At one of the apartments I used to live in, the landlord posted a billboard-sized advertisement on the side of the building that read "Cheap & Tacky 2 Beds" followed by his name and number. He wasn't lying-these apartments were in fact totally cheap and tacky. The only thing he could have said to be more honest would have been, "Cheap & Tacky 2 Beds with Irregularly Functioning Laundry Facilities."
Unfortunately, landlords aren't usually so open. So it's up to you-the renter-to know what to watch out for before signing a lease. When you're apartment shopping, keep an eye out for these commonly overlooked red flags.
1. Noise, Noise, Noise
If possible, view an apartment over the weekend, so that your prospective neighbors are more likely to be home. Then, take some time to just listen. Can you hear loud footsteps or voices from nearby apartments? This can be a sure sign of thin walls. Is the apartment above you filled with rambunctious children? Do your windows face out to a courtyard that may echo sounds of other apartments? If you value peace and quiet, you don't want to wait until after you move in to learn that you're going be getting the exact opposite.
2. Weak Water Pressure
This is a major one. During your visit, always turn on the showers and sinks so that you can see for yourself whether the water comes out forcefully, or just trickles. The pressure of the water is controlled internally by the water management system, so fixing it isn't as simple as just putting on a new showerhead. Water pressure affects toilets, too-so flush them and take note of how easily (or not-so-easily) the water goes down. Testing the water system is also a good way to identify any major plumbing problems, such as leaky pipes or temperature regulation issues.
3. Bad Laundry Facilities
Whether they're in your apartment or in a public space, take a look at what the laundry facilities are like. If they're in the unit, check for age-nothing ruins the joy of having an in-unit washer and dryer like having them never work. If they're shared, inquire about how many apartments use them. And if there are only two washers and dryers for 15 apartments-well, that's something you'll want to know ahead of time
4. Odd Smells
One of the best tools you have when you're viewing apartments is your nose. Pay attention to any particular smells you encounter, keeping in mind that some smells will be more telling than others. For example, if the previous tenants were smokers and the carpets are retaining the smell of cigarette smoke, a professional cleaning pre-move-in should be enough to take care of it. But if you smell something funkier that you can't place, the apartment could have an issue with mold or mildew-and that's something you definitely don't want to deal with.
5. Faulty Doors or Windows
Make sure that doors open easily, and that any sliding doors remain on the tracks-what good is your patio if you can't easily get to it? Then, test all of the locks to make sure they function properly. Yes, this is something that can be fixed, but you also don't want to go even a couple of hours in your new place without a working lock. So don't chance it. Finally, check that windows open and stay open, and that they also shut and lock securely. Your windows should have screens and, if you're living in the city and your windows are on the first floor or garden level, they should have bars as well.
6. Bad-Tasting Water
Even if you usually use a water filtration system, you'll want to drink some of the water to see if it tastes funky. Some variation from what you're used to is okay, especially if you're coming from a different city-water tastes different everywhere. But a highly metallic taste or smell could be evidence of corroding pipes.
7. Misleading Pet Policy
If you have a pet, you must check ahead of time whether pets are allowed, and with what restrictions. And make sure you get the full scoop-a landlord may tell you pets are okay, but not mention (or know) that building management doesn't allow them. Management's word overrides that of the landlord here, so it's crucial you find this out sooner rather than later.
Finally, keep in mind that you can make requests ahead of move-in for fixes such as painting, cleaning, or fixing doors and windows. But some problems (like mold) don't have quick or cheap solutions, so your landlord may not be in a hurry to fix them. You're the only one who knows exactly what you can and can't deal with in an apartment-so be your own best advocate, and pay attention to anything that looks like a potential red flags.
This article was originally published on The Daily Muse. For more on apartment living, check out:
Moving to a New City? Secrets for Before, During, and After
On Your Own: Staying Safe While Living Alone
Art on the Cheap: The Best Budget Decor for Your Home or Office
About the Author: Laura Drucker grew up in Chicago, Illinois and currently lives in Miami, Florida with her boyfriend and their awesome puppy. She is a proud law school dropout, and the editor of Tails Pet Media Group, Inc.
Photo courtesy of Steven Damron.