BBB offers the following tips when searching for an apartment to rent.
Determine Your Needs. Before you start apartment hunting, it’s important to determine what amenities are a necessity to you and what your budget will be. Decide how important location is and how much space you would like. If you live with pets make sure they are welcome in the apartment complex and find out if there are additional fees involved. Find out the maximum occupancy if you are planning on expanding your family.
Do Your Research. Ask friends, family members, and co-workers to recommend an apartment complex where they’ve had a positive experience living and dealing with the management company. Always check out the apartment complex’s reviews and complaints at bbb.org.
Visit the Apartment Complex. Do not base your decision solely on the photos of the apartment online, they can be deceiving. Be sure to visit the apartment complex before sending in your deposit. When walking through the actual apartment inspect all doors, locks, windows, toilets, faucets, and make sure all appliances are working properly. Check out all the amenities that were listed online and make sure they are up to your standards.
Ask About Insurance. In the event of an incident such as a fire or break-in, the apartment complex is usually not held accountable for their tenant’s damaged or stolen items. If you purchase renters’ insurance, your damaged or stolen items will be covered. Carefully review deductibles and coverage when choosing a renters’ insurance policy.
Take Note of the Apartment’s Condition. Before signing the lease, provide the landlord with a list of damages and repairs you discovered while inspecting the apartment. Be sure the landlord signs the maintenance list, acknowledging that the damages and repairs existed before you moved in. This list will protect you from being liable for the damages from previous tenants.
Carefully Review the Lease. When reviewing the lease be sure to understand the maintenance repairs you are responsible for and what the apartment complex will cover. Be sure to ask what your security deposit covers and when you must make your payments. Be aware of the consequences if your payments are late. Ask how repair requests will be handled and the timeframe it will take to resolve them. Make sure to always keep a copy of the signed lease in a safe place. Anything told verbally not in the contract? Do not sign until it is!
Know Your Rights. If you’re having difficulty getting your landlord to address your repair request, send the landlord a dated request letter in the mail. If the issue is not addressed in an appropriate timeframe you have a variety of options. You may be able to end the lease, hire your own person to repair the damages and subtract it from your rent, or have a court force the landlord to fix the repair. Discuss with your attorney to clearly understand your rights. However, you should not halt payment on your rent because it could lead to eviction and damage your credit score.