Think You’re Ready to Sign a Rental Lease? Not So Fast

Kaycee Miller
4 min readJan 13, 2021


You found the perfect home or apartment to rent: great neighborhood, fits in your budget and meets all your criteria for a new place to live. You’re ready to sign on the dotted line and start unpacking your boxes. Not so fast! Ask a few questions first to make sure you and your potential landlord or property manager are on the same page. Having a conversation like this will give insight on relevant information relating to a future housing situation and set the framework for further interactions with management.

Renting a new home is technically a business transaction and you will benefit from treating your interactions with any potential managers or landlords professionally. When you meet with a prospective landlord, take advantage of this time to get answers to your questions. You want to dress professionally and act the part to demonstrate how much you value the relationship and the time they are taking to meet with you. Unless you are renting with a roommate, it is best to go to your appointment alone.

Pay attention to how receptive your potential property manager is when you ask your questions. Are they friendly and responsive? Are they annoyed by your questions? Their behavior in this initial interview can be an indicator of how they will act throughout your landlord-tenant relationship. If you get a bad feeling about them in the initial meeting, there’s a chance you won’t enjoy dealing with them throughout your tenancy.

Landlords and property managers can benefit from reviewing this list of questions and being prepared with answers. A potential tenant that asks these questions demonstrates the seriousness and maturity in the apartment search process. Landlords and property managers can also prepare themselves by providing marketing materials with the following information included to save you time during tenant interviews and showings.

Questions for landlords and property managers should reveal information about rent, the lease, the application process, maintenance, and utilities.

Questions about the Application Process

  • Is there an application?
  • Do you plan on running my criminal background, reviewing my credit report and contacting my rental references?
  • What kind of supporting documents do I need to provide with my application? Bank statements? Letters of Recommendation? (You may find it useful to offer a Rental Resume that has all your relevant rental information).
  • What is the application fee?
  • If I don’t get approved, is my application fee refundable?
  • Is there already a waiting list for this property? How many people have applied before me?

Questions about Rent and Money

  • How much is rent? Deposit?
  • Do you collect first and last months rent at the start of tenancy?
  • How much is due at the beginning of the lease term? How much will be refundable?
  • What day is rent due?
  • Do you have a grace period? (Grace periods are the window of time a landlord will accept rent payment after a due date, possibly without a late fee.)
  • What is your policy for late rent? (Don’t focus too much on this question, as it could raise suspicion that you have a habit of paying rent late. But it’s important information all the same!)
  • Where do I pay rent? Can I pay rent online?

Questions about the Lease

  • What is the lease term? 1-year, 6-month, month-to-month?
  • What happens after the lease ends? Do I need to move out or does the fix-term lease become a month-to-month lease?
  • How do you manage lease renewals?
  • What is the policy on subleasing?
  • Do you require a cosigner?
  • Do roommates each have a separate lease agreement with you or do we all sign the same lease?
  • When are the move-in/move-out dates? How much notice must I give if I decide to move out?

Questions about Maintenance

  • Does management live onsite or near this rental property?
  • Who do I contact about emergency maintenance issues?
  • How do I submit maintenance requests for small issues, like a dripping faucet or a broken garbage disposal?
  • What is your policy regarding emergency maintenance and non-emergency maintenance?
  • Are there any issues with bugs or rodents? What are the extermination policies?
  • Have there been any major repairs or renovations done in the past year? Are there any planned for the upcoming year?
  • Who is responsible for removing snow and ice in the winter?
  • Who handles the landscaping of the property?
  • Who is responsible for handling what repairs, including small ones?
  • Would you consider offering a discount if I manage repairs myself?

Questions about Utilities

  • What utility services are included with the property? (water, electricity, gas, Internet, trash)
  • Do you have a list of utility contacts for me?
  • Is the property heated with gas or with electricity?
  • Do you have an estimate for what normal utility bills tend to be at this property?

Miscellaneous Questions

  • What is the policy/cost for parking?
  • Do you have guest parking?
  • Do you have restrictions on guests visiting the property?
  • What is the pet policy? (Pet deposit? Pet fee? Pet Rent?)
  • How close is public transportation?
  • Is there additional storage space elsewhere?
  • Have you changed the lock on the door from the last tenant?
  • What happens if I get locked out of my apartment?
  • How often do you perform property inspections? What kind of notice will I receive before you enter the property for routine inspections and maintenance?

These may seem like a lot of questions to ask your future landlord. But they address situations that are bound to come up during the course of your tenancy. Being prepared ahead of time with the knowledge for how your landlord handles common rental tasks will save you time in the future and help when making an important housing decision — like signing a lease!



Kaycee Miller

Kaycee is a writer and the marketing director for Rentec Direct, specializing in real estate and property management. Learn more at