Don’t Get Fooled into the Wrong Apartment: Tips You Need to Know
Choosing a new apartment can be a stressful experience, no matter where you live or what sort of place you are looking for.
There are tons of decisions to make, places to consider and checklists to go through. If you are moving with a partner or children, there are even more issues to take into consideration. The best way to make sure you are getting a good deal on an apartment that is right for you is to research your options carefully.
Unfortunately, plenty of scammers use rental properties as a way to make a quick buck on unsuspecting renters. In other cases, property owners may not provide the kinds of services or protections initially agreed upon, causing the renter all sorts of problems. Whether you are looking for an apartment online or in person, there are few types of questions you may want to keep in mind when checking out a new potential rental property. Check out some of the following tips to make sure you do not get fooled into renting the wrong apartment.
Location Counts: Know Where You Might Live
Although it may seem obvious, it is important to note how significant the location of your new apartment will be to your happiness there. If it is in an out-of-the-way area or somewhere that is not very safe, you will not be able to fully take advantage of your home even if it meets all of your other apartment expectations.
Along the same lines, an extra long commute to work every day can also spoil an almost perfect apartment. Do not let a realtor convince you to go with a place that is not in an area you like. Keep these location-related issues in mind the next time you go apartment hunting to avoid getting fooled into an apartment that is not right for you:
- Neighborhood safety is extremely important, especially if you have children. There are a few ways you can check out how safe the neighborhood around a potential apartment is. You can do your due diligence online, using local websites to check crime rates in the area. Pay attention to how many street lights there are, security cameras and other such safety features. Are the windows of nearby homes and businesses shuttered or barred? This could indicate an unsafe neighborhood. If you enjoy outdoor activities, make sure there is an accessible and safe place to spend time outside nearby the new apartment.
- The commute to work for you and the other adults in your household should be taken into account from the beginning. Make sure to factor in traffic, weather and any parking considerations that may apply. If you regularly take public transportation, carefully look into how close the nearest stops are and how often the transportation runs to that point. Make sure no future construction projects in the area will change these transportation routes. Longer work commutes can wreak havoc on your personal life, especially when they are unexpected.
- Neighborhood amenities are also very important. You may want to look into where is the nearest laundry or dry cleaning service, grocery market, gym, bakery, café, nail or hair salon, nightlife venues, restaurants, bars and more.
- Green areas are important to some neighborhoods and a waste of space for others. Make sure that the apartment you are looking into has as much green space as you would like, whether it be its own garden or courtyard or nearby access to a community park. You definitely want to keep this in mind if you have any pets that enjoy taking walks outside.
What Details Not to Overlook in the Search for a New Apartment
Once you are sure the apartment is in the right sort of location to meet your needs, you will have to turn your attention to the apartment itself. Beyond all the typical aspects you know to look into, there are some red flags that you may want to take special note of when conducting an apartment inspection, even if you have already moved in. These red flags may have to do with the building, the property owner, your neighbors and an array of other potential problem areas. Do not overlook these details the next time you are searching for a new apartment:
- Check all windows and doors for alignment and gaps. Every window or door should fit snuggly into its frame, without you having to lift it or slam it. Look closely at the window coverings and screens to make sure they are intact. Check to see if you find any gaps letting through light or air, as these can turn into drafts or expensive energy costs if left unattended.
- Try all locks and doorknobs leading to your apartment and inside your apartment to make sure they are secure and not loose. If there is a digital entry system, ask if it has ever stopped working and if so what is the back up plan for entering the building.
- Look for signs of insect infestations. Look at where the wall meets the floor, especially in more isolated areas, to see if there are animal droppings or powder from insect poison. Look for tiny holes in wooden features or furniture for termites. If furnished, you should look at the mattresses and sofas for signs of bedbugs as well.
- Observe the water pressure and test all the faucets, hoses, sprinklers and whatever other water pumps there may be in the property to make sure they work as described. While checking this out, also observe the sinks and tubs to see if there are any leaks, discolorations or odors. Make sure there is a plug for bathtubs. Test the shower head to make sure it works. Observe the water pressure throughout the home, as this will be very important for showers, cleaning, etc.
- Observe the water pressure. Test the water pressure of sinks and showers throughout the home, as this will be very important for your daily life and family organization.
- Test the temperature of both the water and the apartment’s air conditioning or heating system. Find out whether your water heater is communal or just for your apartment and how much water it heats at a time. Look into whether the air conditioning is by room, by apartment or by building. Get an idea of what sort of heating or cooling costs you can expect during the more extreme seasons so that you do not get blindsided with a surprise bill six months into your lease.
- Look closely at the bathroom mirror for signs of discoloration or breakage. It can be a sign of humidity in the bathroom or other issues that may eventually cause you problems.
- Take a look at the toilets. Make sure they flush properly and that there are no signs of leakage or erosion. You may want to ask how old the building’s plumbing system is to get an idea of how well it might work also.
- Check the safety features available in the apartment. Make sure there is proper and functioning fire safety equipment like smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Look to see if building fire extinguishers and escape plans are in place.
- Look for unreported damage from previous tenants. If there is any damage to an apartment that is not explicitly mentioned as being pre-exiting on a rental contract before you move in, there is a good chance you will become liable for the damages upon moving out.
Issues to Watch Out for in a New Lease
While there seem to be an endless number of ways a new renter might get fooled into choosing the wrong apartment, there are also many ways that a new renter may be tricked into signing a lease that does not offer all of the benefits and protections that the renter expects. Renting laws vary significantly from state to state and even city to city, so you should look into the renting laws for the city that you are moving into to get an idea of what your rights as a renter and your landlord’s responsibilities are.
Some areas are considered to provide more legal protection for landlords, while others are seen as having more renter-friendly protections. Beyond these standard policies that apply to all renters in a given area, here a few more questions you should keep in mind when signing a new rental contract to avoid getting fooled into an agreement that is not right for you:
- What is the length of the lease and renewal options? Do not underestimate the importance of these two aspects. Only sign a rental agreement that is within your agreed-upon time period and has renewal options that work for you.
- What is the penalty for breaking the lease? Make sure you understand how tied into this lease you are in case something were to come up and force you to change your plans.
- Can you sublet? Subletting without permission from the landlord can result in penalties or even eviction.