11 Questions to Ask Your Landlord Before You Move In

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Couple signing a lease document

Post from MilitaryByOwner

Your PCS move has your nerves frayed and excitement piqued -- the perfect storm for forgetting to ask your landlord important questions about the house, such as, “What is the security code?”

You’ll probably also overlook the small details, too. It’s hard to remember to ask which key opens the mailbox while the movers are unloading.

Often, the answers are in your lease or tenant guide, so take a second or third read. But if you want a quick reminder right before move-in day, these are the questions you’ll want to ask to ensure a smooth transition and tenancy.

1) Describe All of the House Keys, Please.

Your house probably has been fitted with a number of keys over its lifetime as a rental property. Check with the landlord to ensure you have the correct keys for each lock, including pool gates, garages and sheds, storm doors and kids rooms. Ask if there are any stipulations for making copies; losing a key happens to everyone.

2) Where Are the Important House System Shut-Offs?

Every house layout is different, and during an emergency, there is no time to find the switches or levers for the most critical systems of the house. Ask your landlord to point out where to find the sources of:

  • Electricity
  • Gas
  • Water
  • Sump pump
  • Generator

You’ll also want to know about the quirks or minor adjustments needed to use these systems correctly, especially in older homes where operations get finicky.

3) What Do I Need to Know About the Heating and Air Systems?

Depending on the age of the house and if the owner is tech-savvy, your heating and air systems could look very different from other homes you lived in, especially in different regions of the country, as anyone learning to use a swamp cooler can attest.

The heating and air controls could be separate or together, monitored through your phone or simply programmed through the box or dial on the wall. Don’t forget to ask about the size of the system’s filters, locate where the slot is and how often a change is needed.

4) Is the Security System Active?

Today’s security systems serve many purposes, not only for deterring break-ins. Your landlord may not use the system to control smoke, carbon monoxide and water detection. Discuss whether the security monitoring service is part of your rent or if you make the payment through the provider.

If smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are stand alone, ask if they’re hard-wired or battery-operated. There’s nothing more annoying than the sound of a dying smoke detector at 3 a.m.

5) What Day Is Trash Pickup?

Everyone knows a PCS has plenty of trash and recycling to deal with -- the mountain never seems to shrink. If you aren’t passing the boxes and packing materials along to another family or having the movers pick up, find out your neighborhood’s trash, recycling and bulk pickup schedule. Depending on the services in your area, you might need to make a run to the local landfill.

6) Do I Need to Use Special Cleaning Supplies?

It's common for wood floors and natural stone countertops to be cleaned with a designated formula or occasionally treated with special conditioners. Find out if these finishes require any out-of-the-ordinary care. You wouldn't want to ruin the aesthetics of one of the home’s features accidentally.

7) Does Our Rent Include Landscaping?

And if so, what services are provided? You’ll want to connect with your landlord to find out what yard responsibilities are yours. It might be that your rent takes care of everything from weeding and mulching to lawn mowing, but often, landscaping falls to the renter to take care of. Clearly understand if you’re obligated to seasonal tasks, like fertilizing and leaf removal, in addition to regular grass cutting.

8) Do We Need Parking Permits?

Commonly required in urban settings and condo and townhouse communities, parking permits are troublesome if you’re not previously aware. The permits may be as simple as a parking pass given from the owner, or you potentially could have to show a lease to a government office and pay fees.

9) When Do You Schedule Appointments to Check on the Property?

The lease should have these visits spelled out before signing, so everyone is comfortable with the schedule and not surprised or put out by the inconvenience. But it’s never a bad idea to get a verbal confirmation from your landlord about their expectations for a drop-in.

10) What Are Your Rules for Painting?

Because painting is affordable and quickly personalizes a rental home, it’s one of the first improvements tenants make, but not always with the blessings of the homeowner. Avoid security deposit disputes by discussing the decorating policies the owner wrote into the lease before you pick the perfect shade of purple.

11) Would You Share with Us Your Favorite Places to Eat?

A smart way to connect on a personal level with your landlord is to ask about their favorite places for tacos, pizza or takeout. What better way to bond than over food? Use their opinions to start learning about your new hometown and to avoid finding the perfect gem of a restaurant six weeks before your next PCS.

You probably know some of the answers to these questions already, but others were a good reminder. Clear communication with your landlord is the number one factor in a successful partnership, so don’t hesitate to ask questions or confirm details.

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