By:
Kayla Coco-Stotts
Posted:
April 2, 2024
Article type:
Moving Help & Tips
Applies to:
Real Estate

Rental Horror Stories Part 1: What Are They and How to Avoid Them Before Setting Foot on the Property

There’s a lot of excitement that comes with signing a lease for a new rental property. You’re moving to a new place, exploring a new neighborhood, and setting up shop in a new environment. There’s loads of untapped opportunity waiting for you after you sign your lease and grab your keys.

However, just as with home buying, renting a property comes with associated risks. And that risk is that, once the paperwork is signed and you’re moved in, you discover that your rental property doesn’t meet your standards for living. So whether you’re moving to a townhome, a condo, an apartment, or a single-family home, you should do everything in your power to avoid rental properties that turn your happy life into a horror story.

What Leads to Rental Horror Stories?

There are tons of examples of rental horror stories that you can read about online, both from the lens of a renter and that of a landlord. But what causes renters to fall victim to deceitful rental listings and subpar spaces?

In most cases, it’s unfortunately just bad luck. Tenants can experience severe maintenance issues, extreme rent hikes, and uninvited pests for no reason other than timing. Perhaps you’ve moved into a rental unit with loud, disruptive neighbors banging against the walls at all hours of the night. Maybe you’re allured by lower rent rates and are now stuck living in unsafe or squalid conditions. Whatever the reason, rental horror stories often happen to unsuspecting renters with the best of intentions.

Although some rental horror stories can’t be predicted, you as a renter can take certain steps to vet out potential rental units that hint at trouble down the line. The following steps can be used to help you as a renter avoid rental horror stories both before you’ve selected a new rental and after you’ve determined where you want to move.

Avoiding Rental Horror Stories: Do Your Research

Perhaps your biggest defense against rental horror stories is conducting research. Research your potential rental unit as thoroughly as you can before deciding to tour. And once you’ve selected a few options, make sure you remain mindful while you tour the unit and the area.

If you’re moving a longer distance and can’t tour the space yourself, be sure to contact the management team or landlord with your research questions and ask for videos of the spaces we’ve listed below.

Really Pay Attention to Online Reviews

When you’re doing your initial apartment searching, you’ll typically find spaces according to size, pet policy, look, or general location. If a place fits your specifications, you’ll likely schedule a tour.

But before you decide to inquire about a location, do a quick Google search on the address. Oftentimes, complexes and buildings for apartments, condos, and townhomes will have detailed reviews left by previous and current tenants on their experiences.

Do not count these experiences out when making your decision. If a tenant has recorded a negative experience, such as broken amenities or unsafe living conditions, you’ll likely encounter that same experience. Be especially keen on reviews mentioning management conduct and changes of ownership. Online reviews are a direct window into what it’s like to live at the place you’re researching.

Watch Out for Rental Scam Indicators

Just like moving scams, rental scams are appearing in increasing volume on popular rental-search sites like Zillow and Apartments.com. