When looking for a new apartment it is easy to be taken in by amazing amenities or fancy appliances, but you need to be sure the property will work for you long term. You need to ask yourself some questions such as, is the location right for me, is it close to work or school, will my furniture fit, can I afford it? If you find places that seem to fit the bill, then it is time to start asking the landlord or property manager some key questions.
So, with that in mind, here are 15 questions you should be asking before you even think about signing any paperwork.
When is the apartment available?
It is no good finding the ideal apartment if it is not going to be available when you want to move in. Also, sometimes apartments are being renovated, so make sure you know when you can expect to have occupancy.
What exactly is included in the rent?
Make sure there are no nasty surprises by knowing exactly what is and isn’t included in the rent. Does it include gas, electric, air conditioning, water, heat, internet, parking etc? For any items not included, such as electricity, ask what the typical monthly cost for this service is and if there is a choice of provider.
What type of heating/cooling is there?
Older apartments will often have electric baseboard heating and are unlikely to have any air conditioning or cooling. Electric heating can be expensive, so if you are responsible for the electricity bill, make sure you get an idea of the likely costs. Likewise, a newer apartment with air conditioning may mean you paying more for utilities, or you may find some is covered in your rent.
You should also ask if the heating/cooling is centrally or individually controlled. Some buildings have a centrally controlled system which might mean that heating, for example, will only be switched on or off at a designated date. If you get a cold or hot spell outside these times, you might not have any control over the heating. Even when centrally controlled, individual apartments will usually be able to control the temperature, but again, you should check and there may be an upper or lower temperature limit.
Is internet available?
In a big city like Calgary, it would be unusual to find an apartment that does not have internet connectivity. However, that being said, there are different types of service available in different parts of the city. If having super fast fibre optics is important to you, check that it is available and who the providers are.
Where can you park your car?
If you have a vehicle, you will want to be sure that you have somewhere to park it. Make sure that the building has adequate parking available. Is it underground, above ground, covered, secure etc. If you have a larger vehicle, is the space adequate and is there enough headroom to accommodate your vehicle? It is no use having a large truck if the parking garage height is only 5’8″ as you will not be able to use it. Is the parking space allocated, or on a first-come-first-served basis? Is the parking cost included in the rent or not?
What laundry facilities are there?
Basically, you will have three options here, in-suite, shared or none. If the laundry is in-suite is it one combined washer/dryer or two separate machines? If the facilities are shared, are they on each floor or in one communal space? Are the machine a reasonable size and are they clean? How much is each wash/dry load? Do the machines take cash or cards and what hours are they available? If the building has no laundry facilities, where is the nearest laundromat?
What is the pet and/or smoking policy?
Whether you smoke or not, it is worth asking what the smoking policy is. If you are a smoker, can you smoke in the building, in the apartment or on the balcony? If you are a non-smoker you need to decide if you want to live in a building where smoking is allowed.
If you have a pet, you will need to make sure that your particular pet is allowed and what the rules, deposits etc. are. If you do not own a pet, are you happy to live somewhere where you might come across them?
Can you decorate the apartment?
Although it is very unusual to find an apartment that will allow you to paint walls or make alterations, if this is important to you, you need to ask. It is also worth asking about the policy for hanging wall art etc. Most places will allow this, but you should check to be sure.
Have there been any break-ins or security issues?
As a potential, tenant you have the right to know this. Is the landlord aware of any break-in to the property, parking lot or garage? Are they aware of any nearby issues, such as neighbouring building? Is there an issue with people loitering in our outside the property. Obviously, you are trusting the landlord to be honest, but make sure you do your own research too.
What discounts or offers are available?
It is always worth asking if there are any offers or discounts available. Many of the larger, multi-property landlords have incentives they can offer. This can include reduced security deposit, free months rent, free internet or cable or any other enticement. Just be sure that if you are being offered reductions on things, that you can afford to pay the full cost once the incentive is finished.
What deposits are required and how is the rent paid?
You will need to know exactly how much you are having to pay upfront before moving in. You will need to have the first months rent paid and the deposit and any other deposits such as parking fob, pet fees etc. Remember that according to the Residential Tenancies Act, the deposit cannot exceed more than the first full month’s rent. Any additional refundable deposits, such as keys, parking stalls etc, have to be added to the deposit amount and the total of all refundable deposits cannot exceed the first full month’s rent. If a non-refundable fee is charged such as a pet fee, then this does not form part of the deposit and can exceed the monthly rent amount.
You should also ask when and how the rent is to be paid each month. What payment methods are available and what date its due. You might also want to ask what their late payment policies are.
What is the guest policy?
If you expect to have guests staying with you, you need to know that the policy is. How long can they stay, can they get parking, do you need to notify the landlord, what notice is required. If the building has a guest suite, can you book it, what notice is required and of course, how much is it?
What is the application process?
You will need to know what type of application process the landlord has. Is it all done on paper, face to face, or can you apply online? What paperwork or information will you need to provide. How long will the process take? If they do a credit check, is it a soft or hard check? A soft check will not affect your credit score, but a hard check might. Also, make sure you know the lease duration. It is no good needing a yearly lease, but the landlord can only offer 6 months or two years.
What is the policy for early termination or subletting?
You never know what is around the corner, so it is worth knowing what the termination policy is in case you need to move out early. Are you responsible for the rent for the term of your lease, or until you find someone to take over the lease? Is there a one-off fee to pay to get out of the lease?
Subletting or reassigning a lease is allowed under the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) and no landlord can refuse a request without reasonable cause. If the landlord refuses such a request, written confirmation of the reasoning must be received by the tenant within 14 days of the request. If no response, either for or against the request is received within 14 days, the tenant can assume the landlord agrees.
What is the maintenance policy?
You should ask what maintenance you are responsible for, such as changing light bulbs and what is the responsibility of the landlord. Also what the process is for requesting maintenance in your apartment. You should also ask if any updates, renovations etc. are planned for the building, apartment or grounds of the building.
Conclusion: So, there you have it, 15 very good questions to ask before you sign any paperwork. In addition to these, you should also look for independent reviews from other tenants, so go to calgaryapartmentreviews.com where you will be able to see not only reviews left on that site but also those from Yelp and Google, all in one place.
Happy apartment hunting.