From going to look at a place that is nothing like the advertisement to finding the perfect home and having someone snap it up before you, hunting for an apartment can be grueling. Here are five things experts say to watch out for during your search:
The length of your lease
"As simple as it sounds, some landlords will not clearly state that a lease is six or 12 months, unless you ask," said Sam Radbill, a writer for ABODO, an apartment search site. In addition to asking about the length of the lease, ask what happens when it ends — and how and if you can renew it.
Regular rent increases
One of the most important things to look for when renting an apartment is how much you will be paying in rent increases. "Make sure you ask about annual rent increases, which are typically based on property tax increases in your city," Radbill said. How much your rent can increase and how much advanced notice your landlord is required to give you varies by state, so explore those issues.
Who manages general maintenance?
"Try to talk to some current residents about maintenance service, timeliness in response to maintenance requests, as well as the overall ease of living in the building," Radbill said. A simple question like, "Does it take five weeks to get your sink unclogged?" can tell you a lot about what it's like to live there. "If basic maintenance is that slow, you might not want to sign a lease in that building," Radbill said.
What happens if you break the lease?
Among tips for renting an apartment, knowing if and when you can get out of your lease — should the need arise — is key. "In many cases, job offers come or personal issues occur that result in a need to move immediately," Radbill said. "Find out if you can break your lease. Usually, you cannot. But if you can, that might make the apartment a bit more appealing."
Damage from previous tenants
Protect your security deposit with a documented walk-through of the property. Taking photos of the apartment before you move in and the day before you move out can protect you from illegitimate damage charges. Save the pictures until you have moved out and received your deposit.