So you finally found your dream apartment and you're ready to move in. But wait! You may want to ask your landlord a set of important questions before signing a lease. Before you move in, there is some crucial information you should get from your landlord regarding your paperwork and lease, rent costs, security deposits, utilities, and more. Let's quickly run you through 12 questions you must ask your landlord before signing a lease.

1. Can I do a property walk-through before signing a lease?

Make sure you do a walk-through of the property with your landlord before signing a lease. Point out every issue in the apartment and make sure they're mentioned in the lease. Keep a document of them in the form of photos and clauses in the lease.

2. What are my lease terms?

Always confirm with your landlord if your lease term is flexible or not before signing a lease. Most lease durations are for a year. However, some landlords offer six months or month-to-month options on the lease.

3. What's included and excluded in my rent?

Before signing a lease, check with your landlord to see if utilities are included in your rent. Ask them specifically which utilities will be covered in the rent and what's excluded. Some apartments charge additional fees for amenities like parking, storage, or a gym.

Related: What are utilities in an apartment?

4. If I break the lease early, what are the penalties?

Ask your landlord about the penalties charged for breaking a lease early. Penalties vary in different states due to different laws. For example, your landlord may be allowed to keep the entirety of your security deposit. They can also make you pay several months of rent left in your lease. Nevertheless, make sure you read the clauses on penalties of breaking a lease before signing one.

5. How do I make rental payments?

Every landlord has a way of accepting rental payments. Find out what their preferred payment method is (checks or online) before signing a lease.

6. When is the rent due?

Your landlord will likely ask you to pay the rent on the first of every month. However, some of them provide flexibility if you have to mail the check. Always check with your landlord about when you must pay the rent. Also, check if there's a grace period before late fees get added.

7. Is my security deposit refundable?

Security deposit laws vary according to different states. Generally speaking, the landlord will refund your entire deposit if you don't break the lease or don't cause any damage to the property. Ask your landlord the terms and conditions for getting a full refund of your security deposit before signing a lease.

8. What is the minimum move-out notice period?

At some point in time, you'll move out. You must inform your landlord at least one to three months before you move out. Failing to do so can cost you your security deposit or additional penalties. Always ask your landlord about the minimum notice period before signing a lease.

9. Do I need renters insurance?

Most landlords and property managers have made it mandatory for tenants to buy renters insurance. So if your lease mentions it, you'll have to buy the insurance and show your landlord before you can sign the lease.

10. How do you handle maintenance requests?

In the event of damage or malfunctioning of appliances, you don't want to be scrambling for help. Always ask your landlord what are the policies on maintenance requests before signing a lease. Your lease must mention these policies. For example, some landlords provide 24/7 maintenance at no extra charge, while some landlords require you to uptake repair costs.

11. Are there any guest rules?

Landlords have different rules for guests, visitors, and overnight stays. Check with your landlord if they have specific guest rules and whether guests are allowed to stay overnight. Read up on the guest rules before signing a lease to avoid penalties.

12. Is there a pet policy?

You might want to double-check with your landlord if pets are allowed on the property. There could be pet-specific policies, too, e.g., some properties allow only cats. Ask if there are extra fees and what are the ground rules on pets before signing a lease.After signing a lease, you'll have little to gain from any unsuspecting surprises. Instead, you'll be better informed and protected when you ask questions to your landlord before signing a lease.