What to Consider Before Signing Your Next Lease

10 Questions You Should Ask When Moving to a New Place


This past week I went through my nearly annual process of moving apartments. I love my new home but am thoroughly exhausted from the effort.  Let’s face it, finding the perfect place is no easy task. When you do find a place that calls your name it’s important to know exactly what you’re getting yourself into.

Over the years of moving I’ve begun to curate a list of the important things to consider when making a move. Read on for  10 of the most important questions I’d recommend you ask before signing a new lease.

1. How Long is the Lease?

Most leases are for a term of one year. After the first year, some rental properties allow you to go month-t0-month while others mandate that you renew for another 6 to 12 months. If you know there’s a chance you might need to move part way through your lease bring this up with the landlord. Breaking a lease can be a difficult and costly process. It’s better to understand the policy and get it in writing to protect yourself from future troubles.

2. Can I Sublet?

Most leases have a clause in them that prevents a tenant from subletting to any other renters. You may not have any initial intentions of allowing others to rent your space but circumstances do come up. Where I’ve found this to be most true is when I’ve wanted to rent my space out on Air BnB. If you travel renting your home can be a great way to bring in a little side cash. However, if you don’t have approval to do so you could risk eviction.

3. Are Utilities Included? 

Each property has its own policy around utilities. In some instances it’s all or nothing. In others partial utilities like water and trash are covered while electric is not. You’ll want to know which utilities you can expect to pay for and about how much you should expect paying. Additionally, you will want to find out if there are any restrictions on the utilities providers you can use. In my last apartment for instance, there was only one cable/internet provider we were allowed to use even though it wasn’t our top choice.

4. What Help is Provided?

If something in the apartment breaks or you find yourself locked out, who do you call? Find out what hours the landlord is available for assistance and the best method of getting in touch with him or her. If you are renting from a larger company they will often also provide additional help such as a handyman. Get a list of all the important names and contact numbers and make sure to find out if there are any fees incurred for calling on their services. We found out that a gardener was scheduled to come 2x/month to our new place and that we would be charged for his services. We negotiated this down to monthly visits to cut our costs.

5. What Fees Can I Expect?

Speaking of fees, make sure you are aware of any that you might be subject to. We’ve discussed two- breaking the lease and hire help- but there are potential others. For example, fees are commonly issued if rent checks are turned in past their due date.

6. Can Repairs be Made?

When you’re looking at a property you’ll want to do a thorough inspection noting any damages you find. Make a list and ask if these things could be repaired before you move in. Besides damages its also worth making a list of changes you’d like to see made to your apartment. When we were looking at my new apartment it had plants on the balcony that were obstructing our view and a fence that was too low to offer any privacy. We made sure that the lease included removal of the plants and raising of the fence before we signed. Don’t be shy to ask for these types of personal requests.

7. What is the Annual Rent Increase?

Don’t expect that the rent you pay in year 1 will be the same rent you pay in year two. Most properties raise their rent on an annual basis to keep up with rising market prices. The increase can very widely so you’ll want to know what to plan for. If  you are lucky you’ll find a place in a rent controlled neighborhood which prevents any rent raises or at least keeps them to a very least. If this is the case make sure you understand the rules of keeping the rent control. In my last apartment the rent control price was broken once a new lease was signed. Though we had several girls move in and out we made sure to keep  the same lease to avoid a spike in our rent. If you are not in a rent controlled neighborhood ask the landlord if you can sign a longer lease (say 2 years) up front and  avoid any changes in rent during that time.

8. How Are Roommates Handled?

At this stage in our lives many of us find ourselves residing with at least one other person. In some instances you will share one lease and one rent payment. In other cases each of you may be asked to sign your own lease and send in separate rent checks. Talk to your landlord about how roommates are dealt with. In either case, make sure that every person living in the apartment has signed a lease with the landlord.

9. Are Pets Allowed?

Thinking about bringing a furry friend into your new place? You’ll want to check with the landlord first. Some leases prevent any types of animals from residing in a rental. Others only allow pets of a certain size. This is also important for those of you who don’t own a pet. If you’re apartment allows dogs be aware that you might have to deal with dog poo on the sidewalk or barking fits in the middle of the night. Additionally if you’re like me and have any interesting in dog sitting you’ll want to know if this is allowed.

10. Is there Any Common Space?

While your personal space is your top priority it’s also important to consider what common space the apartment has. If you’ve got a small unit but have access to a common lounge, pool, or game room that could make the property more enticing. Ask if there are any fees to use shared spaces and if they can be reserved for personal use. On the flip side, you should also consider the down side of having common space.  If the unit you’re interested in is too close to the party room it could be too noisy for your liking.

Superbly Single,


What tips would you add to our list? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @SingleDiariesXO!

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