Before you rent, ask your landlord about move-costs and monthly bills due

Rent, deposits and fees can sometimes get tricky if they haven't been discussed thoroughly with your landlord before signing a rental agreement.

Rent, deposits, and fees can sometimes get tricky if they haven't been discussed thoroughly with your landlord before signing a rental agreement. Knowing your new landlord’s rent expectations, the security deposit, and associated move-in fees will make you feel more at ease. Also, ask about amenities, as there may be some you didn’t anticipate that are connected with your new rental.

Ask These Questions Before Signing Your New Lease

  •  What's included in rent?
    You probably know what the monthly rent price is, but do you know everything it includes? Your rent price may include certain utilities, a parking space, or storage space. If something is not included in rent, ask your landlord if they offer options for an additional fee, or if they have suggested, preferred providers.
  • How do I pay rent?
    Rent is typically paid online or by check. Understanding how to deliver your payment is important. If it's unclear how you should pay, your payment may be turned in late and you could be responsible for a late fee. If your landlord doesn't allow online rent payments, ask who you should make the check out to and where should it be sent? Or, does your landlord accept money orders?

    Ask what happens when your rent payment is late, just in case. How many days is considered late? At what point will you be charged a late fee?

  • Is there a Security Deposit?
    Security deposits are deposits you get back at the end of your tenancy. Your landlord may take out money from your deposit in order to repair damage caused by you or your pets or your guests, during your tenancy. Ask your landlord if there are specific reasons why your deposit would not be refunded in full.

    In some states, landlords are required to put your security deposit in a separate bank account and give you interest earned on your security deposit. You should look up security deposit laws in your state and ask your landlord what he or she plans to do with your deposit.

    You should also ask your landlord, "Are you documenting the current condition of the apartment?" Your landlord should be. Ask to view and sign off on the inspection to ensure it's a fair assessment. You should also take photos of the move-in condition, in case disputes come up later. If you skip this step, you risk the inspection being inaccurate, which can cost you part of your deposit.

    In short, make sure you ask about the terms of your security deposit – if it's refundable, where it's held, if you should expect interest on it, and if any portion of it is non-refundable. Security deposits are becoming more uncommon nowadays as many landlords are opting for non-refundable move-in fees instead. 
  • Is There A Move-In Fee?
    Move-in fees are usually nonrefundable. Most landlords use this additional fee to cover the cost of having new tenants (to pay for painting, cleaning, etc.). Ask if there's a move-in fee, what the amount is, and if it's refundable. As a general rule, fees are nonrefundable and deposits are refundable

Like knowing your credit score before talking to a potential landlord, asking your landlord about the rent, security deposit, and additional fees is crucial. You need to know when rent is due, how to pay, and what additional fees could be incurred to ensure there aren’t surprises when you sign your lease.

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