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Questions to Ask When Renting a House

Richard Latimer

August 21, 2021

Are you about to rent a house and you are wondering what questions to ask when renting a house?

Renting a home can be a very expensive but necessary life expense, but getting it wrong can be even worse for prospective tenants. With some tenancies lasting over a year in committed fees, it can be almost impossible to break them early without incurring significant cost to the tenant if they lease a property that just doesn’t work for them. 

Questions To Ask When Renting A House

From a landlord's perspective renting a home is beneficial to keep vacancy rates low.

To help ensure a tenant is renting the right property they should ask all the questions they can to help get a better understanding as to what they’re agreeing to rent and how much it’s actually going to cost them.  

Questions to cover off include the total cost of the property, insights around the neighbors, getting clarity on the utilities, types of insurance required by the landlord and why, as well as other rules and restrictions such as pets, rules set down by any Home Owner Associations/Condominium rules as well as any specific rules in the tenancy agreement that are worth covering off. 

  1. Cost of the Property 
    1. Renting Costs 
    2. Accepted Forms of Payment 
    3. Any Other Fees? 
  2. Neighbors 
    1. Are there neighbors? 
    2. 2. Have there been any issues in the past? 
    3. 3. Are there any ongoing disputes? 
  3. Utilities 
  4. Insurance 
    1. What level of cover is needed 
    2. Why is a certain level needed 
  5. Rules and Restrictions 
    1. General Rules of the Tenancy 
    2. Pets 
    3. Condominium/Home Owners Association 
  6. Summing Up 

Costs of the Property  

When it comes to renting a property, costs can spiral quickly, from the base rent costs to additional fees, costs to move in and out as well as utilities, it can all become a lot very quickly.  Ensuring a good understanding of these costs and when they are due can be a huge benefit to tenants before they rent a home. 

Renting Costs 

Before signing the lease, it’s worth clarifying the costs of the rent. Understanding whether the rent is a weekly rent or monthly rent can impact how much is paid. Added make sure there is clarity around how often this should be paid, does the landlord wish to be paid weekly, monthly,  quarterly? Whilst an overview of the base cost should be clear, making sure there is absolute clarity can help avoid any lingering issues or unhappiness due to a misunderstanding. 

Accepted forms of payment 

Another great question to ask is around accepted forms of payment. Some landlords may want to be paid exclusively by wire transfer, others may want cash. Some may want one type of payment for some fees (i.e., rent) and a different type of payment for other fees (i.e., utilities).

It’s also worth using this question to ask when payments are due. Making sure a tenant understands this will help ensure a great working relationship between all parties. 

Pile Of One Dollar Bills

Any Other Fees? 

It’s also paramount to ensure a tenant understands if there are any other fees, both from an affordability standpoint as well as obligations. These fees could be anything from parking fees,  elevator fees (if applicable), administration fees as well as fees to move in and out of the property. 

These additional costs can all add up and making sure tenants have a good understanding of these can help with planning and paying them on time. 

Neighbors  

Before renting somewhere it is definitely worth checking what the area and neighbors are like.  There is nothing better than great neighbors, but bad neighbors can make living in a property a  nightmare. Being sure to understand what the neighbors are like can help tenants avoid signing a  tenancy to a property they can’t feel at home in. 

Are There Any Neighbors? 

This may seem obvious, but just because there is a property there, it doesn’t necessarily mean there are neighbors in it. It can be worth checking if there are any neighbors in the properties nearby and if there are asking how long they have lived there and if not why not? Added to this, if the properties nearby are vacant it can also be worth enquiring as to if or when they intend to fill them. 

Knowing if there are neighbors can be a general curiosity, but it can also help serve to get a better understanding as to what a potential neighborhood or landlord is like. If the landlord can’t fill the houses, it may be something benign such as a new development that is still being filled with tenants.

It could also signal something a little worse though, such as an overbearing landlord or issues with the area that may be worth clarifying before signing a legally binding tenancy. 

Have There Been Any Issues in the Past? 

If there are neighbors, understanding if there have been any issues in the past is another thing that’s worth checking. It could give a good insight into what living there might be like.

It will help a  tenant understand what they are moving into and what to expect, but be aware if there are any a  landlord may not be inclined to inform a tenant, and even if they do there’s no guarantee they are telling the full story.

Even if there isn’t anything disclosed, if something comes up at a later date that makes the tenant want to leave, the lack of disclosure could be used to help break to tenancy without incurring extra cost, provided it was a related issue. 

Are There Any Ongoing Disputes? 

Differing to issues, checking if there are any ongoing or outstanding disputes is something that needs to be clarified too. These disputes, however small, could lead to the owner ensuring additional costs or inheriting issues to resolve when they move in.

