When given the option to purchase vs. rent a house, millennials choose the latter. Reasons include choosing to live in high-rise cities, delaying marriage, and a desire for flexibility to relocate anytime they want. Another factor to consider is the upfront cost of buying a house.
While the decision to own a house changes as a person gets older, renting one’s home remains popular with homestay programs and vacation rentals like Airbnb and HomeAway. Whether you’re a tenant or a landlord, it is wise to brush up on common questions you need to ask before signing a lease or a month-to-month rental agreement.
Questions to ask when renting a room in a house
When you rent a room in a house, you get more communal space, furniture, and appliances to utilize. If there is a yard or other outdoor amenities, you can take advantage of those too. If you can live peacefully with other renters or the family living in the shared home, you can enjoy the benefits of renting a home at a fraction of its cost. Before you arrange a meeting with the landlord, ask yourself these questions:
- Is the house in walking distance from your school or office?
- If not, how far and how long is the commute to significant locations?
- Is there public transportation nearby?
- If you have a car, is there adequate parking space?
- Are there nearby commodities such as a convenience store and a laundromat?
- Is the house in a safe community?
- Do the exteriors look well-maintained?
Location is a key consideration when renting a room in a house. Consider your lifestyle and the commodities you can’t live without. Your daily life will run smoother when your workplace and shops you frequently visit are in close proximity to the house. Once you’re all set with the location, go ahead and call to see the room for rent. Now here are some questions to ask your future landlord:
- What is your application and screening process?
- What are your criteria for ideal tenants?
- What are your house rules?
- What is your policy regarding pets?
- Am I allowed to receive guests? If yes, are they allowed to stay overnight?
- Which furnishings and appliances are you allowed to use?
- Likewise, does the lessor give notice if they want to inspect your room? (most states require 24-hour notice)
- How is the crime in the neighborhood? (ask about assaults and burglaries)
When living with a roommate or other tenants in the house, be sure to ask questions about them as well, like:
- Are the people living in the household more of the quiet type or do they like to party often?
- Do groups or clubs meet here on a regular basis?
- Is there anyone who lives here taking medicine for mental health or mood disorders?
- What are the expectations regarding tidiness?
- What are the expectations regarding household chores? (including yard work) How can you help?
- How many bathrooms are there and how many people are expected to share a bathroom?
- Does anyone in the house have vices? (drugs, smoking, alcohol)
- What are their rules regarding smoking and drinking? (in your case or your guests)
You should be able to ask regarding financial matters and expectations of you. You may want to reconsider before haggling rental prices. If you can, do initial research of the median price of rentals in the area. If you are seriously considering the location and the room caught your eye at first glance, it is best not to haggle with the landlord. Before you sign a contract, be sure to ask:
- How long is the lease contract for? (month-to-month, short-term, one year)
- Is the lease renewable?
- How much are the rent, security deposit, and advance payment?
- Are there fees that are non-refundable?
- Can they clarify the purpose of the deposit and advance payment? (compare with state laws)
- When is rent due and how is payment collected?
- What is their policy for late fees?
- What are the situations when the lessee can forfeit deposits and advance payments? (be sure it is stated in the lease contract)
- Do they accept payments via debit or credit card? (you can automate payments this way)
- Are early lease terminations allowed and how much do they charge in the event? (necessary to ask if you are always on the move)
You also have to discuss recurring bills in the household. This is especially important when dividing bills among roommates. Be sure to clarify the fees you are responsible for and ask other financial questions such as:
- Do they charge a fixed fee for utility bills (water, cable, WIFI, electricity, phone) or variable? (some landlords charge an additional fee for using certain appliances)
- If variable, how will the utility bills be divided among other tenants or roommates?
- How much is the average cost of utility bills every month?
- How are utilities billed when you’re away for a week or so?
- Are you expected to share in the food expenses? If so, clarify how much.
