Don't Rent an Apartment or Move in with Anyone Until You Ask these Questions

Renting an apartment for the first time can be a challenge; finding a roommate you know won’t turn into a horror story can be difficult. But have no fear! We come bearing answers. It is essential that when you begin the apartment and roommate searches, you get all your questions answered. This will give you a higher chance of weeding out the bad apartments and roommates. I have compiled a list of questions to use as a reference guide on your journey to the apartment and roommate of your dreams.

Make a list of apartment priorities – make sure you know what is most important to you. If you care most about having a reserved parking space, make that non-negotiable in your search. If you would like your own bathroom but would sacrifice it for parking, keep that in mind. It’s important to know what you want so that you can narrow your choices.

Next come the options. You’ll hopefully find a lot of apartment and roommate options, but you need a way to filter through them to find the perfect one. Take a look at these questions and use whichever apply to you to make sure you don’t end up with a bunch of surprises once you move in.

Questions for a potential landlord:

  1. How much is rent? What does it cover? Sometimes landlords will pay for water or a portion of monthly charges like electricity, etc. Additionally, sometimes there is a Home Owner’s Association fee in addition to rent or city trash fees. All of these might be added to your monthly rent, so get that in writing.
  2. Any deposits and are they refundable?
  3. How do I pay rent? Chase Quickpay, check by mail, etc.
  4. Late fee policy? Is your landlord going to be understanding if paying the rent completely slipped your mind during midterms week, and you need a few days extension?
  5. What is the subletting policy? Most landlords allow you to sublet if you'll be gone for an extended period of time, but they have policies about it. 
  6. What repairs and upkeep do you maintain on the building? What am I responsible for?
  7. What is your policy on decorating? Can I use thumbtacks or only command strips?
  8. Early termination of lease – what are your policies? Fees? Process?
  9. What is the pet policy?
  10. What is the length of the lease? Can I renew when it’s over?
  11. What is the best mode of contact? If your landlord is going to be inaccessible, they probably don’t care much about their tenants.
  12. What furnishings or appliances are included in the apartment? This is a good question you should ask before you spend all of your savings at Home Goods.
  13. What’s your guest policy? 
  14. Has this property experienced any break-ins, thefts or crime? If so, how was it handled?
  15. Have you had any noise complaints?
  16. Is there central A/C or window units? If it is central, what is the typical monthly charge? Same with electricity or water.

Be aware, many of these issues may be covered in your lease agreement, but you won't see that until you sign the lease. Get these covered while you're still searching, so you don't get stuck signing a paper with surprises on it. 

Now on to the roommate. Apartment roommates are different from dorm roommate because you will be sharing a kitchen, living space and probably some belongings with each other. You need to make sure you aren't stuck in a bad situation, because it is very difficult to get out of a lease if your roommate turns out to be crazy, messy, mean or just not right for you. 

During your roommate search, set up a meeting with any potential people and get these questions answered then and there. You don't have to agree on the answers to all of these questions, but they will give you a good idea of who you will be living with for the next year or more. 

Questions for a potential roommate:

  1. What time do you usually go to sleep? Wake up?
  2. Do you usually have friends over? Boyfriends? Girlfriends?
  3. Are you neat or messy? How often do you like to clean your space?
  4. Do you have a pet? Are you planning to get a pet?
  5. What is your schedule for next semester/year? If they will be super involved in a bunch of clubs, it might mean they will have people over a lot, which means long nights for you. Keep in mind that schedule dictates noise levels, cleaning schedules and overall involvement in the upkeep of the apartment.
  6. What are you bringing that you’re willing to share? If they are very territorial and won’t share anything, it might cause some fall out. On the other hand, it’s just a reasonable expectation to have.
  7. Have you ever rented an apartment?
  8. Do you have a car?
  9. How would you like to split costs for additional furniture or emergencies?
  10. What is your apartment budget? If they are looking for an apartment that’s way out of your budget, you won’t find something you both like. If they feel they can pay a lot more for electricity than you, expect arguments ahead about high bills. Stick with someone who has a budget close to yours. Money fights are always awkward.
  11. What do you do on the weekends?
  12. Do you like the apartment hot or cold? If they say it doesn’t matter, press them further. Most people have a preference. And you don’t want to be the one freezing in the middle of the night because your roommate likes to bundle up with the apartment at 60 degrees.
  13. What is your workload during the week?
  14. Are you an early riser or late sleeper?
  15. Are you a gamer? What shows do you like? If one of you loves horror movies and the other gets scared by a bunny, it might not work. On the other hand, if you both love the same shows or are huge gamers, you may have found a great match. This needn't be a deal breaker, though.
  16. Do you smoke? Drink?
  17. Are you friends with your old roommate? This is a crucial question because it will tell you how she/he handled the split. If your potential roommate starts into how terrible and disastrous the old roommate was, it may be a red flag for you. If possible, get the former roommate’s name so you can reach out and find out the other side of the story.
  18. Do you prefer to do homework in the apartment? Or library?
  19. Do you expect a lot of visitors?
  20. What are you looking for in a roommate? If your potential roommate is looking for a new best friend, and all you want is someone with whom to split rent, it might not be the best match.
  21. How often do you cook?
  22. What’s your stance on privacy? Do you lock your bedroom door or prefer to keep conversations private? This might be a prediction of future fights or accusations if they suspect you’ve been in their stuff. It’s important to know if they’re paranoid, and how respectful you need to be of their space.
  23. Do you have any food allergies? Or restrictions? If your roommate loves to cook Asian food and you’re allergic to peanuts, steer clear.
  24. How long do you plan to stay in an apartment? If they’re only around for one semester, it’ll just lead to challenges for you.

Good luck!