Questions College Students Should Ask Before Signing an Apartment Lease

You’re on the hunt for an apartment, and you want to move in before classes start up again at your college or university. You may be in a rush to secure housing, but make sure you slow down long enough to ask a few important questions of your prospective landlord. Signing an apartment lease is a serious commitment, and you should fully understand the agreement. These tips can help you initiate a productive Q&A with your future landlord.

Rent and Other Expenses

Undoubtedly, the lease answers the all-important question: When is rent due? Make sure you know where to send your rent check and what happens if you’re late on a payment.

Hammer out who is responsible for what expenses. Most landlords cover some utilities, but clarify exactly which utilities. For example, is internet included as a utility? What about pest control and snow removal? What move-in expenses should you expect beyond your security deposit and first month’s rent? To avoid any unwelcome surprises, ask upfront about any extra fees.

Pets, Roommates, and Visitors

Can you have pets in your pad, and is there an extra fee for your furry friends? Do potential future roommates have to undergo an approval process or complete any paperwork before moving in? Check if subletting is allowed in the event you need to do this down the road. Also, does the lease specify any rules about guests, specifically where they should park and any limitations?


Ask about laundry services and access to any amenities the apartment complex may provide. For example, will you be issued a key to the pool, a remote for the gate, or a specific parking spot?

Landlord Inspections

Clarify the policy for landlord inspections. For example, how often can the landlord enter the apartment and for what reasons? How much notice must you receive? Some states regulate this, so know what the law allows and make sure the lease doesn’t violate these laws.

Apartment Condition and Damage

Ask the landlord for a walkthrough checklist for documenting the condition of the apartment when you move in, particularly any pre-existing damage as well as any appliances or fixtures that don’t work. Typically, you use the same checklist when you do your move-out inspection to compare the condition of the space. It’s a good idea to also take photos of all damage.

What are the rules regarding decorating your apartment? Make sure to check before you paint, hang anything on the walls, or swap out showerheads and faucets.

Lease Termination

You will move out of the apartment eventually, and you need to know how that process should go in the future. Get answers to the following questions:

  • When does the lease expire, and what’s the policy for renewing the lease?
  • How much notice must you provide before moving out?
  • Will there be any automatic deductions to your security deposit, and when will you get the deposit back?
  • What are the move-out inspection and cleaning requirements?
  • What are the policies (and fines) for early lease termination?

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