Rental Q&A

Apartment Tips

Most Commonly Asked Questions

Below are some of the most commonly asked questions regarding apartment rentals, primarily in the Boston area.

Our top real estate expert answers them all.

When should I start looking for an apartment for September 1st?
You should start your search as soon as you know you will be needing to move for September 1st. Some apartments are available for the following September in October. From March on is the peak time. Since this is the busiest time of the year, and many apartments get rented as soon as they become available.
What do I need to pay for the deposit?
This is one of the most commonly asked questions! Usually it is one month's rent for the first month rent.  Then many landlords take a last month's rent, one month security deposit, one month realtor fee and a key fee for about $100.00 or less.
How long is the lease?
The lease is a fixed term lease, meaning it is for a specific amount of time, for example 12 month, or 1 year. Commonly the leases go to the following August 31st. Often the lease may go longer, for example if you rent an apartment in May the lease will go to the following August 31st, for 16 months. There are some landlords that have leases that are for 1 year and do not end on August 31st.
Can I break my lease?
That depends.  Some landlords allow you to break your lease, and then they list the apartment with their realtors to re-rent it. Until the apartment is rented, the current tenant is still responsible for the rent payments and is still tied to the lease, Often there is a fee attached to breaking the lease in addition to continuing paying the rent, until which time the landlord or you have found a new tenant. 
Can I sublet my apartment?
Another one of the most commonly asked questions! Some landlords allow subletting and other do not.  If your landlord does allow subletting, some are pretty casual and let you take over the process. They may also want an application for the subletter.  Other may charge a fee and  perhaps make the subletter sign a new lease.
When should I give my landlord notice that I am not going to renew my lease?
Most landlords send you a letter asking if you would like to renew your lease for the following year. this is typically done about 1/2 way through your lease term. They may have a rent increase, and usually a deadline to let them know.
What utilities are included with the rent?
A lot of apartments include heat and hot water, some may include cooking gas for the stove. However, but many include just hot water.
How much is the realtor fee?
The realtor fee is one month rent.
Does the landlord or the tenant pay the realtor fee?
This depends on the landlord.  If the landlord pays the whole realtor fee, then there is no fee to the tenant. If the landlord pays 1/2 of the realtor fee, then the tenant pays 1/2 of the realtor fee. Lastly, if the landlord does not pay the realtor fee, then the tenant pays the one month fee. Another one of the most commonly asked questions, as it can vary based on the state as well.
Can I move in to the apartment a few days before the lease starts? Specifically late August before my lease starts on September 1st?
No, the landlords are extremely busy trying to get the apartments ready for the huge turnover that happens in Boston, Allston and Brighton on September 1st.  However, on occasion the landlord may allow it, if the occupying tenant has left the premises with ample notice and the landlord can get in there and prep the apartment for the next tenant. 
What if I am moving in on another time, not September 1st, and the apartment is vacant, can I move-in earlier?
That depends on the landlord, again, if the current tenant has vacated the unit with ample time and surrendered the keys and rights to the premises, and then the landlord can get in and prepare the apartment. 
Is parking included? 
No, it costs extra if you want a parking spot. Not all buildings have parking lots or spaces.  If you absolutely need a parking space, tell the realtor upfront and before seeing any apartments, and if there is parking, is there a space available and how much does it cost per month.  
Can I park on the street for free?
Street parking is allowed in many residential roads, if you get a resident sticker.
How do I get a resident sticker to park on the street? Does it automatically come with the apartment?
To get a residential on street parking sticker, you must go to the city hall, or probably online. There is a one time fee and then you may park where it says residential parking only.  The real expense is that you must change your car insurance to Boston and then pay that rate.

We hope we answered some of the most commonly asked questions for apartment rentals.

Lauren Bogosian is a Licensed Massachusetts Real Estate Agent. She helps clients find apartment rentals and purchase property in the Boston area.