Whether you are looking for your first apartment or your third, there are some things you should always do before signing the lease. The more of these tips you can check off prior to moving in, the fewer potential headaches you will have, making your life that much easier.

Do a Thorough Inspection

Don’t just walk into the apartment and look over things from a distance. You need to really inspect the place. When I was showing my house off to potential renters I was amazed at how passive they were. Maybe they didn’t want to offend me by looking around, but I was expecting them to look around. After all, they were agreeing to pay a good amount of money to live there. You would think they would want to make sure it was in livable condition.

A few things you should be inspecting:

Cabinets: Not so much to make sure your dishes will fit, but also for rodents and insects, and their waste. You might not actually see a mouse or other creature. The odds are more likely you will find their waste. It will look like black pepper or black pellets. If you see these, you are best to keep walking.

Under The Sinks: Here you are looking for stains and warping from water leaks. Depending on how bad it looks will tell you how often they’ve had plumbing issues and the chances of you experiencing them as well.

Talk to Neighbors

This probably won’t work too well with the landlord standing there. If the apartment checks out, don’t sign just yet. Let the landlord you want to think about it overnight.

After leaving, simply come back and knock on a few neighbors’ doors. Doing this will accomplish two things:

First, you will get a true picture of the landlord. The tenant won’t hold back. You can find out all of the issues that the tenants face and how responsive management is. Also, while talking to tenants, be sure to ask about the parking situation. Where I last lived, there was ample parking – during the week. On the weekends, forget about it. It would have been nice to know this beforehand.

Secondly, you get to see your neighbor. You may have found the perfect apartment, but if your neighbor is Freddy Kruger, you might want to think twice about renting the apartment. It won’t matter how nice your apartment is if you have to deal with a jerk of a neighbor all of the time.

Read The Lease

It amazes me how few people read things they sign. I make it a point to read everything before I sign it. When I am reading it, the person other end gets flustered and tries to tell me that it’s just a standard form. I tell them that I understand but I still want to read it.

Without reading the lease, you have no idea what you are getting yourself into. Sure, the landlord says the lease ends on a certain date, but does it? What about being late on a payment? Is there a grace period? There are all sorts of things that the lease will spell out for you. Don’t worry about the lease being unreadable. They aren’t that difficult to understand.

Final Thoughts

There are many things you should do before you agree to sign a lease on a new apartment. Being sure to do the things I spelled out above will give you comfort in knowing your aren’t renting the worse apartment on the block.

Readers, what else would you suggest those looking to rent be aware of?