10 questions you should ask before you start renting a new place

Flickr / Alex BarthRenting for the first time can be daunting.
  • When it comes to finding a new place to rent, it’s important to ask a lot of questions to determine if a place is right for you.
  • Be sure to ask the potential landlord or rental agency about the property’s neighbours.
  • For your own health and safety, ask about potential insect infestations, mould problems, and when the place was last painted.

Signing a lease is a serious legal decision. Once your name is on that dotted line, you’re typically stuck with your chosen rental property for months or even years, depending on your lease. It’s extremely important to gather as much information from your potential landlord or rental agency before you commit to living somewhere new.

Here are a few unusual questions you should really ask before you start renting a place.

What are the neighbours like?

It’s always best to be aware of any potentially irritating neighbours before relocating to a new place. Chatting with the landlord and/or current tenants might reveal information about the environment of the building and the neighbours’ noise levels or annoying habits.

According to FindLaw, you may not have grounds to terminate your lease on the basis of excessive noise unless the noisy neighbour is also a tenant of your landlord and you can prove the landlord hasn’t protected your right to “quiet enjoyment” of your property, so it’s best to know at least a little upfront.

Can I look inside the shower?

Mould tilesShutterstockBe sure to check shower tiles for mould.

You might feel weird asking a landlord if you can peek behind the place’s shower curtains, but there’s a very good reason to investigate damp places like bathrooms and kitchens. Mould growth can be an icky and potentially dangerous problem in rental properties.

Read more:13 sneaky signs there might be mould in your house

According to the Centres for Disease Control (CDC), potential tenants should look for mould near shower heads and faucets. Mould also likes to grow on places that retain moisture such as ceiling tiles, cardboard, wallpaper, or air conditioning units. Spotting mould should prompt you to ask your landlord about the issue, including whether they would be prepared to have the affected area treated.

Who would be your ideal tenant?

There are two reasons that you should ask your landlord about their ideal tenant. First of all, it’s a good idea to see if you’re both on the same page about things like privacy, pets, and noise levels. But it’s also important to see if your landlord is following federal laws prohibiting discrimination based on things like race, sex, age, or familial status.

If they say anything that seems off or strange to you, it’s probably not the best fit and may even be worth more serious action.

What happens if the kitchen sink starts leaking?

It’s important to understand how maintenance of the rental property will be handled before you sign a lease. Landlords have a legal obligation to keep the rental property safe for habitation. You should clarify with your landlord, however, how minor repairs such as leaky faucets and dead light bulbs will be handled before moving in.

Why did the last tenants move out?

Uhaul moving out truckMary-Lynn/FlickrYou might want to know why the last tenant moved out.

Far from being nosy, asking this question is actually a good way to get valuable intel. As The Balance pointed out, there are plenty of perfectly normal reasons why prior tenants may have vacated, such as needing more space or getting a new job in a different city.

Be wary, however, if your prospective landlord is evasive about their last tenant’s reasons for leaving or even admits that maintenance issues or problems with neighbours caused the departure. You don’t want to be the unfortunate person who signs up for a problematic living situation.

Have you had a lot of long-term tenants?

This question might help you sniff out a nightmare rental situation. If the landlord admits that most of their tenants have been short-term or that they have been frustrated by a string of tenants breaking their leases early, that could be a sign that there’s something about the landlord or property that makes people want to leave quickly.

On the other hand, if your landlord raves about their last tenant and reveals that the property hasn’t been available for years, that could mean that it’s a pleasant place to live. Even if this is the case, it’s important to make sure you understand your lease completely before making any decisions about a property.

Where will the security deposit be held?

Laws concerning security deposits vary from state to state. In places where the landlord is required to hold the security deposit in an interest-bearing account, the tenant is usually entitled to that interest at the end of their tenancy. If you know your security deposit is being held in such an account, you can raise the issue with your landlord at the end your tenancy if the amount you get back is the same you initially paid.

When was the last time the property was painted?

PaintingEelke/flickrIt matters when a property was last painted.

Federal law prohibits the use of lead-based paint in rental properties, but according to the CDC, an estimated 24 million homes in the US contain deteriorated leaded paint, which poses a risk, especially to children.

If the property you’re considering renting was built or occupied before the 1980s, you should ask your landlord when the walls, window trimmings, stairs, or ceilings were last painted. If they don’t know this information or can’t provide a lead inspection certificate, you may want to rent elsewhere.

What kind of bugs are in the area?

It is a good idea to figure out what kind of pests the area is known for and how likely it is you’ll have to deal with them during your tenancy. After all, tenants have a legal right to live in a “habitable,” safe home.

In some parts of the world and in some older properties, insects are basically unavoidable. But there’s a big difference between putting out a few fly traps and finding a tarantula in your shower. Check with the landlord about what critters you might have to contend with.

Has the property ever had a bed bug problem?

If you want to get more specific, asking your landlord whether the property has ever experienced a bedbug infestation is a good idea. Even if they claim the home is currently free of the pests, bed bugs are notoriously good at hiding in places like carpeting and behind wallpaper, according to Bed Bug Central.

Get the facts before you sign a lease just in case bed bugs become an issue down the road.

Read more:10 signs your home might have bedbugs

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.