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What to look for in a new rental apartment

What to look for in a new rental apartment

Renting a new apartment can be a real challenge. Even when you think you’ve found the one, a home packed with hot amenities and with lots of space, located in the part of town that best suits your needs, you might be taken by surprise – and not the pleasant kind. Many apartment renters move in only to discover that “vintage” actually means wobbly locks, leaky faucets, and ceiling stains (or worse). And then there’s not much you can do after you sign the lease.

A smart move would be to perform a thorough inspection of the rental unit before deciding to move in, to make sure you know exactly what you’re paying for, especially since you could be talking some significant bucks when you rent. Increased demand for multi-family housing has pushed rental prices up, with an estimated rent growth of 4.5% in 2015, according to data from Pierce-Eislen. The average effective rent hit $1,478 in 2014 for the Lifestyle segment and $1,016 for the Renters by Necessity segment. Either way, whether you’re a renter-by-choice or a transitional renter, the investment is not negligible, so make sure you get the best bang for your buck.

8 Things to Add To Your First Apartment Inspection Checklist

When you visit a new apartment community, don’t settle for the model unit. Make sure the landlord shows you the actual unit that you’re going to get and pay attention to details such as:

1. Look for signs of air leakage

Inspect windows, doors, ceiling and walls for cracks, holes or any other signs of air leakage. Air infiltration can account for up to 30% or more of your home’s heating and cooling costs, according to the Home Energy Solutions of the Triad institute, and may be the cause of other problems such as dust, noise and entry of pollutants, insects and rodents. Bad windows, for example, leak heat in winter and let in heat during the summer months, which translates into higher utility bills. Ideally, your new rental will feature triple-glazed, low-E windows, but if that’s not the case, you really just want to make sure they are in working order, sealed, and not more than 10 years old.

2. Detect and prevent mold

Look for signs of leaking water or water damage in the walls, check pipes and fittings, and make sure you look under sinks, dishwashers, or anywhere there’s a water supply or drain. Apart from being an obvious aesthetic nuisance, the presence of excessive moisture indoors facilitates the appearance of mold which can be a real threat to your family’s health.

3. Make sure all home appliances are functional

Check all kitchen and bathroom fixtures (AC, gas, electricity, fridge, showers, smoke detectors, etc.) to make sure they’re completely operational. Also, flush toilets and check for hot water. As trivial as it may seem, there is nothing worse than turning on the water tap for the first time in your brand new rental home and being caught off-guard by barely-dripping brown water while the toilet floods.

4. Identify electrical outlets

Make sure there are enough electrical outlets to support all your appliances and electrical equipment (including bathroom outlets for your hair-care appliances).

5. Beware of unwanted visitors

Explicitly look for signs of rodents, vermin, or insects. Apartment units that are not well maintained tend to draw unexpected guests.

6. Visually check the heating system

Pay extra care to the water heater and furnace and make sure they are free of rust. If their surfaces are chipped or you see debris nearby, these might be signs of leaks – and these leaks could possibly indicate carbon monoxide problems.

7. Is your new home safe from hazardous materials?

Asbestos and other hazardous substances may be present in homes – particularly older structures, built in the 1980s or before – and can cause serious health problems if inhaled. You can check yourself periodically for tears, abrasions, and water damage and take action if the need arises. But the wise thing to do is have your new rental house inspected by a professional hygiene firm and make sure you’re not at risk before moving in.  For detailed info on toxic chemicals and how to spot any signs of their presence go to epa.gov.

8. Get peace of mind with renters insurance

Get renters insurance! Seriously! It costs as little as 43 cents/day but protects you against personal property loss in case of a wide array of mishaps including fire, smoke, theft, windstorm, and lightning. It usually covers all your personal belongings such as furniture, clothing, electronic equipment, jewelry – even your bike and flat screen TV.

Additionally, you might want to take pictures of the rental apartment or house the day you move in and keep them as proof, just in case. You can include that day’s newspaper in the photo as well to verify the date of the picture.

What other problems have you encountered when checking out rental units? Have you dodged any bullets before moving in?

Amalia Otet is an online content developer and creative writer for RENTCafé, an apartment search website that allows renters to look for thousands of listings across the country.