Before You Start Your Search
Before You Start Your Search:
Tip 1: Have a clear vision of the apartment that you want to live in.
- What kind of neighborhood do I want to live in?
- Am I comfortable living in a neighborhood with a high crime rate?
- How much do I want to pay per month for an apartment with utilities?
Tip 2: Look for apartment listings.
Once you have determined what you want and can realistically afford, look in the news paper or on the internet for listings that meet your criteria. Then, call up all of the landlords to confirm that what is listed in the paper is truly what is available for rent. Make sure the available apartment has the amount of bedrooms and bathrooms as was stated in the ad. Confirm the exact location of the apartment get the landlord’s name over the phone and set up a time and day to meet.
When You Arrive to The Property
When You Arrive at the Property:
Tip 1: Assess the environment. This is where you may be potentially living, so take time to look around for bus stops, metro stations, convenient stores, a post office, daycare centers, etc.
Tip 2: Know your knobs. Make sure the doorknobs have the standard thumb-locks. While you may prefer the deadbolts that lock from the inside, this can be very hazardous if there is an emergency. If you’re more comfortable with a top and bottom lock, make sure you talk with the prospective landlord about that; even though it is not mandatory to have both, he or she might accommodate your request.
Tip 3: When in doubt, walk it out. Walk around to see if there are any cracks or damages to the floors and walls. Be sure to look at all countertops to ensure that they are properly leveled.
Tip 4: Ring the alarm. Check all of the smoke detectors to ensure that they are working. Even if the landlord tries to persuade you that they work, ask to have them tested while you are in the apartment so that you can hear for yourself.
Tip 5: Socket to ‘em. Look around for all of the electrical sockets. Check the wall around the outlet to ensure they are properly secure with a wall plate and that paint is not covering the holes of the sockets. Any outlets near or beside running water (like in the bathrooms and kitchen) should be GFI outlets with wall plates. Check with your landlord if you’re not sure.
A GFI/GFCI, or ground fault circuit interrupter, is an automatic device that offers personal protection against electrical shock. It has a black and red push button. One button is appropriately labeled TEST, and one is labeled RESET.
Tip 6: Space in the place. Make sure there is enough space for you and your family to be comfortable. Ask yourself: Can I be comfortable in this unit? Is there enough room in the bedroom for a full size bed? A twin size? Will I need to put some of my stuff in storage?
Tip 7: Check the plumbing. Flush toilets to make sure they work and run three or four different faucets at the same time to make sure the water runs smoothly. Also, check the shower and bath faucet for temperature and water pressure. When you run the sink faucet open the cabinet underneath and look at the pipes to see that there are no leaks.
Tip 8: Examine utility closets and appliances. Check in the utility closet for any exposed wires, damages or possible outages, and locate your fuse box. Inquire about how old the appliances are and how long they have been in the unit. Also, look in the refrigerator to see if additional cleaning is needed by the landlord and if there are any leaks. If there is a washer/dryer in the unit, be sure to check that out too.
Tip 9: Ask questions. If there’s something you feel is damaged or you feel unsure about, ask questions. Don’t be afraid to inquire about the neighborhood, the building or the property you are viewing.
Tip 10: Leave no stone unturned. You might want to do a final walk through just to make sure you feel comfortable about your decision. Look at the overall condition of the place and make sure you’re satisfied.
Download a full [PDF] list here to take with you.
Once You've Made a Decision
Once You’ve Made a Decision:
Tip 1: Consider utilities. If they are included in your rent, figure out how much control you have over the use and when the landlord turns on the heat or the air conditioning. If you have to pay for utilities on your own, figure out how much the bills were last year, either from talking to other renters or by calling the utilities companies. Remember to figure that expense into your budget.
Tip 2: Read the lease thoroughly before you sign it. A lease is a binding legal document. If you have any questions about it, make sure they are answered completely to your satisfaction before signing.
Questions to Ask Landlords
Here is a comprehensive list of questions to take with you when you’re meeting with a potential landlord. Often, in stressful situations, it’s easy to forget to ask important questions about the property, when rent is due, and how maintenance issues are addressed. Maybe you don’t want to ask the landlord every question on this list, but you might want take the list with you to help you stay focused on the issues that are important for you to address.