16 Things a Tenant Should Know Before Trying to Lease an Apartment

Facing hindrances while leasing an apartment? Here are some of the tips that will surely help tenants trying to lease an apartment.

April 27, 2023



Finding the right apartment to rent can be a daunting task, even for the most seasoned tenant.

But even if you’re a “first-timer”, you can still find a rental that suits your needs, negotiate a lease agreement that protects your interests, and steer clear of rookie mistakes simply by getting clear answers to these 16 questions:

Do You Know What You Can Afford?

No more than 30% of a tenant’s monthly gross income should go toward rent.
That’s something to remember when you feel tempted by a breathtaking panoramic view of the city skyline, or with the top-of-the-line appliances of a kitchen, or the designer fixtures of an apartment you’re visiting. It is wise to stay within your affordability limit.

Is Your Credit Score Good Enough?

The landlord wants to know that you’ll always pay your rent in full and on time.
That’s why a credit score of 700 is important for tenant application. It demonstrates that you are potentially a reliable and financially responsible tenant. It may even encourage the landlord to offer you more advantageous rental agreement terms.

Do You Satisfy the Requirements for Lease Approval?

Landlords may have requirements other than just credit scores. They may require the tenant to have a certain minimum income or to provide a background check. Knowing these requirements can help you better prepare your rent application and increase your chances of being approved.

Is There a Right Time to Look for an Apartment?

Generally, the best time of the year to rent an apartment is during the off-season or the winter months. During these months, demand for apartments tends to be lower, and landlords may be more willing to negotiate on rent to lower vacancy rates and to keep their investment property profitable. They’re also more open to offering the tenant a rent concession in the form of move-in specials or free utilities. It’s worth noting that some cities may have their own rental market trends and patterns, so it’s always a good idea to do some research and consult with a local agent to determine the best time to rent in a particular area. An agent from a reputable property management firm like Summerfield Property Management can also provide you with the guidance you need.

What are the Basic Tenant Rights?

As a tenant, your right to a habitable dwelling, to non-discrimination, to privacy, to the return of your security deposit, to fair housing and to challenge unfair eviction are protected by the law. It’s important to know these basic tenant rights so you can protect yourself and make informed decisions.

And What Rights Do Tenants Have Without a Lease?

Even if you don’t have a signed lease agreement, your rights as a tenant are still guaranteed by the law. However, your status as a tenant without a lease (or “tenant-at-will”) can affect the length of notice required for various actions by you or your landlord.

Are You Clear on What You’re Paying for?

Are water, gas, and electricity included in the rent? Do you have to pay for connecting the utilities? Does the property offer any access to public transportation? On-site health club memberships? Or any discounts at a local gym? Are there any amenities that come with the apartment, such as a pool, or laundry facilities?

These are questions you need to ask the landlord to have a clear idea of your final budget.

What is the Lease Term, and are there any Penalties for Breaking the Lease Early?

Knowing the lease term will help you decide if you’re ready to commit to living in the apartment for a specific period. Some landlords may offer a month-to-month lease, while others may require you to sign a lease for a year or longer. Also, ask about the penalties for breaking the lease early, in case you have to leave before the lease term ends.

What About Lease Renewal?

What is the policy on renewing or terminating the lease at the end of the term?
It’s important to know what your options are at the end of the lease term. Will you be able to renew the lease, or will you need to vacate the property?

What is the Policy on Maintenance and Repairs, and How Quickly are Issues Typically Resolved?

As a tenant, you should also ask about the apartment’s maintenance and repair policies, including how quickly issues are typically resolved. Knowing this information can help you determine if you’re comfortable with how the apartment complex handles maintenance and repairs.

What is a Tenant?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a tenant “is one who has the occupation or temporary possession of lands or tenements of another.” The special emphasis on the word “temporary” is meant as a reminder that, as a tenant, you don’t have the freedom to customize your apartment without the written consent of the landlord.
Some landlords may have restrictions on what a tenant can and can’t do in terms of painting or decorating the unit. It’s worth asking about this if you have plans to personalize the space. Failing to get permission to perform any customization work could result in the rental agreement termination or the loss of your security deposit.

Do You Need Renter’s Insurance?

In some communities, tenants are required to have renter’s insurance. But even if your landlord doesn’t ask for one, it’s something worth considering especially given the fact that a policy costs generally less than $10/month.

What Shape is the Apartment in?

Before you sign the lease, you have to document any damages in the apartment that the landlord did not agree to fix. Take time/date stamped photos of any damaged walls, floorings, window screens, appliances, plumbing fixtures, electrical outlets, etc. Provide copies of these photos to the landlord or the property management company and retain copies for yourself. By documenting these damages, you’re protecting yourself from potential charges to your security deposit for which you’re not responsible.

Are There Any Move-in Specials or Discounts Currently Available?

To induce tenants to sign or renew their lease, some apartment complexes may offer move-in specials or discounts, such as waived application fees or a month of free rent or other forms of rent concession. Asking about these promotions can help you save money on the initial move-in costs.

Are Pets Allowed, and if so, What are the Pet Fees and Restrictions?

If you have a pet or plan to adopt one, ask about the pet policy, such as breed restrictions, weight limits, and pet fees. Some apartments may not allow pets, so it’s important to clarify this before signing the lease.

What is the Policy on Guests Staying Overnight?

Some lease agreements may have restrictions on how long guests can stay in the apartment. It’s worth asking about, especially for tenants who have frequent visitors.

Tenant: FAQs

Q: How much should I expect to pay for rent?

A: The cost of rent can vary widely depending on a number of factors, including location, size, and amenities. Researching the average rent for similar apartments in the same area can give you a good idea of what to expect.

Q: What documents do I need to apply for an apartment?

A: Most landlords or property managers will require the tenant to provide a rental application along with a proof of income (such as pay stubs or tax returns), a credit report, and references. They may also require a security deposit and a background check.

Q: Are utilities included in the rent?

A: This varies by apartment and landlord. Some apartments include utilities like water, gas, and electricity in the monthly rent, while others do not. Make sure to ask about what utilities are included before signing a lease.

If you have more questions and need help navigating the rental market, then you are welcome to reach out to Summerfield Property Management. An agent would gladly provide you with the tailor-made guidance you need.