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Questions to Ask Before Signing a Lease

young couple with moving boxes

Before signing a lease, make sure you and your budget can support all the expenses associated with renting your new place. Remember to carefully review all documents so you know what you are on the hook for — financially.

Address these mandatory questions to ask your landlord before committing to anything:

Move-In Costs

Find out the average cost of rent and deposits in the areas you will be looking to move and start saving before the big day. Move-in costs generally include:

  • First month’s rent (sometimes the last month’s too)
  • A security deposit
  • Utility setup and deposit costs
  • Pet deposit
  • Moving costs (from pizza for helpful friends to a moving truck)


Make sure the rent fits into your current budget. Crunch the numbers carefully to be sure you can comfortably afford to pay the rent, utilities and your other expenses too.
Among the questions you should ask your landlord is the average monthly costs of utilities. A spacious house or town home may have higher costs than a cozy apartment or condo. One way to trim these expenses is to invite a roommate to live with you. Just make sure it’s allowed in the lease.


Before signing a lease, be sure to carefully study its ins and outs. How much will you have to pay if you need to end the lease early? How much notice must you give your landlord before moving, say for a new job? Does the lease allow for roommates? Pets? What are the financial consequences of being late with your rent?

If the answers are not addressed in the lease as is, these are questions you should ask your landlord. Be sure to request an amendment so you have the answers in writing.


Are utilities such as electric, gas and water included in the rent? If not, find out the average cost for each utility bill.


A great thing about renting is someone else is responsible for the upkeep of the building and the property but not all services on your rental unit are free. Before signing your lease, ask if you will be charged a monthly fee for lawn mowing, snow clearing or trash pickup, or if those expenses are factored into the cost of your rent?

Renters Insurance

To protect the personal items in your rental unit, including furniture and electronics, from theft, fire, storms and other damage, purchase a renter’s insurance policy. You may be able to get a basic policy for as little as $12 a month.

[Any reference to a specific company, commercial product, process or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by the National Endowment for Financial Education.]