These things to ask a potential landlord all hinge on a key fact: you have to have some choice as a tenant. If you are living in London, England, you are probably begging and pleading and brown nosing your potential roommates and your potential landlords, to try to eek your way to the top of a 200 person applicant list. None of this is going to fly, if you’re in that situation.
If, however, you’re in a more reasonable neck of the woods, then, try asking a potential landlord, or property manager, some of the following questions. They will help you get a feel for the place, beyond the colour of the wall and the scuffs on the floor.
1 – What’s the best thing about this unit?
Some landlords have lived in places before they started renting them out, so they will know exactly what the real features of the unit are. If not, there was something that drew them to this unit in particular. If it’s just the potential for profit arising from the rent versus cost, they likely won’t tell you that anyway!
You should expect answers like the amount of outdoor space, the daylight and brightness of the unit, the great community in the building, the location and stuff just down the street, the park around the corner, or the character of the old construction. There are a million different answers, but knowing the best part of a place, without having to figuring out after you’ve moved in, is a huge lead.
2 – How do I get a hold of you for maintenance issues?
I know that it seems simple, but knowing that your landlord is a luddite who isn’t tech savvy is important up front. Some people work at job sites where they don’t’ have cell service but are able to check their emails all day. If you ask them up front, you can avoid a potentially bad situation where they didn’t know there were any problems and you were stewing in a shit storm, literally.
Ask up front, in case they forget to mention it, and that way you won’t be scrambling to figure out how to get a hold of them when things are in a bad way.
3 – Why did the last tenants leave?
You’re going to have to be tactful when you ask this one, but after spending a bit of time with the landlord, you should be able to get a feel for whether or not this will go over like a lead balloon. If they get immediately uncomfortable when you ask this, you know that something is up. If they say, “I don’t know” try to figure out if it is an “I don’t know because they never told me” or an “I don’t know… because I’m not telling you.”
Your ideal answers include, “they wanted to have a dog,” “they moved out of town,” or “they were looking to start a family” or “they moved in with their partner.”
4 – Does it get particularly hot or cold in here?
Regardless of whether you have to pay the utilities yourself or not, if you can’t keep areas of the unit at a comfortable temperature, you have a problem. This can be particularly tricky in the summer in a 3rd floor apartment in a house, for example. If your house was built in the 1800s, like my house in university, chances are good some rooms are very warm in the winter while others are absolutely freezing.
What would you ask a landlord?
PS: Don’t forget to check the shower water pressure!