10 Things You Should Ask Your Potential Landlord

When you’re about to move into a new apartment, your biggest concern probably isn’t how well the landlord does his job, or even how quickly he fixes that leaky faucet you asked him about.

But when it comes to renting an apartment, there are certain questions you should ask your landlord before signing that lease and moving in, especially if this will be your first time renting an apartment. Here are ten questions your landlord needs to answer in order to help ensure that you’ll have an enjoyable and safe experience in your new home and neighborhood.

1) Is neighborhood watch program in place?

While a neighborhood watch program doesn’t necessarily protect against break-ins, it can help deter them. If you have doubts about your neighborhood’s ability to instill a feeling of safety and well-being, be sure to ask your landlord if they are involved in a neighborhood watch program. If not, consider joining one or organizing one yourself. In addition to helping prevent crime, participating in these types of programs can provide an added sense of community that residents might not otherwise experience.

2) Is there a security system?

Is there a security system in place? Do you have to pay for it, or is it part of your monthly rent? Who will you contact if you need help with an intruder or if something breaks down? What kind of locks are on all doors and windows, and do they meet fire-safety codes? Where are all exits located (front door, back door, emergency windows)? Are there any areas that aren’t safe for children or pets?

3) Is there enough outdoor lighting on common areas?

Whenever you enter a building after dark, you should feel secure. Check to see if your landlord is providing adequate lighting by walking around outside at night and taking note of how well lit it is. Keep in mind that not all places are equipped with motion sensors; you might want to ask if they can be installed. And it’s also possible that your neighbors could pitch in with light as well—talk to them and see if they’re willing to pitch in some cash for an outdoor light fixture or two.

4) What are the safety and crime rates in the neighborhood?

Safety is of utmost importance to most tenants. Make sure you know how safe your neighborhood is before moving in, particularly if you plan on having kids. It’s also a good idea to learn more about your landlord’s property management and security processes. Are they insured? Do they keep detailed records of maintenance and emergency contacts? Will they be present during your lease? These are all questions that will help you determine whether or not a property owner has your best interests at heart.

5) Can you paint your walls?

White walls are a blank canvas. Painting them your favorite color is a great way to brighten up an otherwise drab space. However, not all landlords allow tenants to paint their walls, or charge an arm and a leg for permission. Before you decide to rent a space, ask your landlord if painting is permitted – either by walking through it with him or calling him up for a chat about it over the phone.

6) Does it have adequate fire alarms?

Remember to check that your rental unit has all of its legally required fire alarms and devices in working order. The last thing you want is to live in a place that’s not up to code. See if there are any smoke detectors in each room, as well as alarm boxes on every floor, with batteries inside. These should be visible and accessible at all times.

7) Do you have 24-hour emergency access to your building?

Because emergencies don’t always happen during business hours, it’s important to know whether you can access your apartment building any time of day. If you think something might go wrong with your rental property, is there someone who can be reached at all times? This will help alleviate some of your concerns about safety and maintenance issues.

8) Are there smoke detectors on every floor?

Smoke detectors save lives, so you should know exactly where they are. If there aren’t enough for your liking, bring it up to your landlord. She may have installed a smoke detector but forgot to tell you about it. Also make sure that each detector has fresh batteries and that it works properly before moving in.

9) What about carbon monoxide detectors?

A carbon monoxide detector should be installed in your home on every floor. It’s important to check these regularly and change batteries at least once a year. Additionally, it’s a good idea to have an alarm that sounds off when carbon monoxide levels are high outside of a specific area as well as inside that area. This is just one way to help prevent you from being exposed to dangerous levels of CO.

10) Are thermostats accessible in each apartment unit?

If you’re like most renters, you don’t think too much about your thermostat—it doesn’t affect you. But what happens if it’s not accessible to all tenants? If one tenant with mobility issues needs help keeping their place warm or cool, they may need to call a friend or family member to adjust their thermostat. A good landlord will have a policy in place where an alternative solution is provided for that particular tenant.

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