Questions to ask when renting a house – Students
If you have the option to rent off-campus, you’d likely do so. What with less strict rules, no mandatory meal plans, a quiet place to study, and more space to cook and entertain, it is no surprise why many students bypass college dorms to find a nice house they can share with students like themselves. Before you head out and look for possible rentals, be sure to ask yourself these questions:
- How much is your monthly budget for rent? (rent should be no more than 30% of your monthly expenses)
- How much is your budget for upfront costs? (examples: security deposit, holding fees, pet deposit, first and last month’s rent)
- How much of your budget can you allocate for recurring costs like internet, cable, electricity, and other utility bills?
- What kind of property can you afford to rent? (house, apartment, a room in a house)
- How long do you want to rent the house? (one year, month-to-month)
- Do you need parking space or access to public transportation?
- Do you have the documents necessary to rent? (social security number, bank statement, pay slip, co-signer, parent guarantor, rental history, criminal history)
- Do you have the option of choosing your roommates?
You may want to go house-hunting with your future roommates. Unless you’re open to having a stranger as a roommate, you will want to know as much as you can about your roommates like:
- Do they have a job or a reliable source of income?
- How much is their allocated monthly budget for rent and utilities?
- Do you plan to share in the food expenses?
- Do they own pets and are they open to paying fees like pet deposits?
- Will they co-sign the lease with you and abide by its terms?
- Do you have similar lifestyle choices? (studious, quiet type vs. the life of the party)
- Can you trust these people around your personal belongings?
- What is your plan for managing household chores?
Once you settle an arrangement with your future roommates, you can go ahead and search for off-campus housing. In some cases, you may have to share the house with strangers. Some landlords rent the house exclusively to students while others have a combination of employees and students living under one roof. Ask your landlord these questions:
- Are all tenants expected to sign a shared lease or do you have individual leases?
- What happens if a tenant terminates his/her contract? How will the utilities and rent be billed?
- Are the utilities included in the rent? If not, what is the average cost of various utilities?
- Will the remaining tenants be responsible for finding a substitute tenant?
- Are you allowed to add a tenant to your lease?
- Does the landlord allow mixed-gender living or should everyone be of the same gender?
- Is the apartment furnished or are there appliances included?
- Do they have WIFI or internet connections in all rooms or only at communal areas?
Remember, under no circumstances should you send out an application form for a property you haven’t seen. Be sure that the landlord can show you the property and be open to questions about the lease and the property before you sign any agreement. For your safety, be sure to ask about these as well:
- Are there incidents of theft and break-ins in the community?
- Was there a death or a traumatic incident that happened in this house?
- Does the house have issues with mold, damp, or lead paint?
- Are there fire or smoke detectors and a fire escape plan?
- Who will you contact for repairs and how quickly can the responsible party respond?
- Do they have a secure area for receiving mail or packages?
- Does the landlord conduct inspections of the property and do they give prior notice?
- Under what conditions can your landlord terminate the lease or legally evict a tenant?
You would also want to ask about their financial expectations of you such as:
- Do they have a refund policy for security deposits?
- Are there any non-refundable fees?
- Do they penalize late rental? If so, how much is the penalty fee?
- What is the penalty for breaking the lease? (e.g. early termination of the contract)
- Do they have flexible leasing terms in case you plan to go home during the holidays?
- Can you sublet the house when you’re away during the summer break?
Questions to ask when renting a room in your house
Renting out one of your rooms can be a nice way to earn some extra cash and help subsidize your mortgage. Whether you are subletting a room in a rented property, managing a house for a relative, or renting out your own property, there are several questions you first have to ask yourself before putting up a room on Airbnb and other similar online services:
- How many rooms will you be renting out?
- Will you be staying with the tenants on a shared level or do you plan to rent out one floor of the house?
- Will you be sharing a single bathroom or does the tenant have a private bathroom in the room? If you’re sharing, consider setting hours for bathroom use especially during busy times like in the morning.
- What are the state laws regarding renting a room in your house?
- What is the median price of rooms for rent in your area? (See Roommates.com and similar sites)
- Do you care about pets, guests, and vices?
