7 Questions You Need to Ask when Shopping for Your First Apartment ...

Valencia Higuera

7 Questions You Need to Ask when Shopping for Your First Apartment ...

Shopping for your first apartment is an exciting time. You might be ready to move out of your parents' house and live with a roommate or on your own. You can exert some independence, make your own rules and prove that you're an adult capable of caring for yourself. But before you begin the search for the perfect place, there are questions you need to ask when shopping for your first apartment.

1 Are Utilities Included with the Rent?

When shopping for your first apartment, you need to know whether utilities are included with the rent payment. This varies depending on the apartment complex. Some landlords charge a higher rate and pay the gas, electricity or water for tenants, whereas other landlords require their tenants to handle these responsibilities separately. Knowing this information helps you plan your expenses before completing a rental application and signing the lease.

2 How Much Does Rent Increase a Year?

Unfortunately, rent increases each year by a small percentage. So, if you're currently paying $1,020 a month, you might have to pay $30 or $40 more next year. This amount varies and your landlord might not be able to provide an exact number, but he can give a ballpark or estimate. This way, you know what to expect as the years proceed.

3 Do You Offer Short-term Leases?

When renting an apartment or house, many landlords prefer a 12 month lease - this guarantees the rental income for an entire year. But if you're not sure or certain that you'll live in the place for a full year, you can ask about short-term lease options, such as three-month or six-month leases. On the other hand, if you agree to a longer lease, such as 24 months or 36 months, you might be able to negotiate a lower rent price.

4 Does Credit Score Matter?

When buying a house, expect a mortgage lender to scrutinize your credit history. But it's often a different story when renting a home or apartment, although some landlords are sticklers for good credit. If you don't have a credit history or you have bad credit, be upfront with the landlord from the beginning. Ask about credit requirements and only submit a rental application if you meet these requirements. When rental applicants have bad credit, some landlords require a higher security deposit or a cosigner.

5 Can You Sublet?

Some landlords are picky and they want to know exactly who's living in their property. This is understandable. Therefore, if you plan to get a roommate at a later time, or if there's a possibility that you'll need to sublet the property temporarily, make sure you understand the rules regarding subletting and roommates in advance. The landlord may only allow a roommate or another tenant if you add their name to the lease.

6 What's the Consequence of Terminating a Lease Early?

Landlords handle early lease terminations differently. Some require tenants to pay the remaining lease balance or else suffer legal consequences, whereas other landlords allow early termination as long as there's another tenant ready to take over the lease.

7 Is Renter's Insurance Required?

Some landlords require a minimum $50,000 renter's insurance policy, which protects you in the event of fire, theft or other property damage. But even if your landlord doesn't require coverage, you need to get a policy. They're fairly cheap -- typically under $20 a month.

Getting your first apartment is a huge step, so it's important to ask questions and know what to expect. What other questions do we need to ask when shopping for a first apartment?