House Hunting? 4 Things You Need to Know Before Taking on a Lease

When you’re house or apartment hunting, some things just go without saying. Yes, you have to find a place that’s a good location for you at a good price. Yes, you want it to be safe. But what about the other things you should look for before you sign a rental agreement? If you’re not sure where to start, why not take a look at the following four things to get your house-hunting trek off on the right foot?

1. Take Your Time

U.S. News and World Report suggests that rushing a landlord/ tenant agreement can hurt a potential tenant in the long-run. Make sure you thoroughly check the space out, noting damage that already exists. Also check to see if things work: Does the toilet flush? Do the light fixtures work? How about the stove? If something doesn’t seem right, don’t jump on the agreement without thinking about it. You don’t want to get caught in a lease in a building that’s a real lemon.

2. Tenant Screening

Most would-be tenants expect that a landlord will run a background or a credit check. The potential tenant actually might do well to think about what a tenant screening will involve in its entirety. This may include checking to see if they have property insurance or any type of liability insurance. Depending on the screening type, it can even include an in-depth look into their personal record to make sure that he or she is the type of person that the landlord wants to lease to. As having different types of insurances can look attractive, you should get up-to-date on the ones that your rental situation may be asking for. You can also let your landlord know that insurance is a part of the financial package that you bring to the table.

3. What’s Included?

Often the ad for the apartment or home that you’re renting will tell you if utilities or trash are included in the price of the rent. Yet, you should still check with your would-be landlord to find out. Don’t just assume. If you live in a building that has a gym downstairs, are you allowed to use it? Can you bring guests, if so? Are there perks like morning coffee in the lobby or a free pass to board public transit? These little extras may make the place exactly what you want. They may also cost you a fortune if they turn out to be hidden costs, though. Find out if they are.

4. Can You Make it Your Own?

Another thing that you should do before you move in and sign any lease is to ask what you’re allowed to do with the space. It’s important to know what exactly you’re not allowed to do as well. Are you dying to create a burgundy red accent wall? You should ask if you can paint. What about hanging those gorgeous pictures you bought at Art in the Park? Again, you should ask. Some landlords will be reasonable, and so it is definitely worth asking.

Having your own place is a real joy. It’s also a real pain if something goes wrong. Many of the things that cause a tenant heartache are obvious once you know what to look for. Be sure to check out everything beforehand and be prepared to walk away until you find a better space.


About the author: Hannah Whittenly is a freelance writer and mother of two from Sacramento, CA. She enjoys kayaking and reading books by the lake. Hannah recommends using Business Credentialing Services for your tenant screening needs.


Hannah Whittenly About Hannah Whittenly

About the author: Hannah Whittenly is a freelance writer and mother of two from Sacramento, CA. She enjoys kayaking and reading books by the lake.


  1. Such a well written and useful article! Thanks for sharing it!