- Do you want a short-term or long-term lease?
- What is your ideal tenant?
- Are you willing to spend on background-checking and require a credit check?
- Are you used to entertaining guests or have you only been living alone or with family up to this point?
- Will your family be comfortable living with a non-family member?
Once you have decided on those considerations, you will need to have a screening process. You may look up application forms online. You should also interview the tenant before and during their visit to see the room rental in person. Ask questions like:
- Do you currently rent? If so, for how long and why did you want to move out of your old place?
- Does your landlord know you are moving? Also, can they give a favorable reference?
- Did you ever go through an eviction?
- Have you recently filed for bankruptcy? Also, for resignation? (Major red flags)
- What do you do for a living? (opt for one with a stable job and a reliable income)
- Do you like to bake or cook in the morning? (matters if you need the counter space)
- Do you have guests often? (layout your policy regarding partying, overnight guests, and bringing dates home) Also, ask how they feel about guests of your own.
- How do you feel about pets? If they own one or several, lay your rules and fees concerning pets.
- Do you smoke or drink? (lay rules about where they can smoke, hours they can drink, and a strict no illegal drugs policy)
- When are you planning to move in?
- Will there be others moving in with you? (interview them too)
- Do you need a parking space? (matters if you have a car and need the parking space too)
- Are you willing to sign a lease agreement? (depending on your terms: month-to-month, 1-year lease, etc)
- Would you be able to pay the advance payment and a security deposit? (also, pet deposits and talk about non-refundable fees)
- Do you have any questions for me? (Do not over share about your personal life. Talk more about the security of the place, nearby commodities, policies, communal areas, shared appliances, utility costs, and repair fees)
Questions to ask when renting a vacation house
According to TripAdvisor, more than 50% of Americans prefer to stay in vacation rentals over hotels. Vacation homes offer more room at a fraction of the cost so you can stay longer. Vacation rentals may also offer better amenities. If you plan to stay at a vacation house for your next travel destination, be sure to ask the property manager or vacation home owner basic questions like:
- Who is your contact? (property owner vs. manager) Also ask, who do you call in case of an emergency, repairs, and other concerns regarding the property?
- What amenities are included?
- Do they have a fast and stable internet connection and is it limited to shared areas or include all rooms?
- What is the maximum number of people allowed to stay in the house and can you invite guests?
- Do they charge extra for additional guests? If so, how much is the fee per additional person and do children count?
- How many rooms are there and are there enough beds for your group?
- How many bathrooms are there? (shared, private, indoor, and outdoor bathrooms)
- Are linens, soap, and other toiletries provided?
- What appliances are included? (washer, dryer, dishwasher fridge, hair dryer, coffee maker, etc)
- Are silverware, cookware, and other must-have kitchen equipment provided? (matters if you want to cook during your stay)
- Is there a BBQ grill?
- Are there grocery stores, playground, public transportation, and restaurants nearby? (Or is the place remote and you need to stock up before going?)
- Is there adequate parking and is it included in the price?
- How safe and quiet is the area?
Then, you will have to go through financial concerns. Be sure to learn about fees not stated in the advertisement. Ask questions such as:
- What is included in the rental price?
- Are there additional taxes you may be required to pay?
- Do they require a security deposit? If yes, when can you expect to get it back?
- How will they bill for utilities including internet, cable, phone, water, and electricity?
- Are there extra charges that can possibly be added to your final bill?
- Do they include daily housekeeping in the price? If not, do they ask for a cleaning deposit?
- How much do they charge for extra cleaning? (some property owners require the tenants to keep the house clean during their stay and pay for cleaning services after their stay)
- What is their policy for cancellations? Can you get a full refund if you find a problem with the vacation house upon arrival?
If you are staying with children or pets, you will also need to ask about childproofing and pet-proofing features they have installed. Ask about primary concerns like:
- Can they specify what they mean when they listed a child-proof or pet-friendly vacation house?
- Do they have a crib or playpen on-site?
