ones?
Through our numerous years of experience, we have learned that rent payment most often includes more than just the charge for occupying the apartment. Many apartment complexes include all or a portion of monthly utility costs in rent charges. These include costs such as water, electricity, cable, phone or Internet. Make sure to ask!
Are there any monthly fees?
Speaking of rental charges including more than just rent, make sure to ask up front about any other monthly fees that may be assessed. These can include facility charges (for pools or gyms), security charges, administrative fees or any other miscellaneous items charged by the management company. Knowing these fees upfront will help you keep your budget in line. By asking this question, you’ll be avoiding the “I can’t afford that!” freak out later.
Can I see my exact unit?
This is a big one. We can’t tell you the number of times we have seen clients sign leases for an apartment unit only to find out on move in day that they hate where their unit is located in the complex, or thought they were getting a different layout. To avoid any unhappy surprises, it is imperative that you ask the management company to walk you through the exact unit you will be renting.
While you are there, make sure you follow this handy apartment walkthrough checklist. This list will help ensure that your unit is tip-top shape. It will also ensure you aren’t inheriting (and paying for) any damages that you didn’t cause.
Do you have a quiet hours policy?
Meeting new people and having fun with your neighbors is a huge perk to apartment living. Be advised though, you want to make sure that you aren’t moving into a 24/7 spring break. Most quality apartment complexes will have rules in place regarding quiet hours or quiet enjoyment. Make sure to ask about the current policies at your potential complex. This will ensure you not only have fun times, but you will be able to have sleepy times as well.
What is the parking policy?
Parking issues are one of the biggest complaints we hear from apartment tenants. To avoid driving around for hours looking for a spot, or walking long distances from your car to apartment, make sure you know the exact parking policy before signing a lease.
Does your rent include a dedicated parking spot? Are spots reserved or open parking? What is the guest parking situation? If your lease doesn’t include parking, what is the alternative? Parking garage? Street parking? Parking access can make or break your happiness. Therefore, you should know this information up front.
What’s the pet policy?
Every apartment complex seems to have a different pet policy. Either they outright forbid pets, or they allow dogs not cats, or maybe cats and dogs under 30 pounds. What we’ve seen is that pet policies are a case-by-case basis at apartment complexes. If they do allow pets, many have breed and weight limits as well as different policies on pet deposits.
If pets are allowed, inquire about whether a pet deposit is an upfront charge, or assessed monthly with the rent. Also be sure to ask about a visiting pets policy. That way, you will know if your best friend and their adorable black lab can stay with you for a couple nights.
How are maintenance requests handled? What about after hours?
Many apartment complexes have on-site property managers and maintenance staff. These staff members are on-hand to address issues and provide repairs, while others contract out to a 3rd party company. Typically, the issue isn’t if there is someone there to help solve a problem. It’s usually when they are available and how long it will take to see resolution.
Be sure to ask not only how typical, business hours maintenance requests are handled, but how after-hours/emergency issues are handled as well. No one wants to wake up at 2 am to a flooded kitchen. Still, you need to know how these emergency situations will play out on the part of apartment management. Will they be there in the middle of the night to address the issue, or will you be coughing up money for a plumber?
What is the policy for decorating? Are there any penalties?
Upon move in, the first thing most tenants want to do is cover up all those white walls and add their own personal touches. Hold on a second though; will all of those fabulous changes (painting, wallpaper, wall hangings) end up costing you a security deposit at the end of your lease?
Most apartment leases call for units to be handed over in the exact same condition as they were accepted. This means if you paint a wall red, be sure to paint it back white upon move out. Others require written permission for any changes, so just play it safe and ask prior to move in. If decorating is a huge passion and you just can’t live with white walls, you may find you need to find a different apartment complex that is more lenient with alterations.
Do your research and find your perfect apartment match!
If you are searching for apartments in and around Hattiesburg, make sure to ask all of the above questions, and more, prior to signing a lease. While these are a great start, there is so much more research that goes into finding, and securing, an apartment for lease. If you need help finding the best location, or navigating the leasing process, contact our dedicated apartment staff today.