When you’re looking for a place to rent, it’s easy to get pretty excited about a place based on an online listing. You see the photos on Craigslist or Zillow and it looks cute. Maybe it has a big bathroom, a gorgeous backyard, or a fireplace. Something catches your eye though, and you’re excited to go see it in person.
It’s really important to not get too excited and to rush the decision. I’ve been there before, and then I was stuck in a 12-month lease. So I thought I would share my advice for things to ask the landlord when looking at a potential apartment or home to rent, as well as things to look for yourself when touring the place.
Watch ceiling for waters stains. If the roof is bad and leaks, there will likely be stains visible on the ceiling. If you see them, ask about them! If they claim they are old and the roof has since been replaced, consider that it may not be true. Are you open to living in a place with a leaking roof? If not, ask if they will add a line to the lease that says the roof does not leak, so you can break the lease if it does in fact leak.
Sniff near tub and sinks for a mildewy smell. We’ve had leaky faucets and under-sink pipes multiple times in rentals. It’s common for renters to not think to open the cupboards and look under the sink but it’s smart to. Inhale deeply to see if you can smell anything that is of. Even turn the faucets on.
Ask about lawn care, snow removal, utilities, garbage removal – are those included in rent? This one seems a bit more obvious but it will vary from place to place. If you don’t have a lawnmower, it will be very important to make sure you aren’t responsible for mowing the lawn!
Check to see if lease would be canceled if they sold the place. I had a friend who was only 3 months into her 12-month lease when the owner sold the place. Her lease had a clause in it that said if the property sold, the lease would be void. She had 30 days to move!
If it is a duplex ask how lawn care, snow removal, are any utilities are shared? It’s important to know whether there is a plan in place for how to handle any shared responsibilities. For example, if snow removal is required by tenants and it’s a duplex, do you swap weeks, or just do your own half of the drive? If your neighbors move out, will you then be responsible for the whole job, or will the landlord take on the other half of the responsibility? What if the neighbors fail to meet their responsibilities?
If you want something fixed or improved, require it to be done before signing or moving in. My old neighbor was told if they signed a lease they would replace the damaged carpet. The landlord did not fix it before they moved in. They later tried asking about it and were told they wouldn’t replace the carpet because the lease only lists certain appliances (Fridge, water heater, etc) as being replaced by the landlord. They just simply lied about replacing the carpet to get them to move in.
Is there a background check? If you are looking for an apartment or duplex and are not asked to have a background check ran, the landlord probably did not make the other tenants do a background check either. If you are concerned about potentially living near criminals this is something important to check into.
Choice of internet and cable? Some apartment complexes will make a deal with cable or internet companies, and the tenants will only be able to use that one brand if they want service. If you have a certain cable or internet provider ask about whether you are free to choose or locked into one brand.
What happens after 12 months? If you are potentially interested in living in the apartment for more than 12 months, ask what happens after 12 months. Will they let you sign up for another 12 months, or will it become month to month?
Read the lease. Yes, the entire lease. Sometimes there are important details in the fine print. For example, one apartment complex lease we read explained that there was lead paint int he walls that had been painted over. By signing the lease we acknowledged that risk! On another, there was a typo that said that if our rent was late by 24 hours or more, we would owe an extra $4,000! This was a typo, it should have been $40.00. Of course, we had no intentions of ever being late on rent to begin with, but we were glad we caught the error and had it fixed before signing just to be safe.
Do you have any advice or how to make a careful decision when choosing an apartment or home to rent? Share in the comments!
Hi there! I am Emily Evert, the owner of Emily Reviews. I am 28 and live in a small town in Michigan with my boyfriend Ryan and our two pugs. I have a large family and I adore my nieces and nephews. I love reading memoirs, and learning about child development and psychology. I love watching The Game of Thrones, Teen Mom, Sister Wives and Veep. I like listening to Jason Isbell, John Prine, and other alt-country or Americana music. I created Emily Reviews as a creative outlet to share my life and the products that I love with others.
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