Apartment Hunting Guide: Top Things To Ask Before Signing the Lease

Date Feb 17, 2021
Blog category Power
By Staff Writer

Finding a new place to live can be demanding and stressful. From strict landlords to creepy and loud neighbors, your dream place could easily turn into a nightmare if you don't know how and where to start.

Yes, it's daunting at first, but it can be an exciting mission to look for your next home for the next few years once you know the ins and outs. Once you know your budget, ideal location, and target date, you’re pretty much set! 

Buuuuut, make sure to ask the right things. It's probably one of the most common mistakes first-time renters commit when apartment hunting. Here are some helpful apartment hunting tips and questions to consider before signing that lease!

What are the lease terms?

A good starting question to ask the owner or landlord is about the lease terms. Is it month-to-month, six months, annual, or biannual? And in case you want to renew your lease, can you change your current lease term to a different one once the contract ends? While you've probably decided how long you'll be staying at your chosen apartment, a flexible lease term would definitely be a plus.

Are utilities included? 

Sometimes, cheap apartments for rent doesn't necessarily mean it's within your budget. Make sure you know what is and is not included in your rent! Ask the average monthly cost of utilities, if it's per unit or if it will be equally split with the other tenants. Try to be specific with your questions to know what's covered by you and the landlord/owner.

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Are pets allowed?

Majority of listings include "no pets allowed" on the description, but there are still some that let you move in with your pets. Pet policies vary among different apartments and flats, but it wouldn't hurt to ask as this might also be a case-by-case basis. If they do allow you to bring a furry friend, ask about the pet policy in the building, what kind of breeds are allowed, and any fees you will have to pay.

Can my family and friends come over?

It's fun to have a place of your own, but even more so with the occasional company of your friends and loved ones. The guest policy may differ depending on your landlord, so it's best to confirm if guests can stay overnight or longer if they are allowed at your place. Make sure to read your lease terms and check the specific guidelines about this.

Can I decorate my apartment?

Decorating is an essential part of making our house/apartment a better place to live in. Most landlords allow decorating, but make sure to ask first to avoid paying any charges, or worse, getting kicked out. If possible, have them list the specific things you're allowed to do (most likely minor changes) in your apartment.

Alway read the fine print of your apartment contract.

How secure is the building and its neighborhood?

Your security should be on your top priority. After all, you don't want to feel unsafe in your place, especially if you're planning to stay there for a long time. You can google these apartment complexes and check the reviews or read if there were any crimes in the area within the last three years. Bring up security concerns to the landlord and ask if the building has any security features like security cameras, guards on duty, locks, etc. If not, ask if you're allowed to upgrade your padlocks or install a security camera.


Is renters insurance a requirement?

Your landlord might require you to have renters insurance. A renters insurance policy helps cover everything you own inside your apartment in case of burglary or fire. If this is something you'd like to consider (especially if you own some valuable things), regardless of whether it's a requirement or not, you can always get the best plans from the best NZ insurance providers.

What are the amenities?

Some apartments offer great amenities, which you might want to consider during your apartment hunting. Ask the landlord if they have parking spaces, storage space in the building, laundry facilities, etc. and if they cost extra.

If they don't have these, ask about the nearest stores and laundry places in the area. You don't want to end up having to take a cab just to buy food or get your clothes washed.

What about maintenance?

Considering that we spend most of our time in our place now, it's important to ask what kind of emergency maintenance they offer. Does the building have a maintenance crew or an immediate contact person should something happen like losing electricity, water leaks, etc.? Ask if there's a procedure for these requests and how long it usually takes to be resolved.

Does the building provide an internet connection?

Some New Zealand apartment buildings have internet installed for their tenants, but ask the landlord to be sure. It's important to stay connected, whether it's for work or to catch up with your family. If there's no internet, ask the landlord if you can have one installed at your place. Good thing, because the latest tenancy law changes finally allow tenants to install Fibre broadband at their rental properties.

Still need a little more convincing? Here are a few more tips (and tricks) before you seal the deal!

  • Ask for help from your friends! A simple word of mouth could get you a long way. Plus, it's easier to decide whether you should get the place or not if it's recommended by someone you know.
  • Do a little inspecting yourself. Save yourself some troubles and check every cabinet and cupboard there is in the place. Found some holes? Not a good sign.
  • Check the phone reception in the place! Imagine moving in and finding out you only get a decent signal in the bathroom?
  • Visit the apartment on a rainy day or at night! That way, you can see if the area gets flooded, if there are any leaks, or if you have any loud neighbors.

Now that you've asked all the right questions and are ready to sign the lease, make sure you have the best utilities and plans to save more money! Our comparison tool helps you find the best deals when shopping for broadband, mobile, insurance, and other basic utilities.

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