Meeting with a landlord or building manager is a two-way interaction. The building manager gets to meet you in person and get a feel for your character before you turn in a rental application. And you, the potential tenant, get to ask that building manager everything you want to know about the building before you submit that application. Here is a list of must-ask questions.
This is a deal breaker for many landlords and renters. If you can't bring pets, there's no point in touring a building. Or, if you can bring pets but there are qualifications or restrictions, this is the time to find out what they are. Is there a limit on the number of cats you can own? If you've got a dog, must it weigh below 25 pounds? How much extra deposit must you pay? Find out the policies now to make sure you're qualified to live in this space.
Chances are, you're out of luck—or you'll be forced to smoke from a balcony, rooftop, or courtyard. If you smoke, be upfront about it. If smoking is not permitted within your unit and you break the rules, you may face expensive penalties or eviction if neighbors complain or if your smoking creates smells that permeate carpets, curtains, or other materials in the building. If smoking is permitted but only in specific areas, make sure you familiarize yourself with them.
Do most tenants work for a nearby employer? Are they young college students sharing spaces, single middle-agers, elderly and retired folks?
Building managers tasked with taking prospective tenants on tours have a good feel for the buildings residents. If you're open and make it clear you're wondering if other tenants resemble you and your lifestyle, managers are likely to share information.
Does the building offer wireless Internet or other Internet access, or will you have to find your own provider? If you set up a land line for your phone, is there a dominant provider in the area?
Or is there a tenant waiting list for some advertised features? Also, are all features included or, if not, what do they cost? Parking, storage lockers, and other amenities can be included with unit rental or may cost extra. Make sure to establish pricing and availability.
Do you have 24-hour access to parking, laundry, the gym, and the roof? Or are hours restricted, and, if so, what are those hours? Can you ever reserve common spaces for personal use?
If a better apartment opens up within the building once your lease has begun, can you break your lease and either transfer your lease or start a new lease in the new, better apartment? If, for instance, you wanted a two-bedroom but had to settle on a one-bedroom because that was all that was available, some landlords may let you live in the one bedroom on a one-year lease with the verbal understanding you'd get first crack at any two-bedroom openings.
(For instance, major construction or road work in the neighborhood might mean that tenants lose hot water, electricity, or will hear noise during portions of the day or night.) Where can you learn more about this work and when it may take place?
What are they? For instance, maybe all the air conditioners or refrigerators will be replaced...or the garage will be closed for a few weeks, forcing street parking or restricting guest parking.
In denser cities, it's common for dry cleaners, grocers, restaurants, and other businesses to deliver to apartment buildings. But don't take that for granted—ask. Also, if the building has a doorman or concierge, do their duties include receiving packages, dry cleaning, holding keys for out-of-towners, etc., or is that beyond the scope of staff responsibilities? Do you tip the doorman or concierge at Christmas, and if so, how much is appropriate?
Even if your visit to a building proves to you that the place isn't for you, it's still worth running through the relevant questions because they'll make you a more-informed apartment hunter who is able to see a good value or the right fit when it does materialize.