Most of us choose our apartment for the look, the feel, the size, the location. We usually wait until after we move in to start thinking about how hard it might be to keep things working smoothly inside.
Here are some easy tips to have in mind while you’re looking, to save some headaches and hassle while you’re renting.
Who is in charge of what?
Outdoor/lawn management requirements are usually spelled out clearly in any lease agreement. But it’s worth asking what types of indoor repairs you’re expected to do yourself, and which are supposed to be managed by your landlord/property management company. Who changes the furnace filter? Who changes light bulbs in common hallways? Who deals with basic pipe clogs? Balance the answers out – for easy things, would you rather have to do them yourself, or have to arrange allowing maintenance staff into your space?
Who does the maintenance?
Will you be calling the landlord, who does most handy things him/herself? Do you have to deal with a 9-5 property management company? Or do you get the name and number of a maintenance person to call any time? If you have to start with a landlord or management company, will they arrange the contractor for more advanced work? Or do you have to put in the time to screen and arrange someone to come in? Think about how easy it will be to actually make a repair happen – in terms of communication and finding someone with the right expertise. Especially since most maintenance needs will come at non-work hours like the middle of the night plumbing back-up or the broken furnace on Saturday morning.
What type of housing is it?
The more parts of the house function that are just yours, the more maintenance hassles. So a stand-alone house, where you have your own furnace, water heater, air conditioner, etc., will usually have more times you need to get on the phone for maintenance requests. Many-unit apartments share many of these things so that you don’t need to be as directly involved.
How old is the building/unit?
Newly built homes don’t usually need much work. Homes in the 10-20 year range will start needing some major systems updated, like the furnace and water heater, so it’s worth checking out how old those are when you move in. Once a house reaches 30, it requires more maintenance in structural things, so expect to make at least some maintenance calls during your lease period.
What is the current condition of the apartment?
How well cared for has the home been? A poorly cared for building could indicate a bad landlord. Here are a few things to look for before signing on:
- Check all the faucets and light switches, and turn on the garbage disposal. Pay attention to sounds and smells.
- Check ventilation fans in the bathrooms. All rooms with showers are required to have a functional ventilation fan unless there is a window. But think about that – do you think the previous residents really opened that window to properly vent their showers last January? Again, listen, smell, and look around…
- Water spots. Any discoloration on floors, walls, or ceilings could indicate water damage. At worst, water damage can be structurally unsafe. More often, it leads to an unfriendly roommate:
- Mold. Look around wet areas like bathrooms, laundry, and kitchens. Also check areas with little air flow or sunlight, like the backs of closets. Some kinds of mold can be harmful to your health, so definitely get mold checked out if you spot some!
- Finding one red flag item shouldn’t stop you from renting here. But it’s good to bring each item up with the leasing agent or landlord before you sign anything! Those early conversations will give you a great idea of how easy they’ll be to deal with when other challenges come up later on.
Going through this checklist won’t prevent issues from coming up in your new apartment, but they’ll give you a great sense of how to deal when they do. The more you know now, the better your apartment living experience will be!