- Do they have a backyard playground?
- Do they have a pool and is it gated?
- Do they have a fenced yard?
- Do they have stair gates?
- Are there ornamental plants in the property? (it matters if you have a pet and certain plants can be toxic)
- Are there health issues you should know about like mold or lead paint?
- Do they have cabinet locks, outlet caps, and baby gates installed?
- Does the rental have blinds and other window treatments?
- What security features (locks, burglar alarms, smoke alarms, etc) do they have installed?
Questions to ask when renting out your house
When relocating or buying a new home, you will need to consider what you will do with your current residence. Many opt to rent out their property until they find the time is right to sell the property in the real estate marketplace. Before you decide on renting out your house, first go over these questions:
- If you sold your house today, how much net income do you expect to get from the sale? (minus fees, taxes, and commission paid to the broker)
- Is there a potential for the value of your property to increase in 5, 10, or 20 years? (location-wise, new businesses emerging, new constructions or plans for constructions vs. a neighborhood that is decreasing in popularity)
- What taxes are you expected to pay as a property owner turned landlord? (capital gains tax, additional income tax, etc.)
- Is your area a hot market for rentals?
- Can you make positive cash flow on your property?
- Will you deal with tenants yourself or do you plan to hire a property management company?
If the current market value of your property is less than what you could make if you rented out your property and wait a few more years or decades for the value to increase, you will want to start advertising your property. When inquiries start pouring in, you will be screening the tenants. Questions you can and should ask the person applying to rent your property include:
- Why are you moving and also, if you are renting, does your lessor know you are moving out?
- When do you plan to move in?
- How many people will be living with you and do you plan on getting a roommate in the future?
- How much is your monthly income?
- Where do you work and how long have you been working there?
- Have you filed your resignation or bankruptcy recently?
- Are you willing to undergo a background and credit check?
- Can you provide favorable references from previous landlords? (also, ask for contact info of past landlords)
- Did you have any issues with past landlords I may need to know?
You may want to directly contact their former landlord to get insight into the kind of tenant you are considering:
- Did the tenant have incidents of late payments?
- Does the tenant owe the landlord outstanding debt?
- Did the tenant cause major damages in their unit?
- Did they have issues with disrupting neighbors?
- Was the landlord forced to forfeit the security deposit?
- Would they rent out their house to this tenant in the future?
Also, consider getting in touch with the applicant’s employer to ask if they are currently working there. Do note that most employers won’t disclose salary information. Still, you can ask the current employer as well as previous ones the following:
- How often has the person switched jobs in the past years?
- How long has the tenant been working in their current company?
However, it is crucial to know about questions that may get you in trouble with the person’s legal rights under the human rights code. Restrain yourself and do not ask these types of questions:
- How many children do you have and do you plan to have more? (on a similar note asking about pregnancy)
- Are you single, married, or divorced?
- What are your religious beliefs?
- What is your ethnicity?
- What is your sexual orientation?
- How old are you?
- Do you receive government assistance?
- Do you or anyone living with you have any disabilities?
For most landlord-tenant relationships, the first meeting, screening, and application process is only a bird’s eye view of what they can expect in the months to come. Either party may be hiding horrible issues like doing illegal transactions in the property, damages you may have overlooked, and unexpected fees not previously discussed. If from the onset you feel won’t get along with your landlord or with the tenant who wants to lease your property, it is best to move on to other options.
Common questions for lessors include checking on the applicant’s ability to pay and (without intruding on their human rights) learn as much as they can about their lifestyle, personality, and any issues they may have in the future such as failing to pay on time, problems with damages on the property, etc.
Common questions for renters include credit history, rental history, income status, possible problems with guests, pets, and disturbing the neighbors. If you can find a good tenant-landlord fit in your ideal location with sustainable living accommodations, then it is wise to guard that relationship with a lease and proper communication with each other. Also, be sure you have a clear exit plan should you have a change of heart regarding the property. Talk about eviction procedures and penalties for early termination of the contract.