Think of the shittiest apartment you’ve ever lived in. What sucked about it? The noise? The neighbors? The fact that the A/C broke every two days during summer?
Chances are, that apartment loudly declared what a slum it was, it just wasn’t in a language you were fluent in at the time. With more and more people renting property rather than buying, it’s unbelievable important to familiarize yourself with the giveaways of a shit place to live before any leases are signed of money changes hands.
1. The Landlord
There are a few warning signs of a crappy apartment, and the landlord is the first. Landlords of shitty places to live have a few key characteristics in common:
1. They are unreachable
2. When you do talk to them, they give vague and disappointing answers
The most alarming of the two signs above? Being absolutely unreachable by phone. Call the number given online to tenants for maintenance issues and for lease questions at 9:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m., and 6:00 p.m. This will give you a good picture of whether you’ll ever actually be able to tell the person responsible for your suffering the heinous conditions you’re living in.
Another landlord warning sign is if they dodge simple questions such as “is the property noisy” and “when was the last time the A/C was fixed?” If they’re evasive at all, they’re hiding something they don’t want you to find out before you’re locked into giving them money every month.
2. The Lease
A lot of people don’t really read contracts before signing them. This is fine for terms and conditions, but is a mistake when real estate and money is involved. Check for any unreasonable fees, clauses, and language really carefully before signing something.
For example – if the landlord includes a clause in your lease asserting that the owner of the property can sell the property at any time and require you to move out within seven days of that sale, that would be a place to absolutely never rent from. Another trick is to try and make tenants responsible for repairs that are clearly the responsibility of the landlord such as utilities and air conditioning.
3. The Property
First things first. If you’re renting a place, insist on seeing the ACTUAL unit that you’ll be renting. Don’t let the manager cop out with “oh, the layout of yours is just identical to this display unit!”
1. No, it almost certainly isn’t.
2. Even if that’s true, they might be identical in layout but I really doubt they’ve been identically damaged over the years.
See your actual unit before agreeing to lease a place. Once you’re in that unit, the bare minimum of things to check are: all toilets, all taps, floors, cabinets, locks, light switches, air conditioning, wall thickness, and mold.
I want to quickly talk about things to look for on the outside of the property. Most, if not all apartment complexes maintain their front facing buildings much better than the ones in the back. This is normal, but there shouldn’t be such a drastic difference that you feel like you’ve gone from the rich side of town to the poor one.
Finally, just because there is a gate with a lock on it, it doesn’t mean that it actually works. Those are often for show and provide no security at all, just the illusion that you’re living in an area nice enough where people would consider stealing from you. If the lock doesn’t work? You’re not.
4. The Neighbors
You don’t just have to worry about the people on either side of you, though that is a huge factor. I advise against renting next to day cares or late night clubs, but that should be obvious.
If you’re renting an apartment with a low monthly rent, the odds are that the walls are thin and the neighbors are noisy. I highly recommend only renting upstairs units so you aren’t slowly driven mad by stomping feet 24/7. Insist on seeing the actual unit that you’re renting at different times of day, and spend time in each room so you know exactly how much sleep you’ll lose due to the upstairs neighbors.
5. The Gut Instinct
If something about the place looks run down, dangerous, or just feels…off… that’s something you should pay attention to. People are usually good judges of situations, and your unconscious might have noticed damage or scary tenants that your conscious didn’t register. Pay attention to any gut feelings you have. They know more than you think they do.