Check it out—all of it
As in, don’t sign a lease on an apartment you’ve never seen, no matter how tempting the description may sound. (Actually, the more amazing it sounds, the more you should question if it’s too good to be true.) Likewise, don’t sign for a place that you’ve only seen the model version of, no matter how identical the landlord claims them to be. Once you’re in the ACTUAL apartment, check everything: the stove, the toilet, the fridge, the dishwasher, the heat, the faucets, the smoke detectors, the windows, all the lights. Any sign of mold, or pests? Water damage? Check the outside of the house, as well.
Make a list of anything that needs repairs
Either get a written promise from your landlord that all repairs will be made, and specify within what time, or just wait to sign the lease until everything’s been fixed. Sure, the guy might rent the place to another sucker, and you might have to start from square one. On the other hand, if he’s hesitant to fix things, you probably want to find a different manager.
Do a “background check” on your landlord
This is easy enough. Call the local tenant agency or consumer protection agency, and ask if any past tenants have submitted complaints about your prospective landlord. He’s probably going to run a check on you, why shouldn’t you on him? You can also go talk to the neighbors, and see if they know how past tenants have liked living in the apartment.
Look up crime statistics for the area
See what you’re getting yourself into. As part of this, make sure that the apartment has all necessary safety devices. You may have things you need to feel safe—a deadbolt, for instance—and your state may require certain standards from property managers. Check this out.
Know your own credit rating
We’ve written about renting and credit, and we take the position that it’s best to know where you stand, credit-wise, before a landlord does. If you have credit issues, you can be proactive about providing him with information to prove that you’re capable of paying rent on time.
Ask the necessary questions
There are lots of things you should ask about, from whether you’re allowed to paint the interior to whether you’re allowed to have a pet. Know everything about what’s expected of you, and what you can expect in return.
Actually read the lease before signing!
We’re not joking. It’s dismally boring, no question, but that legal document can be your downfall or your saving grace. Don’t risk your financial future just because it’s awkward to have your landlord sit in silence as you read.
Did we miss anything? Tell us what else you always do before signing a lease here or on Facebook!