Questions to Ask When Renting an Apartment

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Renting an apartment comes with a checklist of questions that differ from what you might ask when looking into renting a house, for instance. Getting some general answers ahead of the time can save you from being hit by at least a few unexpected or even downright unpleasant surprises later. But be prepared: The landlord or apartment manager has the right to ask you a few questions, too.

Going Up?

If you'll be renting an apartment unit that's more than a few stories up, you should ask a few questions about the elevator, if the building has one. Don't assume that it runs smoothly every day, at your convenience; elevators breakdown possibly more often than you think, explains The New York Times, so ask how often it's down, and about maintenance schedules or repair delays. Even if you're the marathon-runner type, you may have elderly or disabled family or friends who'll rely on it. And on moving day, or when you bring home a new or previously loved couch, you'll appreciate a "lift" -- but don't assume that you can toss such large items into the pulley-operated "cage." Some elevators -- sometimes in small or old apartments -- aren't designed for such tasks. In big, busy apartment buildings, chances are that if you don't book the elevator well in advance for moving in or out, you'll be using the stairs or waiting for slow periods.

What About Storage?

Apartments obviously don't come with sheds, basements, attics, or, typically, even much closet space. Ask about a storage unit; some apartments have an assigned one for each rental, but if your building doesn't, the lack of extra space can be a real hassle. Storage units are typically on the ground floor and provide you with somewhere to keep an assortment of things, from your artificial Christmas tree -- apartments don't often allow real ones -- and ornaments to your bicycle and seasonal clothing. Don't assume that the apartment's insurance policy covers your stored goods, that the unit is free or has a lock, or that the apartment has a security system. Ask.

Is it Hot in Here?

Temperature control is often an apartment annoyance partly because of the building's stacked design. For example, if the person below you keeps the thermostat set to 85 degrees, the rising heat can make your apartment feel like the Sahara desert midsummer; ask if the unit you'll be renting has a working air conditioner. Continuing with the subject of warmth, don't assume that you can control the heat. That may not be the case with apartments heated by hot-water heat, steam or boilers. These can make the building overly warm and humid in some areas and see-your-breath chilly in others, explains the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Now, What About You?

Landlords or potential landlords will likely want to ask you a few appropriate questions. The obvious ones might include asking how much you make and if anyone will be living with you. Other inquiries can spark some I-didn't-think-of-that or ah-ha moments. Depending on local laws, a landlord usually has the right to ask if you have any pets or if you smoke, which are often apartment no-nos.