By Alan Henry Via Lifehacker.com
Searching for a new apartment can be fun. The thrill of finding listings, and choosing candidates based on photos, maps, and amenities can be enjoyable, and there are plenty of tools to make the search easy. The real trouble starts when it's time to tour a prospective home, meet the landlord, and learn a little about the neighborhood. This is where you have to put on your detective's hat and start asking questions. Here's what you should find out before you sign a lease.
Step 2: Check Out the Neighborhood Before Scheduling a Visit with the Property Owner
Step 3: Schedule Your First Visit with The Property Owner
Step 4: Show Up to Your First Viewing with Questions In-Hand
How long as the unit been empty? How long did the last tenant stay? You want to know how long the unit has been on the market because, especially in competitive rental markets, if an apartment has been empty for months or the last tenant was only there for a few months (or worse, was evicted), something may be wrong with it.
When was the building constructed/How old is the property? Have there been any major changes or renovations? The age of a building tells you other important information, like how old the facilities in the walls are (which you'll ask about in a moment) or how likely you may be to have maintenance problems resulting from old flooring, ceilings, windows, or plumbing. Asking if there have been any renovations gives the landlord the opportunity to highlight any work they've done recently that may be beneficial to you, like new plumbing, windows, or weatherproofing.
What are the electrical limitations? Where is the fuse box located? If you're reading Lifehacker, odds are you have a good amount of gear in your home. A large TV, maybe a couple of computers, several monitors, game consoles, and so on. All of that gear is going to need power, and you don't want to trip a breaker every time you heat up some nachos without turning off your computer first.
Do all of the appliances work? How old are they? You'll want to ask this question while you're testing whether the stove burners get warm or the oven light works, or whether the fridge feels cold and there's good water pressure from the sinks and showers. At the same time, if the unit has been empty for a while, the landlord may have the appliances turned off or unplugged, and you'll want to know before you put in an application, much less sign a lease.
Are there any major repairs coming up in the next year? Will any repairs be completed before I move in? If there's nothing going on with your unit, there's nothing going on. However, if you see repairs in progress, or things that you would want addressed before you move in like painting, appliance replacements, window repairs or the like, make sure you bring them up immediately, and follow up by getting them in writing.
What utilities are included? Is heating/cooling individually controlled? You should know this from the ad, but make sure to verify this and anything else from the ad that you may have questions about or want to make sure you're clear on. In some places, "all utilities included" is a ticket to centrally controlled heating, air conditioning, and hot water, and shared electric bills based on average use by the entire community. "Cable and internet included" can mean your landlord will add a cable-splitter to their line and run a cable through the floor, or offer you free use of their Wi-Fi.
Who will be responsible for maintenance and repairs? What about emergencies? If you're leasing from a management company, this one's probably easy: you call their office number, put in a maintenance request, and they respond (you should ask about response times, as well.) If you're renting from an individual or small management company, you definitely want to know what you're on the hook for yourself and what you can call about, and who you should call if the toilet starts leaking at 2am.
Who's responsible for pest control? Often, large communities and condominiums have a contract with a pest control firm that works with their residents. They may send them out to you when you request their help, or you may simply be required to use their services instead of another company's. At the same time though, many landlords leave the responsibility for pest control on the tenant, unless there's some kind of pre-existing condition when they move into the unit.
Step 5: Talk to Others in The Community for Their Opinions
Step 6: When You're Ready to Sign, Go Over Your Lease Carefully
Step 7: Enjoy Your New Home