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Consider This Before Signing a Rental Agreement

Apartment Checklist

So, you’re thinking about renting an apartment or are searching for a house to rent in your neighborhood—that’s great! But before you seal the deal by signing on the dotted line and initialing twice, make sure you have inspected these items on your first apartment checklist.

Damage from the last guy

It’s a fact in almost every rental situation—someone was there before you. And while you will certainly be a model tenant, there’s no guarantee that the other guy was.

When you tour the apartment or rental house, look for signs of damage to the property. Take pictures and take note of anything that you don’t want to be blamed for later—carpet stains, hole in the wall, busted cabinet, etc.

Make sure you take photos and document anything that is wrong with the apartment before you move in—a hole in the wall, a tear in the carpet, a cracked window. You don’t want to risk losing your security deposit from something you didn’t do.

Everything electrical

If it plugs into a wall, you want to be certain it’s working properly—and you don’t have to be an electrician to do it. As you check out the place, you can do simple things like making sure all of the light switches are working, locating the circuit breaker and seeing if it’s clearly labeled, and testing appliances like the microwave, refrigerator or garbage disposal.

Plumbing, Pests, and Parking

Three very important “P”s that you’ll want to include on your first apartment checklist: plumbing, pests, and parking.

Just like with the electrical, make sure you turn on a few faucets and test them out. You’ll want to make sure the water pressure is good to go and that the water temperature is working properly; a cold shower on night one is not the way to start things out at your new place.

Next, keep an eye out for pests crawling around—and we’re not talking about the neighbors. It’s not pleasant to think about, but bugs, rodents and other multi-legged friends can find their way into your new apartment or home. Look for signs that they’ve been around recently, and also look for holes or cracks where they might get in. Ask the landlord to fix these issues before you move in, and make sure that pest control treatments are part of the lease agreement.

Finally, the joys of parking at work or at home, finding the perfect spot can be a chore. So before you move in, ask if there will be an assigned spot for you, or if there’s a parking garage, make sure it’s accessible and safe. Also find out if the space is free or if it carries an additional cost.

Neighbors and Night Life

You can choose where you rent, but you can’t always choose your neighbors. Try and talk to some of them while you’re doing your tour. Do they enjoy living here? How responsive is the landlord? But even if you aren’t able to speak with anyone, try and look at the other apartments or houses around you. Are they clean and well-kept, or looking a little ragged?

Make sure you drive through the neighborhood at night too. You can get a good feel for how noisy it might be, if there is a lot of traffic, or if the area is well-lit or dark and sketchy.

Bottom Line

The most important item on your checklist should be the rental agreement itself. Remember, this is a contract and you should understand all of the terms. If you have questions, make sure you ask them upfront. If something about the property or the landlord seems off, walk away from the opportunity.