Questions To Ask When Renting A House

The disputes could be something like a fence being on someone else’s land and whilst it may not be the tenant's responsibility to resolve it could make living there unpleasant until it is resolved. 

Utilities  

Gas and electricity are a vital part of running a home. Ensuring the utilities are paid and kept on can ensure things run smoothly and tenants enjoy their dwellings. When signing a lease it’s important to ensure a tenant understands the costs of the utilities as well as who's responsible for paying them.

Some agreements may agree to the landlord covering these costs as part of the deal, but others may not. Some types of agreements may only cover up to a set limit of utilities before the tenant needs to start paying for the excess. 

Understanding these costs as well as what is and isn’t included is vital when signing a new lease.  For the tenant entering the lease, understanding what their obligations are and knowing how much they might need to pay are vital parts of ensuring affordability. 

If the landlord is agreeing to pay some of the utilities, it is vital to also understand how to pay if the bill goes over the agreed limit. It’s also worth asking how a tenant can access records of the bills should they regularly exceed the caps set out by the agreement. By asking this, a tenant can ensure their landlord isn’t attempting to make more money than might be owed. 

Insurance 

When looking to rent a property, it’s absolutely worth looking at insurance requirements. From protecting possessions in case of theft or damage to covering the value of the building in case of any structural damage, insurance is something that every tenant should have. 

What Level of Cover is Needed 

When looking into this, there are varying types of renters insurance that may be required. Typically there are 3 different types of cover. The first type is covering just personal possessions and anything someone brings into a property.

The second type is designed to cover liability for any injury that occurs to guests on the property. The final area of cover is designed to pay out in the event of a tenant needing to vacate due to structural damage.

When entering into a new tenancy,  it’s vital prospective tenants double-check what level of insurance is already covered and what might be needed to ensure there are no gaps in coverage. 

Why is a Certain Level Needed 

On the theme of insurance, it’s also worth checking why a certain level of cover is needed. Double-checking what the landlord or agent has insured and then knowing why a tenant may need additional insurance will help ensure not only the correct insurance is purchased, but also properly underwritten.

Knowing this can ensure tenants fully understand their obligations and stop any issues that might arise from a lack of communication or a misunderstanding. 

Rules and Restrictions  

When signing a new lease, tenants should definitely consider asking questions to ensure they fully understand their responsibilities and the rules the agreement will enforce. Understanding the general rules, rules around pets, as well as Condominium or Home Owner Association rules and obligations, can stop any nasty surprises. 

General Rules of the Tenancy 

The first area to consider is general rules of the tenancy, for example, no noise past a certain time,  or rules around guests. Making sure tenants fully understand their agreement and clarifying any issues upfront could help stop landlords from taking more of their deposit when it comes to moving out. 

Pets 

Another responsibility to consider is pets. Pets have two levels of responsibilities to consider too.  The first area of concern is whether a tenant is allowed pets or not and what types of pets may be allowed. If someone has a pet it should definitely be cleared with the landlord or agent before they sign the lease to a new property as it could put them in breach.  

The second area to consider is if pets are allowed, what sort of responsibilities are on the tenant for damages. Clearing this up before moving in can help tenants understand their obligations and responsibilities as well as potential future costs.

A number of landlords or agents may agree to pets, provided the tenant replaces damaged carpets and other fixed fittings that may be damaged as well as paying for deep cleaning after they move out. Understanding this though can be a huge help in the long term and prevent arguments about damage costs when moving out. 

Condominium/Home Owners Association 

If a tenant is leasing a property that is either a condominium (condo) or part of a Home Owners  Association (HOA), it’s definitely worth checking if there are any obligations and what they might be. On top of this, many of these obligations may incur additional fees, and having a good understanding of these additional fees can help prevent any unexpected bills arising in the future. 

Summing Up 

When renting a new home, there are many things to check, some of which may be obvious,  others may be less obvious but could help uncover more hidden issues. It’s definitely worth clarifying costs to rent, utilities, additional fees to consider that the landlord may not tell a tenant unless they ask.

Outside of fees, tenants should also check about the responsibilities for ensuring utilities are paid and working to the property. Checking about neighbors can help tenants ensure they know if there are any issues that might make their life uncomfortable whilst they occupy the property.

Added to this checking why there may not be any neighbors when there should be can help provide a unique perspective into what a neighborhood to live in or what a landlord might be like to rent from. 

Added to this checking responsibilities around insurance can ensure tenants aren’t left out of pocket in case of uninsured events occurring or needing to find new accommodation quickly. 

Finally asking around rules and responsibilities can help create a great working relationship between the renter and the landlord and help prevent unforeseen issues from occurring. 

If you need to sell your house or you are tired of renting your property out and you just want to sell then get a free offer.

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