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Ask This When Renting an Apartment

Renting an apartment can be exciting and stressful at the same time, and finding the perfect place to call home may require a little patience and a lot of research. Before beginning your search, make a list of your needs and detail your budget (including deposit and application fees), so you can more easily narrow down your search. Once you've narrowed your options down to a few different apartments, schedule at time to take a tour of each one, so you can get a feel for which one best suits your needs and lifestyle. You may also want to take a drive by your favorites later in the evening, so you can get a better idea of the neighborhood, parking availability and noise levels after dark. Once you've settled on an apartment, schedule a time to meet with the landlord to ask any questions you may still have, and make sure you understand any policies they have. Your next step will be signing the lease before moving into your new home. Once signed, you're bound to whatever is written in the lease, so don't just skim through. Take the time to read through your lease thoroughly, and ask any questions that come up before signing.

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How long is a typical lease?
Leases typically range anywhere from six months to more long-term leases that can last two years or more. The most common lease term is one year. Talk to the apartment manager or leasing office to find out your options for leasing terms, including length of lease, for information specific to the apartment you're interested in. 
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What kind of amenities should I expect to find at most larger apartment complexes?
While many large apartment complexes share similar amenities, such as swimming pools or recreation rooms, not all of them do. The best way to find out which amenities will be available to you at a particular complex is to call the leasing office or apartment manager directly with your inquiry.
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My landlord has refused to fix several things broken in my apartment, including a toilet we can no longer use. Is this a good reason to break my lease?
There are some situations in which you can legally break your lease, depending on which state you live in. However, there is a process you must follow before you can legally break a lease, so contact a local landlord/tenant hotline or organization to find out your next steps. As with anything, make sure you get everything in writing, including notice to your landlord to fix issues in the apartment. 
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I was asked to sign a lease on an apartment I have not yet seen (I'm moving out of state). Is this a bad idea?
Signing a lease on an apartment you have not yet seen leaves you open to all kinds of issues once you actually move. Since the lease will be signed, you'll be obligated to take the apartment, even if the unit is not what you expected. You may wish to consider a short trip to the state you'll be moving to, where you can take a look at the apartment before signing anything. You should also contact the local landlord-tenant organization to ask what your options would be if you signed a lease sight-unseen, and didn't like the apartment once you took possession. 
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What is the owner or apartment manager required to disclose when showing me a unit?
Although disclosure laws differ from state to state, apartment managers are generally required to tell potential renters about certain things, which may include anything from the presence of asbestos or lead-based paint to any known housing code violations. Ask the apartment manager whether there is anything that must be disclosed before you sign your lease.
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Do all apartments require a pet deposit if I own pets?
Security and pet deposits vary greatly, and some places are willing to negotiate while others are not. The only sure way to know what will be required is to call the leasing office directly and ask them. 
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Four days ago I signed a lease for an apartment (we haven't moved in or gotten the keys yet), but I have since found one that's more suited to my needs. Am I allowed to back out of the lease now?
Generally speaking, no, you can't back out once you've signed the lease, as a lease is a binding contract. However, you may be able to talk to the apartment manager and see if you can back out. Otherwise, you may need to speak to an attorney about what will happen if you fail to honor the lease you signed. Or, just move into the apartment you signed the lease for and move to a different place once your lease is up. 

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