Tips & Guides / Leases

10 Essential Questions to Ask Before Signing a Lease

By Landing | Oct 15, 2020
Shaking hands after signing a lease

Finding an ideal apartment is an art form. There are neighborhoods to narrow down, “must-have” lists to make, pros and cons to weigh, and on top of all of that relationships with both roommates and landlords to manage. You aren’t out of the woods once you find the apartment, though. No, then comes the sometimes stressful process of actually applying to live there and then negotiating and signing the lease. Yes, a renter should always carefully read and probably negotiate your lease. By doing so, you could save yourself a lot of headaches down the line and potentially a lot of money. 

 This time-consuming process can break the best of us, which is why we’re here to make it as straightforward as possible. These are all the essential questions to ask before signing a lease:

What are the lease terms?

The most important terms of your lease will be the cost of rent agreed to by both you and your landlord and the length of the lease term, or how long you commit to paying rent. 

The terms should also dictate whether or not the prospective tenant has the option to stay after your initial lease term is up, and what will happen to rent if you do. For example, does your landlord have the ability to implement a rent increase at that point, if so, by how much.  Furthermore, will you need to commit to another lease term or be able to go month-to-month. 

Depending on your credit score or the state of the economy, you may be able to negotiate a few perks to be worked into your lease terms such as a month of free rent, or a longer lease of 16-months in return for 2 months of free rent. Most landlords are willing to negotiate at least a little, so it never hurts to ask. 

What amenities are included?

After touring your apartment building or complex, you may be well-versed in the amenities available, but are they included? Things like parking spots, gym, pool, rooftop access, laundry, and the like aren’t always included in your rent payment, and if not, often come at an additional fee. Ask your landlord which, if any, amenities are included, and don’t be afraid to ask for the ones that are the most important to you. 

If you’re looking for a fully furnished apartment, a Landing will have everything you need. Plus, it will include access to all amenities a building offers in the rent, so you’re free to use whatever the building provides. 

When is rent due, and how do I pay it?

Arguably, this is the most critical question to ask your landlord. Not only is paying rent on time the responsible thing to do, but it will also make your landlord happy, which will make your life as a tenant easier.  

Consider asking questions such as: what day of the month is rent due, and is there a grace period? If you move in on the 15th, but rent is due on the first, will the first month’s rent be prorated? Do they only take checks, or can you pay digitally via Venmo or another banking app? Is there a fee for late rent payments, and if so, how much? 

How much notice is needed to end my lease?

Standard rental lease agreements call for 30 days’ notice before ending a lease, but it’s not uncommon for employees responsible for property management to require 60 or even 90 days’ notice. Ask in advance to avoid paying for an extra month or two of rent you don’t need at the end of your lease term.

Are pets allowed?

Whether you’re a dog or cat (or another animal) owner, or not, it’s a good idea to ask about a pet policy and if there is a pet deposit. While you may not have a pet at the moment, there are plenty of occasions where you would need to know if pets are allowed. For instance, you could decide you want a pet while living at the apartment, a new potential roommate could have a pet, a guest could ask to bring their pet, or you could need to pet-sit for a friend or family member. These situations are commonplace, and if you’re uncertain of the rules around pets in your apartment complex, you won’t know how to handle them. Ask your rental property manager whether or not pets are allowed, which kind of pets are or aren’t allowed, and if there is a fee associated with having pets in the apartment.  

How are maintenance requests handled?

Maintenance, while often inconvenient, is a part of living whether you’re renting or owning. The older the place you move into, the more likely you will need to submit a maintenance request during your stay. Ask the management what their protocol is for handling both regular and emergency maintenance. It’s a good idea to keep the number of their maintenance team or person handy for when you’ll need it. You wouldn’t want to be stuck without running water or with a broken dishwasher for weeks on end, now would you? 

When living with Landing, a 24/7 concierge service is included, and it’s simple to schedule regular cleanings and repairs through an easy-to-use mobile app.

Are there penalties for breaking your lease?

Getting out of an apartment lease is never easy, but that doesn’t mean you should stay in a lease if it no longer serves you. Before signing, ask if there are penalties for breaking the lease early, and if so, what are they? 

If you can’t commit to a long-term lease for any number of reasons, you may want to consider a shorter flexible lease schedule as offered with Landing. This way, you can up and move when you need to with just 30 days’ notice.

How does the lease renewal process work?

Some leases will automatically renew, such as most month-to-month leases, while others will require a formal resignation of a lease in order to maintain a residence. It’s important to know which type of lease you are getting into before signing so you can plan whether to stay or go and when you need to let your landlord know. 

At landing, you can easily move between fully-furnished apartments with flexible month-to-month leasing options and no need to fill out additional applications. It’s the optimal situation for anyone who wants to lease on their own terms. 

How much is the security deposit, and what do I get back?

Upon signing a lease, you will typically have to put down a security deposit equal to one to two months’ rent. This secures your rental, but also acts as coverage should you damage anything in the apartment. 

It’s important to ask your landlord or property manager in advance about how much you will be expected to pay in a security deposit and how long after you leave will you have to wait for it. Additionally, it would help if you asked what will be taken out of the security deposit at the end of your lease term. Typically, a security deposit is used to cover any repairs needed after you move out, or damages to the property, including the patching of walls, paint, new flooring, yard work, etc. It’s important to know what would fall under the category of damages. You should know whether or not you want to put holes in the wall, paint your room a shade of pink, or allow pets in your place. If you know it will or will not come out of your security deposit, you can properly assess the risk of these actions and others. 

If the rental doesn’t require repairs after you’re gone, you may get your security deposit back in full. Sometimes, in this case, you can even apply it to your last month’s rent. Local and state laws often govern the rules of security deposits, so be sure to research what the law says in your city. These are necessary questions to ask before signing a lease and putting down the security deposit.

Check all your boxes

Your lease agreement is a legal binding document, so you shouldn’t sign it without reading it entirely and carefully. If you ask these questions and make sure the answers are spelled out in the rental agreement before signing, you’ll be in good shape. 

For flexible lease options that suit your lifestyle, consider living with Landing. Landing offers month-to-month leasing, fully-furnished units, and immediate lease approval. Plus, there are no application fees or security deposits to worry about, so you’ll be well on your way to moving in by the time you’ve decided where to go. Browse the incredible Landings all over the country that make moving and living all the easier. 


Ted may be the world's slowest typist and struggle to hold a pen, but he has mastered how to pursue a more flexible lifestyle throughout his airborne adventures around the U.S. Whether you're looking for more information before migrating to a new city or want to find an easier way to rent a nest—erm, apartment—Ted will always be here to share his best advice for where to live and how to thrive.