8 Important Questions to Ask Your Landlord (Before You Sign a Lease)

Words by
Justin Kerby

For renters, the right questions can make a world of difference.

8 Important Questions to Ask Your Landlord (Before You Sign a Lease) hero image
For renters, the right questions can make a world of difference.

If you plan on renting a property in Canada, it’s important to prepare for interviews with potential landlords. Tenants often prepare for questions about salary and previous rental experiences, however, it’s equally important to prepare to turn the tables around and get answers to questions that will keep you out of a bad situation. Landlords are often so focused on screening for the right tenants that they overlook some of the basic information that renters need to know, so come prepared for your next interview with these eight questions in your back pocket.

1. What’s included in the rent payment?

This should be the first question you have answered before signing any lease. Stated another way, it’s important to find out what is not included. Run through a list including utilities, parking, cable, internet, and amenities, and make sure you’re crystal clear on any additional fees that could be tacked onto your rent. You’ll be surprised at how much this varies from rental to rental.

2. What happens if I break the lease?

It’s important to make it clear to your potential landlord that you would never do this intentionally, but would like to know the course of action if there was a family emergency or job relocation that forced the situation where a lease was broken. You should know what to expect.

3. What are the maintenance responsibilities?

Making service requests is a normal part of renting, so laying out the process for requesting maintenance should be as easy as picking up the phone. It’s also necessary to know which maintenance responsibilities fall on your shoulders, so have your landlord put in writing what he or she expects from you as a tenant. This way everyone’s expectations will be met.

4. What are your long term goals for the property?

If you’re only looking for a short term rental, you can skip this question. However, if long term is what you’re after, get a feel for what your landlord’s plans are before you sign on the dotted line. A good landlord will be upfront and tell you if they intend to sell or move into the property at the end of your lease, or if they’re renting the property for the long haul. If they’re ambiguous in their answer, it’s likely that your stay won’t be as long term as you’d like.

Asking this question can relieve a lot of stress and anxiety come the lease’s renewal time, so don’t be afraid to inquire.

5. Why did the previous tenants leave?

It’s not an extremely common question to ask landlords, which is one of the reasons it can be so useful. Asking this question often catches landlords off guard, and can get you inside information on potential problems. It can make you privy of noisy neighbours, give you insight on the landlord’s likelihood of raising rent, and fill you in on the property’s rental history.

If something doesn’t feel right, ask if the landlord would mind you contacting the previous tenants to discuss their experience. It may seem forward, but your future wellbeing at home is much more important than an uncomfortable conversation.

6. When is the expected move-in date?

You can often use this question to your advantage if you have any flexibility. Showing that you’re able to accommodate the landlord’s schedule will make them feel comfortable working with you, and can put you ahead of the competition. Having a deposit, first month’s rent, and moving truck ready to go is a major asset if you find a landlord trying to fill a property quickly.

That being said, it’s also important that you know your move-in date so that you’re not caught off guard and stuck paying rent at two places. Pushing the move-in date a couple of weeks might not be a deal-breaker and can save you a lot of money.

7. Is there flexibility on price?

It never hurts to ask this question. If a landlord has had a hard time renting the property and you can tell that they like you, ask for their thoughts on a price reduction. Even a little bit of flexibility goes a long way over the course of a lease.

Do your best to prove two things to your potential landlord if you’re serious about getting a rent reduction. First, that you’re a reliable long-term tenant. Offer not only phone numbers from previous landlords but also written testimonials that speak to how long you lived at your previous residence. You should highlight the length of your occupancy if it’s over one year, which is what most landlords are looking for and will help them move towards considering lowering the price. Second, demonstrate to your potential landlord that you never, no matter what, miss a payment. Offer post-dated cheques or any other form of payment of the landlord’s choice, and get testimonials from your past landlords saying that you’ve never missed a single payment.

Landlords understand the value of a reliable tenant who pays on time, and they’ll often make concessions to secure a good situation (and fewer headaches) for themselves.

8. Are there any rules about decorating the property?

Renting doesn’t mean you don’t want to make your house a home. Some renters feel nervous about painting, decorating, and adding their own personality to a space. Don’t fall into this trap, you should make your home your sanctuary no matter whose name is on the title.

Ask your landlord about making changes to the property before you move in so that you know where you stand and what you can do to spruce things up. It doesn’t matter whether you’re decorating a small space or a large area, you should know your boundaries and feel comfortable making changes.

As you work your way through your questions, be sure to save room for natural conversation and get to know your potential landlord on a more personal level. If they’re answering the questions in a way that gives you an uncomfortable feeling, you might need to trust your gut and move onto the next rental property listing (we have plenty of rentals on REW for you to browse). Don’t forget that you need to approve of your landlord just as much as they need to approve of you as a tenant. It’s a two-way street.

While it may seem like a lot, your potential landlord will appreciate that you’ve taken the time to thoughtfully consider the questions above. It shows that you care and are serious about renting their property, two things that every landlord is looking for in a tenant.


Want to get the most out of The Guide?

Stacked ring illustration