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Four questions tenants should ask potential landlords

Apartment hunting can be incredibly difficult and daunting, but nothing feels better than finally finding the perfect space for you. However, even if this new place seems to tick all your boxes, a property can become less desirable if an inexperienced or subpar landlord is involved.

An easy way to ensure you’re getting a fair deal is to pose some important questions during your viewing. A good landlord will ask renters to fill out a tenant application and consider their rental history; a good tenant will have some questions of their own for a landlord, demonstrating a sense of responsibility and respect. Try asking the following questions and see how you feel after they’ve been answered:

What exactly are the deposit and rent and can you give me the approximate monthly utility charge?

Make sure you’re completely aware of everything you have to pay. If the landlord listed the unit for a smaller number online than quoted at your viewing, highlight the discrepancy and explain that you were interested in the price listed. If you’re uncomfortable with the number the landlord counters with, then walk away.

It’s also a good idea to inquire about utility charges if they’re not included in the rental price since they do vary a lot from building to building. Also ask whether or not heating is included in the rent. In cold countries like Canada (well most of Canada), heating will more than likely be used at some point and can drastically increase your utility bill come winter.

What documents and forms are required for your screening process?

Every landlord will answer this differently. Private landlords are more likely to be less stringent with their screening process whereas a landlord working for an agency will require in-depth documentation like photocopies of your passport, a pay stub for your proof of income, and a list of all your previous landlords with available and up-to-date reference information. As much as gathering all the necessary documents may seem stressful, generally landlords who use thorough tenant screening processes (like Certn’s) have a more vested interest in finding the perfect tenant for their property, so tenant turnover stays low. All this means your landlord is a good, responsible property manager who will be quick to fix any issues that may arise in your unit.

What is the lease duration and am I able to continue renting past that date?

Before spending your time filling out a rental application and submitting tenant screening documents, ensure the duration of the lease will work with your timeline. If you’re planning on moving in the next eight months for example, signing a one-year lease will end up costing you loads. The reverse is also true. If you’re hoping to find a place you can rent for a long time, signing a six-month lease with no option to renew will leave you with a big headache when you have to pack up and move all over again.

Are there any extras or benefits to renting this property?

Extras in this case refers to things like on-site laundry, a gym or pool in the building, and a parking space. If you do require a place to park a vehicle make sure you find out whether parking is extra or even available at all. If no parking space is available or affordable are you okay with potentially parking far away from your unit?

You may also want to check how the landlord accepts rent payments. Is it cheque-only, or are online transactions or e-transfers an option? Keep in mind if cheques are required for immediate deposit upon signing your lease and you don’t have any, you’ll have to order them which could take a couple of weeks.

When you go to a viewing, bring these and any other questions you might have with you in a notebook where you can easily access them. Take notes and be as polite and respectful as possible when asking them to the landlord. Chances are they’ll have some questions for you too.