Rental Laws: 4 Signs of an Uninhabitable Apartment

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Rental laws often site that an apartment should be “habitable and in reasonable repair.” Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Law defines habitable as: suitable and fit for a person to live in: free of defects that endanger the health and safety of occupants. There are obvious signs to look for but what about the subtle signs that you may not be aware of upon your first inspection.

Sometimes when people finally find an apartment that speaks to them, they can easily overlook uninhabitable conditions. Enjoy the first walk through but if you are in love with the place, calmly offer a hold deposit and say you’d like a relative or friend to see the it. NOTE: Most uninhabitable conditions are the responsibility of the owner or landlord but avoiding a problem and living with a problem are two different things.

Be sure to bring a flashlight with you to search for some of these things.

1. Mold

Black mold is potentially deadly and has been found in every type of apartment no matter how poor or how rich the building may be. If the apartment is in a humid environment black mold is more prevalent. Grab a paper towel and look around areas near water like pipes, radiators, showers and roof joints. If you see any dark black stains surrounding the area, hold your breath and wipe it with the paper towel. If you get a thick residue it could very well be black mold. Also, beware of wallpaper or cracking paint which can be potential cover. Try your best to inspect seams or behind chips.

2. Rodents, Roaches and Friends

No one is ever going to divulge a pest problem but there are simple signs that stand out. Inside the apartment, open all the cabinets, closets and drawers. Look for tiny black plastic discs that may be insect traps. Look for mouse droppings (they sort of look like brown sprinkles) and shine a flashlight along the wall searching for any burrowed holes. In the hallway and/or around the building especially near the garbage or compactor room, look for rodent traps. They are usually black or gray, the size of a small shoebox and have large holes where rodents can enter.

3. See, Smell and Listen

  • Look out the window and take notice of what is nearby. Are you on a low floor and directly in front of a bus stop? Are you near any factories, working chimneys or roof fans? If so, realize the potential sound, smell and ingestion of what an idling bus, loud roof unit or spewing chimney may emit.
  • Take deep nose breathes throughout each room. Smell for mildew, sewerage, neighbor’s cooking (you may have to deal with similar smells regularly), etc.
  • Listen for loud music or arguing. Seek out the super or doorman and ask about your potential neighbor’s habits including any businesses you may be directly above. Bars and restaurants are loud at night.

4. Kids and Pets

Be sure and ask for lead paint status, window guard availability and if the building has ever had problems with asbestos.

2 Responses to “Rental Laws: 4 Signs of an Uninhabitable Apartment”

  1. September 09, 2010 at 11:08 pm, jenny said:

    I live in a place that is completly taken over by cockroaches. Yuck. I killed nearly 100 of them to day. Isnt this against the law? What resources do I have to get out of here, and not be in trouble with the lease?


  2. January 30, 2017 at 11:58 am, Deadrea wilkerson said:

    Just moved in to canyon Pointe about 2 weeks and they changed the name to harmon hill's.. 1.. My refrigerator has rust, mold, and lots of eggs of an unknown insect.. The master shower knob is completely unscrewed so you can't take a shower.. The Windows have cracks.. The kitchen sinks leaks water and has mold underneath.. The heat doesn't work properly.. And mangement have done nothing but give me the run around.. I have not and will not put food in this house.. Also my son and my roomate have unknown rashes.. Please help


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