Renting a house or apartment isn’t always easy. Even though things can seem to be going well at first, it doesn’t take much to shatter that perception. For example, you might end up with a noisy neighbor, a dog that won’t stop barking, or a landlord that doesn’t treat you fairly.
Even though you can’t avoid these types of annoyances, there are things you can do to prevent getting stuck in some of the more difficult situations.
1. Get a professional inspection before moving in
When you buy a home, an inspection is mandatory; you don’t want to buy a property that costs you more in repairs than it’s worth. However, the stakes aren’t as high when you rent.
When renting a home, you’re not financially responsible for fixing damage that you didn’t cause. All you have to do is inform the owner of the issue and they’ll fix it.
In theory, that’s how it should go, but in reality, tenants often get stuck footing the bill for damage they didn’t cause. Sometimes that damage is minor, like a broken screen, but sometimes tenants are accused of causing major damage, like structural damage.
Getting a professional rental property inspection will give you the peace of mind to know if there is any pre-existing damage you might not notice with your own eyes. You can document this before moving in and the landlord won’t be able to say you caused the damage when you move out.
2. Read all the reviews for your potential housing complex
If you’re considering moving into an apartment complex, read all of the reviews before making your decision. However, keep in mind that tenants can be harsh when rating their property managers or landlords when they’ve been caught breaking the rules.
Take everything with a grain of salt, but read all the reviews because you’ll be able to spot patterns if something isn’t right. For instance, sometimes landlords have a habit of discriminating against service animals or they routinely keep deposits for things that aren’t legal.
Look for patterns of behavior and specific problems addressed in the reviews. If there seem to be a lot of issues spanning a long period of time, it’s probably a sign to skip that place.
3. Research your landlord or property manager
Your ideal landlord or property manager has a good reputation, but the only way to know is to research their reputation. Do a search online to find out what people are saying about them. Search with negative terms along with positive terms. For example, you might search for the words “[property manager name] unfair” or “[name] discrimination” to see if any complaints about these issues pop up.
Hopefully you’ll find good things posted about your landlord, but if there are negatives, be discerning. In addition to reading what others say, run a background check on them to see what’s on their record. You may not find anything that will sway your opinion, but you never know.
Last, ask other tenants what they think about the landlord. Talk to some tenants and ask if there are any problems getting repairs handled, the pros and cons of living in the building, and anything else you find important. For example, if you want a quiet home, ask if the landlord enforces complaints about noise.
If you’re told that evictions and move-outs are frequent, that’s a red flag. Regardless of the reason, frequent turnovers are a sign of a much deeper problem.
4. Get photos and video before moving in
The number one regret tenants have when moving into a new place is not taking enough photos and videos. Always create extensive documentation of the unit you’re moving into before your move-in date. This will ensure you have proof of the condition of the unit, should your landlord try to nail you for damage you didn’t cause.
It’s unfortunate, but many units are severely damaged when a tenant moves in and when they move out, the landlord keeps some of their deposit to fix those problems. It’s not fair, but thorough visual documentation is the only way you can prove it wasn’t you.
Be prepared for anything
Always be prepared to handle unexpected situations with your rental home or landlord. Renting isn’t easy for you or your landlord, so remember to prioritize communication and you’ll find it easier to manage.