Apartment shopping is a lot like dating. You’re looking for the one, but along the way you’re going to encounter a lot of duds. Unfortunately, apartments—like potential romantic partners—don’t always reveal themselves to be bad fits right from the start. When you’re viewing an apartment or sitting across the desk from a leasing agent, the experience is all smiles and glowing reviews of the amenities you’ll have access to. But oftentimes, when you actually move in, the experience of actually living in that apartment is anything but pleasant.
To avoid moving into a bad apartment, here are five warning signs to look for before you sign that lease.
If you’re touring an apartment complex or viewing an apartment in a building—rather than a stand-alone unit—pay attention to your potential neighbors. Is the leasing office filled with current tenants who are all there to lodge complaints? Do the neighbors scowl at the landlord?
If you have the opportunity to actually speak with someone who lives there—preferably not in front of a leasing agent—politely ask them what their experience has been. If they use the words “get out now while you still can,” you might want to search for an apartment elsewhere.
It’s smart to be wary about online reviews, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give them some consideration. Check out reviews for the apartment complex on Google, Yelp and ApartmentRatings. Most apartment buildings are going to have a mix of positive, negative and neutral reviews.
Go through the negative reviews from the past year, and see if they all have something in common. If everyone is complaining about the same leasing agent, or everyone is frustrated with how long it takes for repairs to get done, be wary.
You might not be the kind of person who cares about living in an apartment surrounded by beautiful landscaping and a sparkling pool, but shriveled up flowers and a “Closed for repairs” sign are a red flag.
If the apartment grounds are strewn with litter, trash cans are overflowing and amenities like a pool, clubhouse or gym are filled with broken equipment, beware. Even if you’re never planning on using that broken treadmill, a poorly maintained property indicates that the landlord doesn’t care about doing repairs in a timely manner—or at all. This could lead to less security if broken gates and locks aren’t fixed, and a less comfortable living situation if maintenance issues in your apartment are ignored.
If the landlord tells you there’s no need for a background check, get out of there. Unless you’re someone who enjoys the thrill of living amongst violent criminals, it’s never a good idea to live in an apartment complex that will take anyone.
A decent landlord will run a background check and a credit check. He or she will not rent to sex offenders or individuals who have been convicted of violent crimes. If the landlord doesn’t care if you’re a serial killer, they’re not going to care if your neighbors are either.
Pro-tip: Try to set up an apartment viewing for a time when people are actually home. If you visit in the late afternoon when most people are at work, it will seem like the most serene place in the world.
Regardless of when you do the tour, keep your ears and your nose open for offensive sounds and smells. Can you hear the neighbors breathing through those super thin walls? You’re going to hear a lot of other stuff too. Does the unit smell like cigarettes, pet urine or some other unpleasant odor? Don’t assume that those smells will be gone when you move in.
Remember to be critical when choosing an apartment. Don’t rush to move in anywhere if you’re not 100% in love. You can always keep your stuff in self storage while you find the perfect home. And once you get there, you’ll be glad you waited.