So you're moving in. Have you considered the following issues yet?
Fill out your inventory check list, and review your lease for illegal lease clauses - Completing the check list is the first step in getting your security deposit back. See our handout on Security Deposits and Illegal Lease Clauses.
Set up your housing file - This will help protect you from future problems. We recommend keeping a file of all your housing-related documents, and a journal of all interactions or conversations with your landlord before and after moving in.
Other questions to ask before you rent - You
have the right to ask the following questions of both your prospective
landlord, and the current and previous tenants. You also have the
right to see: (1) the inventory checklists from previous tenants, and
(2) an itemized statement of damages that the landlord has charged
against the security deposit of previous tenants.
1. Who is the landlord? To what address should complaints go? Who should I contact in an emergency situation? What do you consider an emergency?
2. What is the lease term? When does it start? When does it end? Will the apartment be ready for me to move in when the lease term begins?
3. How do we pay our rent? One
check for each tenant? Or one check for whole household? How much is
the rent for the total rental period? When is rent due? Is there a
late fee policy? Are there any other extra fees? How much are they
and what are they for? How much is the security deposit? Note: State
law prevents landlords from charging a security deposit which is more
than 1-1/2 times the monthly rent. The maximum amount of rent you can
be required to pay before you move in is 2-1/2 months' rent (one
month's rent in advance plus 1-1/2 month's rent for the deposit).
During your lease, your landlord can only charge you for one month's
rent in advance at a time.
4. Who pays for utilities (water,
electricity, heat)? How much are the utility bills? What kind of heat
is there? Who controls the heat? Where is the thermostat located? Is
the house well insulated or drafty? Have you had a furnace inspection
recently? What were the results? Are there storm windows? Will the
landlord provide plastic sheeting for the windows in the winter if it
becomes too cold? You are entitled to have, and you should ask for, a
written estimate of annual utility costs for the prospective house or
apartment. If your landlord is unwilling to provide this information,
this is a red flag. You may contact the utility companies directly and
ask for cost estimates for previous year's usage.
5. How many people do you have on your maintenance staff? What
is your procedure for reporting and doing repairs? How long does it
usually take to have a repair done? What type of notice does your
maintenance staff give to the tenants before they come to make
repairs? If you see something in the apartment that you think is sketchy, tell the landlord.
Turn on the water in two different places in the apartment
simultaneously and test the water pressure and temperature. Tell the
landlord that you would like to have these things fixed before you sign
the lease or before you move in. Get any promises in writing.
6. Every apartment that you look at should have a smoke detector and locks on the doors and windows.
Do the doors have dead-bolt locks and a peephole? Do the windows lock
securely? Look at the common areas. Are they well-lit? Is there an
intercom system? Ask your landlord who has keys to which locks. Ask
the landlord how often he or she changes the locks on the unit.
7. What kinds of wiring exist in apartment to accommodate telephone and cable use? Who
provides local telephone service? Who provides local cable service?
May the tenant add an existing telephone line to the rental unit? May
the tenant make additions or improvements to the cable service?
8. Is parking available? Is
there an extra charge? Will I need a sticker? Where can my visitors
park? Is there a towing policy? Who tows the illegally parked cars?
9. Are laundry services available? Where
are they? What kinds of security and lighting measures are there in
the laundry facilities? How much are the laundry facilities? Are they
regularly maintained? If you don't offer laundry facilities here,
where is the nearest commercial facility? Is it located within walking
distance, or would I need a car?
10. Ask what kinds of crimes have been reported for the actual rental unit and for the neighborhood.
Ask if any crimes have ever taken place on the premises, e.g., theft,
burglary, assault, etc. Ask if and how often current or previous
tenants have had to call the police on noisy neighbors. How loud/quiet
is the building? How loud/quiet is the neighborhood? Do you have a
quiet hours policy? Note: You can get crime information for all of Ann
Arbor, by neighborhood, by looking at the Crime Map which is published
monthly in the Ann Arbor Observer.
11. Does your landlord provide garbage removal services? Is
this included in the rent? Who does the landlord use to collect the
garbage? Has the landlord or tenants ever experienced disruption in
garbage collection services?
12. What kind of arrangements do you have to remove
snow from the parking areas and other common areas around the rental
sidewalks, porches, fire escapes, etc.)? What kind of maintenance has
the landlord done to prevent ice damming and water damage from the
roof? Do you make arrangements to have snow removed from the roof in
the winter? Do you use recommended preventive roof treatments to
prevent ice buildup?
13. Are pets allowed? What
kinds of pets? Is there a pet fee? Note: Landlords may charge a pet
fee, but it should be relatively minor and should be compensating the
landlord for anticipated costs associated with wear and tear that pets
can be expected to cause; no fees should be exaggerated or intended to
punish the tenant. Usually pets fees range from $5 to $20 per month.
14. What kind of appliances come with the apartment? How old are they? Have they had problems? Is the apartment furnished? Can
I see samples of the furniture that will be provided? Do I have an
option to furnish the apartment myself and pay a lower monthly rent?
Note: If you're looking at an apartment that someone is currently
living in, ask the landlord which possessions belong to the tenants and
which possessions or furniture will remain in the unit.
15. Does the apartment come with a storage area? Ask to see it. How is the storage area protected from theft, flood, etc?
16. Leaking, flooding, and water damage.
Especially if you are looking at a basement apartment, ask what kinds
of trouble the landlord and current or past tenants have had with
flooding, sewage backups, and other kinds of water damage.
17. When do you begin pre-leasing activities for the following year? Do you give the current tenants a right to renew the unit, before showing it to others?
If the apartment has a pool, what is the use policy? What is the mail
delivery like? Are there lawn-care responsibilities, and who is
responsible for them? How close are you to public transportation?
Get information from your landlord on fees, rules and policies in writing, whenever you can! Carry
a notebook with you when you look at the house or apartment. Take
notes on the answers to these questions and ask your landlord to sign
your notes. Remember, you always have the right to ask for what you
It's your money - negotiate!
To return to the Michigan Tenants Counseling Program web site, click here.