We get it – sometimes you don’t want to rock the boat.
As a tenant, you want to be on your landlord’s good side. But sometimes tenants get so scared they think even asking a question or two about their lease or property will seem presumptuous!
As a real estate agent, I can tell you that nothing is further from the truth. In fact, landlords and agents want you to ask questions at the open for inspection. The more you know about the property and the more engaged you are, the more you will stick in the landlord’s mind.
And not only that – if you put yourself out there and actually become engaged by asking questions, your landlord or agent will respect you more. They’ll see that you have some knowledge and aren’t afraid to become engaged with the property you’re actually renting – which means you’re probably more likely to take care of it.
They might even be more willing to negotiate on some things like the rental price.
So if you’re going to ask some questions, what should they be? Let’s take a look at 10, (and down the bottom - two you shouldn’t ask, ever!):
1. What’s the length of your preferred lease?
This is just good preparation. You want to know how long you should expect to live in the property, and whether you should get attached to the area or not. The sooner you know how long you’ll be staying, the sooner you can start making plans. Keep in mind some landlords like to do shorter leases to begin with, but they’ll be happy to extend if you prove you’re a good tenant.
2. Would you ever consider a 2 year lease?
Sometimes tenants feel as though they shouldn’t ask about a longer lease, but landlords often want tenants to stay as long as possible. They might want some stability with their investment property for a long time, and the longer you stay, the better! It doesn’t hurt to ask.
3. When do you plan to sell the property?
Is this a personal question? Yes – but it’s one you should ask anyway. After all, you’re going to be living there and investors know that they need to be mindful of their tenants’ plans. Asking when they plan to sell the property isn’t going to give you a definite timeline – things change – but it can help you formulate at least a high-level plan for how long you can stay.
4. What about pets?
Look, some landlords don’t like pets – we get it. But asking the question isn’t going to harm you. In fact, bringing up the subject early will make you look honest and forthright rather than hiding a dog every time there’s an inspection.
Consider asking whether you can pay a slightly higher rent to have your pet.
5. When can I move in?
Pretty simple, but many people don’t think to ask. Be sure to get a range of dates for when you can move in, and see if the landlord will be a little flexible if need be – but don’t push the point too much. By knowing what the landlord wants this can help you put in a more favourable move-in date on the application.
6. What internet is available here?
You can actually figure this out yourself as many broadband providers have address checkers that allow you to see what’s available and what isn’t at your address. But you can always ask to see if there is a connection you don’t know about – and your landlord may know of some local developments that are coming soon.
This especially helps with wireless connections. Sometimes providers “officially” cover an area, but the access on the ground might not be great which the landlord can tip you on.
7. How would you like me to apply after the open for inspection?
This may seem strange, but everyone has their preferences. If a landlord wants online applications but you sent a PDF, you’re going to be on the bottom of the pile. The same goes for real estate agents - they’re often busy and any applications that don’t fit their preferences will be put to the side.
And by the way, you might be tempted to use realestate.com.au’s 1form application as it’s all online, but many agents don’t actually like using it so keep that in mind.
8. What is going to change before I move in?
The vast majority of rentals will have already been cleaned but there are plenty of other things that might need addressing. For instance, some loose floorboards, a door hinge that doesn’t quite fit, some new shelving, and so on.
Don’t push the point - you can’t really ask for too much, unless it’s something that’s a safety issue (or if you’re prepared to pay more rent). But it’s good to know what’s going to stay the same and what will be addressed.
9. Do you want me to take my shoes off?
This is a good one - and not for the reason you might think. Not only does this question make you look courteous and careful, but it also makes the landlord think you’re going to be conscientious about keeping a neat home.
It’s the exact opposite of walking in and lighting up a cigarette. Asking whether you need to take your shoes off will definitely help you stick in their mind.
10. Who’s responsible for garden maintenance?
If you’re renting a property that has a substantial amount of gardening to keep up, then you’ll want to ask this question. Not only will you get the ambiguous, “who does what” question out of the way, it’ll also make you look responsible and that you care about how the property is maintained.
And just for good measure, here are some questions you should never ask!
1. Want to hear my life story?
Landlords don’t want to hear about your troubles. Sure, a bit of conversation is nice and if they ask, don’t necessarily hide anything. But whining about how long it’s taken you to get a rental and everything else that’s happened in your life will make them think you’re more trouble than you’re worth.
You don’t want to come across as desperate, so whine to your friends, not your landlord!
2. Can I tell you how bad my current landlord/agent is?
NO. Never do this – don’t slam another landlord or real estate agent. Landlords want to deal with positive people, and the sooner you start bagging somebody the sooner they will think you’re simply too negative to deal with.
The more you complain about those issues, the more your landlord is just going to see as a thorn in their side!
So there you have it. Remember, landlords want to hear from you – so don’t be afraid to ask questions. The more they see you have a stake in the property, the more they will want you to stick around.