Whether renting a home for the long or short-term, it is important to carefully vet a landlord (as the landlord will also be vetting you, the tenant).
By asking a landlord the right questions, you will be more likely to avoid unexpected surprises after move-in. After all, planning your trip or sabbatical can already be stressful, so let’s make the process of finding your housing easier. It will help to have any concerns ironed out before signing on the dotted line.
If you are looking to rent a home in your own country or abroad, our best advice is to do a face to face video before checking references and finances. It is important to see if you like and feel comfortable with the homeowner or landlord, especially if it is someone whose home you will be living in temporarily.
There are many questions to ask a landlord that can help tease out if it is a good fit. Here are our recommended ten questions to ask a landlord before signing a lease or contract.
1. What is the application process?
The first question to ask the landlord about is the application process. It’s best to start by confirming all the lease details that you are aware of and following up with understanding the steps involved. For example, if the landlord requires personal and employer reference letters, you can prepare them in advance.
Be sure to ask if background and credit checks will be performed. If yes, then what information do they need to carry this out and will it be a soft or hard check? A hard check can hurt one’s score, so it’s worth evaluating whether this check is necessary.
Moreover, ask what criteria they are using to evaluate the background or credit checks. This will be different from country to country. In the United States, landlords will typically take a look at your credit score. It is possible in the U.S. that a landlord will only lease his or her place to someone with an 800+ credit score. If this is the case and that’s a score that you don’t have, then this is an opportunity to discuss and see if there’s a workaround (e.g., paying a portion of the lease up-front in advance).
2. What lease options do you have?
With short-term leases, there’s a chance the landlord may be flexible with their lease and payment terms.
Although the listing may state a four-month lease with month-to-month payment, there’s a chance the landlord may be willing to take on a shorter lease if payments are completed in advance. If you do pay in advance, make sure to check references on the homeowner or landlord.
Similarly, being sure of the exact move-in and move-out dates is crucial with short-term leases. Confirm that the home will be available for occupation on the date you need to move in, and the final day you will need to vacate the home. There’s a chance the landlord may have agreed to other dates with existing or upcoming tenants for other lease periods, so it’s important to make sure the dates fit with your plans.
3. Are there any deposits or non-refundable fees I should be aware of?
Similarly, ask if there are any deposits or non-refundable fees that are additional to the stated lease amount. Sometimes short-term rentals have non-refundable cleaning fees or amenity deposits that aren’t clearly listed in the lease amount but are in the details of the contract, so find out about those ahead of time if you can.
4. What payment methods do you accept?
Understanding how your landlord expects you to pay rent is important. Some landlords may accept any popular method, but some may be picky and ask for post-dated cheques or secured bank drafts. Knowing this can help to sort out bank details and see if it’s a realistic method for you to make payments. Double-checking helps to avoid any issues later on.
This is especially important if you are planning a sabbatical in another country, as you may need to arrange some of your finances before you travel.
Related: Finding the Right Payment Methods
5. What’s your pet policy?
Most short-term leases will have clear pet policies that require pet deposits and additional cleaning fees should a pet reside in the place with the tenant. Other landlords may have a clear rule on not having pets.
Either way, it’s good to ask the landlord if what their pet policy is and any associated fees if those are not already included in their listing details.
Related: Pets on Sabbatical
6. What amenities are available?
There may be amenities included within the home and in the building that are part of the lease or excluded from it. Some homes may include WiFi or other extras.
If you are going on sabbatical to finish writing a book or to do research on your specialty, you may want to ask where the best place in the house is to read, write, or do other work.
Other questions to ask might be: Is there enough sunlight? Is there enough desk light? Is there a quiet space where you can concentrate if you are traveling with your family? These are all important questions that you will want to ask prior to deciding if this is the right rental property for you.
If the home is an apartment, amenities outside of the unit may also be available such as the building gym or pool. Check with the landlord to see if these are included in the lease or not.
Related: Home Exchange Communication Tips
7. How to handle maintenance issues?
Knowing what to do when things go wrong is a great question to ask the homeowner as well. If repairs need attention or appliances don’t work, is the point of contact the landlord or someone else such as the property or building manager? How easy is the process of requesting a repair, and are there any small fixes the homeowner would like you to do?
It is also important to remember that most SabbaticalHomes.com members want to make sure that the person who will be living in their property is someone who is interested in taking care of their home. After all, renting a property is more of a collaboration than a mere business transaction. Ask what their expectations are; this is your chance to inform your prospective landlord of your expectations as a tenant as well.
8. What’s the guest policy?
Some landlords may also have strict guest policies for their place. Anyone that enjoys throwing the occasional dinner party could find themselves in for a surprise when they find out that this is, in fact, not allowed as per the lease agreements.
Check with the landlord early on concerning rules in place for the number of guests that you can have over. Moreover, check to see if the building or neighborhood has quiet hours or parking restrictions that need to be observed.
9. Any construction or noise concerns I should be made aware of?
Being aware of noise concerns or construction nearby that can be noisy or limit access to the place during the lease period is important. Nothing is worse than viewing a place during the day only to find out after move-in that loud roadwork happens at night right outside your bedroom window.
Ask the landlord if there’s any ongoing construction or upcoming projects. You want to make sure that you will be able to have peace and quiet when you will be reading, writing, studying, or sleeping. If you will be traveling with babies and young kids, this may be even more of a priority for your family.
Additionally, check if there are any other noise concerns that you should be aware of that can be a disturbance. If possible, visit the property at different hours of the day and ask any neighbors. If you have only visited a home during the weekend, try to go by on a weekday. In many countries, weekends may be quiet and construction activity will be concentrated on weekdays.
10. Is there anything else I should know?
Finally, an open-ended question of anything else the homeowners should mention is an excellent way to find out any essential points the landlord may have forgotten about as they answered all your previous questions.
Perhaps you could even ask to speak to someone who has been a tenant in the past, or to someone who has referred your landlord’s property. Many SabbaticalHomes.com members have found that they become lifelong friends with those living in their homes, and the best way to start that process is with open lines of communication. The best matches are made based on mutual respect for the home and other people.
Are you applying to be a visiting scholar or go on sabbatical? Your ultimate temporary home – or your ideal tenant – is only a few clicks away. Check out our Sabbatical Homes listings throughout the world and begin your search today.