5 Questions to Ask a Landlord Before You Sign a Lease in Philly

Thinking of renting in Philly? These five questions to ask a landlord will help you determine if an apartment is right for you or if you should continue your search. You want to make sure the apartment is safe to live in and that you can afford it.

You’ve found a cute studio or ideal two-bedroom apartment in an area of Philadelphia that’s convenient for your commute and social life. Before you agree to rent it, there a few a questions to ask a landlord. You need to know not only how much the rent is, but also what it covers. You’ll also want to understand how the landlord deals with repairs and what you’re allowed to do as a tenant. These are the questions you should make sure to ask your prospective landlord.

1. What Does the Rent Cover? How Is Payment Accepted?

Depending on the type of building you pick in Philadelphia, your rent can go a long way or it can just cover the cost of actually living in the space, meaning you need to pay for all utilities on your own. Ask the landlord what utilities you’re responsible for if you decide to rent that particular apartment. Depending on whether or not utilities are included, that apartment that seems like a bargain might not actually be one.

You also want to find out how the landlord accepts rent payments. Some ask you to mail in or drop off your payments, while others accept electronic payments. If the landlord offers e-payment options, find out if you’ll need to pay an extra service fee. Ask about the payment schedule and when or if late fees are charged, too.

2. How Are Repairs Handled?

If the toilet starts overflowing at two in the morning or your refrigerator dies in the middle of a heat wave on Fourth of July weekend, how will the landlord handle the repair? In Philly, the landlord is responsible for repairs to the property. But Philly landlords don’t have to provide you with a refrigerator, just a stove and sink in the kitchen. It’s important to know how your landlord processes repairs and what he or she will take care of. Ask if someone is available to handle emergency repairs.

3. What Are the Rules for Decorating?

When you rent a place, you want to put your own special stamp on it. But putting too much of a personal touch on your apartment can mean you lose some or all of your security deposit. Find out from the landlord if you’re allowed to paint the apartment and if so, if there are any colors that are off limits. Your landlord might also have restrictions about hanging pictures or shelves, so be sure to ask before you break out the hammer or drill.

4. What’s Due at Move-In?

Find out what the landlord expects to receive up front. In Pennsylvania, the landlord can’t collect more than two months’ rent as a security deposit during your first year as a tenant.

5. Can I See a Copy of the Rental Suitability Certificate?

One of the most important questions to ask a landlord is to see the rental suitability certificate before you move in. Every landlord must give new tenants a copy of the certificate no more than 60 days before they move in. The certificate ensures that the property is up to code, doesn’t have safety or health defects, and that you’ve been given information about your rights when it comes to repairs.

A lease is a binding contract. The minute you sign, you’ll be responsible for paying the agreed-upon amount for the agreed-upon length of time. It’s up to you to make sure the apartment is up to snuff before you move in.


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