Red Flags: When to Keep Looking in Your Apartment Search

Don’t let your renter’s enthusiasm blind you to obvious red flags. When these problems present themselves as you look for apartments, move on to the next residence on your list.

Scope out the area


If a property appears neglected, it is neglected—and so will you be, as a tenant. Now is the time for a landlord to show his stuff. If his stuff includes peeling paint, broken appliances, or water damage, pass. He’ll have much less incentive to fix things after you’ve already paid him than when he’s trying to impress you.

Price inflation—or deflation

Research the average price of apartments in the area, based on size and neighborhood. If a landlord asks for something much higher or lower, be cautious. If the price is exorbitant, she’s probably ripping you off. You can get a better deal elsewhere, or at least try talking her down. If the rent seems too good to be true, find out why.

Dangerous neighborhood

I’ll say upfront that I, and many people I know, have lived in “bad neighborhoods.” There are many reasons to live in places that haven’t been gentrified. They’re cheaper. There’s less competition to rent. They’re often more culturally interesting and diverse…they haven’t been gentrified. That said, you should know about the neighborhood—what the crime statistics are, what kinds of safety precautions to take, whether you should avoid certain colors in your wardrobe. Check before you move.

Signs of pests

Never move into an apartment that might have pests, whether rodent or insect. The signs may not always be obvious, so be extra observant. Possible breeding grounds, evidence of nesting or damage, and especially complaints from neighbors or former tenants—all these are reasons to pass on a lease.

Poor insulation

Insulation might not rank high on your list of priorities, but it can be the difference between a moderate energy bill and one that rules out ever eating out again. Pay special attention to windows; they can either conserve or release a huge amount of heat.

Trust your gut

It seems like a scam

Rental scams have their own list of red flags. If you fall for one, you’ll lose a lot of money and still not have anywhere to live.


Use your instinct. You may not be able to pinpoint exactly why you feel negatively about an apartment or its landlord, but that doesn’t mean your feeling is illegitimate. Look carefully, ask questions, and listen to answers closely. Then go with your gut.

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