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Checklist and Questions to ask a landlord...

Finding an apartment you like is half the battle. Before a landlord accepts you as a tenant, they are going to have lots of questions for you. The most important of their questions are essentially asked in the application form they will ask you to fill out.

Wouldn't it be nice to have an application form you can present to the landlord to fill out? After all, you're going to be dependent and their word and honesty to fulfill many basic functions that will affect the quality of your like. Well, there is no such "landlord application form", and they wouldn't sit for you and fill it out anyhow. But you should still try to find out the information that is most important to you.

In other words, you should have a list of questions prepared that you can ask the landlord.

Now, you're not just going to fire one question off to the landlord after another. But over the course of one or two conversations with your prospective landlord, you should try to find out about some of the following:

  1. If the apartment isn't rent stabilized, will I be able to renew the lease?
  2. If the apartment isn't rent stabilized, will the landlord agree to make future rent increases the same percentage as rent stabilization increases?
  3. On what date is the rent due?
  4. Can it be paid by personal check or electronic funds transfer?
  5. What are the late payment penalties?What are the terms for return my rental deposit?
  6. Are there any expectations beyond leaving the apartment "broom clean" at the end of the lease term?
  7. Is there a pet damage deposit? How will I get that back at the end of my term?
  8. Are any utilities included in the rent? Is heat and hot water included?
  9. Is there storage available in the building? Is there an extra charge for it?
  10. Is parking available in the building? Is there an extra charge for it?
  11. Are cable or satellite TV and broadband access available in the building?
  12. What modifications are you allowed to make in the apartment? Can you paint walls and ceilings, install shelves, hang mirrors and pictures, add/change window coverings, etc.

TIP: If you are planning on adding a temporary wall to create a new room for you or a roommate, get clearance from your landlord before putting up the wall.

Very recently, NYC began enforcing fire ordinances that prohibit such walls unless approved by the Dept. of Buildings. If an illegal wall is discovered in your apartment, you can be forced to remove it at your expense.

  1. What is the repair policy and the process for getting things fixed? Who do you call, and when are they available?
  2. If a contact person is not available 7x24 hours, can you order your own repairs if necessary and have the landlord pay?
  3. Is there anything that will not be repaired if it breaks?
  4. What is the policy on pets? You should ask even if you don't currently have a pet, since you may get one later, or, if you have allergies, you may want a building that does not allow pets.
  5. Are there now, or has there ever been bed bugs in the apartment?
  6. Have there been any bed bugs in adjoining apartments, on either side, above and below? Anywhere in the building?
  7. Is there, or has there been any issues with ants, roaches or other vermin?
  8. Is there, or has there been any issues with mold or toxins in the apartment unit, building or surrounding environment?
  9. What is the process for dealing with problems with other tenants (noise, harassment, etc)? Have there been recent incidents?

TIP: As you talk to the landlord – size them up (just as they are sizing you up!). Are they fair and responsive? Do they care about the building and tenants? Are they flexible but still enforce the rules? Do you feel you could work with them?

Be sure to be polite and diplomatic as you ask these questions. A good landlord will understand why you are asking and will appreciate your thoroughness and the fact that you are prepared and serious about apartment hunting.

The Basic Application Checklist...

All of the items in the checklist below are discuss in greater detail elsewhere in this renting guide. Click on the blue links for find out more.

  • Personal reference letters
  • Business reference letters
  • If employed by company: Letter from employer (on company letterhead) stating income, title, bonus structure, and length of employment.
  • If self-employed: Letter from CPA stating annual income.
  • Most recent pay stubs
  • Last two tax returns
  • Copy of driver's license or passport
  • Credit report on you, anyone else on the lease, and your guarantor, if any:
    • Most landlords will want to run their own credit report.
    • They usually charge between $20 and $40 per credit report.
    • The credit report fees may be included in the Application fee or not. Find out.
    • Credit report fees are not refundable.
  • Application Fee - Usually from $0 to $400.
    • Application fees are usually refundable if you are not accepted. Find out.
    • Application fees may or may not include the credit report fees. Find out.
  • Your most recent bank statement.
  • Brokerage account statements are also very useful.
  • Certified checks, bank or cashier’s checks will be needed if you are accepted for:
    • First month's rent.
    • Security deposit.
    • After you’ve signed the lease and handed over your certified checks, all future rent payments may be made by person check.
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