You're excited about the prospect of moving into a new apartment. Youv'e scoured the ads and visited numerous apartment. You've narrowed things down to one, and you're about ready to sign the lease agreement. You dream of the additional space you'll get with more bedrooms, and you're planning out what furnishings you'll buy with the money you saved over the past few years. But there are some things you didn't foresee with your last apartment that you should've checked out before signing the new lease. What potential unseen costs might there be? Should you find out or just go in with blind ignorance? 


Don't assume that everything is set and you'll get exactly what you want. Usually, the monthly rent amount is the only cost you need to be concerned about, and if you fail to factor that into your budget, you could be in a world of financial hurt quickly. You have to do your homework, especially since it will affect your finances. Your landlord or building owner wants you to sign the lease, so they can get guaranteed revenue for at least the next year. Here are some important questions to ask him or her prior to making things official. 

What Costs Are Required Up Front?


You know what your budget is for your monthly rent, and you have a range you can work with. But there are always more costs than you thought, and you should know about those as early as possible. There are security deposits (usually a month's worth), administrative/paperwork fees, move-in fees, etc. Don't make the assumption that it's just pure rent and nothing more. Sometimes, landlords ask for two months' rent payment, so find out about that, too.

If your new rental also has associated amenity fees to use the fitness center, pool, covered parking, etc., then you should ask if those are included or not. Also, sometimes your landlord will include electricity and/or water in the cost of your monthly rent, so you should know what that breakdown looks like before you sign. No question is stupid, and you should treat them as such. Having an understanding of your new landlord's rent amount, the security deposit, amenity costs, and associated move-in fees will make you put you at ease, and you'll be better able to budget things early on.  

What are Typical Utility Costs? 

When it comes to utilities, costs can vary widely depending on the utility company and the area in which your apartment is located. It's good to get a head's up on things. You should know, on average, what you can expect to pay to use your unit's utilities. Are electrical costs high because electric baseboard heat is used in your apartment? Are they lower because steam heat for radiators are used? How much is the water bill? Is it billed monthly or bi-monthly. Even if the landlord doesn't include it in your rent, he or she should have a good idea of what costs are?

Don't get surprised by your utility bill because you failed to ask these questions. If water bills are $100 more per month than you originally thought, then that's a $1,200 bump from what you budgeted. Not good. Understand if there are other utilities you have to cover like natural gas, trash removal, etc. and get those squared away before you realize that you can't afford to live there because of high utility costs. 

What are the Rules About Security Deposits?

Security deposits are almost always a requirement. If you don't know what they are, you should understand that security deposits cover potential damages you might have in your apartment during the course of your tenancy. But don't just write a fat check and forget about it. You should know what the rules are about paying it and getting it back. During that period, your landlord might actually use the money to make repairs to your unit, but you should know what those are and ask for a receipt with the amount paid. You should also know what repairs will be done. But before you even sign the lease, know what this involves, what the process is, and when you can expect to get your money back.

You should also ask your landlord if there are specific reasons why your deposit would not be returned to you in full, as well as what that involves. Don't get surprised when it's too late. Also keeping mind that in some states, landlords are required to put security deposits in a separate bank account and give you the interest earned on your money. Make sure there's congruence between your landlord's policy about security deposits and your state's laws.