January 26th, 2017
You don’t have to look for very long before apartment listings turn into a sea of print. Every listing looks good, so how are you supposed to spot problems and make a good decision? Choosing an apartment is a big decision and a big financial commitment, so make sure you watch for these red flags:
If you find that any apartment listings are for a term longer than a year, have your guard up. Demands for extra-long leases suggest that the landlord has a problem with high turnover. And the main reason for high turnover is tenant dissatisfaction. Moving isn’t fun, so if they’re happy, people will stay. Even if don’t intend to move and would be just as happy with a longer lease, beware of any listing that calls for one.
Be familiar with the norms in your area for security or damage deposits and application fees. We want to expect the best of each other, but unfortunately there are no shortage of landlords who will take advantage of their tenants if the opportunity presents itself. Apartment listings that present themselves with fees or deposits that are unusually high suggest an above-average chance you’re going to have to fight for fair treatment. Educate yourself on landlord/tenant laws so you can recognize landlords that are aboveboard and that you can expect to treat you fairly.
Before you invest too much effort chasing any individual apartment listings, check the landlord—whether a business entity or an individual—in every available online forum. Look into Craigslist seller ratings, Google ratings, and Better Business Bureau ratings. Read reviews to understand the reasons for the ratings, but keep in mind that there are two sides in every dispute. A single angry review could be from an unreasonable person who didn’t get his or her way, but take any consistent theme seriously.
Renting is a transaction, just like buying or selling a car, but the stakes are higher when you’re dealing with your home. Learn everything you can about all the apartment listings you want to pursue and you can be confident you’ve found a place you’ll be glad to call home.