10 things to look out for when renting an apartment

Looking for a new apartment can be a frustrating experience — and can even feel hopeless, sometimes. From going to look at a place that’s nothing like the advertisement to finding the perfect home and having someone snap it up before you, the process can be grueling.

To help you weed out apartments quickly — and hopefully make the whole process easier — here are 10 things experts say to watch out for during your search.

A boring location

Location is key, according to Sam Radbill, writer for ABODO, an apartment search site. “If you’re moving from out of town, often you take the first apartment you see. But do your research and make sure it is a good personal fit,” said Radbill.

The length of your lease

“As simple as it sounds, some landlords will not clearly state that a lease is six or 12 months, unless you ask,” said Radbill. In addition to asking about the length of the lease, ask what happens when it ends — and how and if you can renew it. “If you love your place and your lease ends, you’d hate to have to move because they put it back on the market without asking you first,” added Radbill.

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Regular rent increases

One of the most important things to look for when renting an apartment is how much you’ll be paying in rent increases. “Make sure you ask about annual rent increases, which are typically based on property tax increases in your city,” said Radbill.

“You want to be sure that your rent won’t be going up by $500 after just one year,” Radbill said. How much your rent can increase and how much advanced notice your landlord is required to give you varies by state, so explore your local tenants’ rights — and other tenancy advice — before you sign the dotted line.

Who manages general maintenance?

“Try to talk to some current residents about maintenance service, timeliness in response to maintenance requests, as well as the overall ease of living in the building,” Radbill said. A simple question like, “Does it take five weeks to get your sink unclogged?” can tell you a lot about what it’s like to live there. “If basic maintenance is that slow, you might not want to sign a lease in that building,” said Radbill.

What happens if you break the lease?

Among tips for renting an apartment, knowing if and when you can get out of your lease — should the need arise — is key. “In many cases, job offers come or personal issues occur that result in a need to move immediately,” said Radbill. “Find out if you can break your lease. Usually, you cannot. But if you can, that might make the apartment a bit more appealing.”

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Unsavory pet regulations

Many apartments have rules about pets — if you can have them, what kind, how many, size and even breed. If the apartment allows pets, ask if you need to make an additional deposit and how cleaning and repairs related to the pet are handled when you move out.

A bad interview with your landlord

“Of course, the landlord is interviewing you, but keep in mind that you’re also interviewing the landlord,” said Radbill. For instance, you can learn about any issues with the property — and what costs your landlord is covering. Keep an eye on how the landlord responds to your questions, too. If he seems annoyed, do some extra digging to make sure you and he will get along.

Damage from previous tenants

Protect your security deposit with a documented walk-through of the property. Taking photos of the apartment before you move in and the day before you move out can protect you from illegitimate damage charges. Save the pictures until you’ve moved out and received your deposit.

Noisy neighbors

You might find the perfect apartment in an ideal location, but noisy neighbors can ruin the vibe of the place. “Be sure to go by the place you are looking to rent both on the nights and weekends,” said Steve Shwetz, a managing broker at Mesa Properties Inc. “Some apartments are very quiet during the work week and become party central on nights and weekends.”

High crime rates

Some neighborhoods seem safe, but what happens behind the scenes tells a very different story. “Use a crime reporting website to determine what crimes have been reported in the surrounding neighborhood,” said Shwetz. “You may think it’s safe, but a crime map will give you an unbiased picture.”

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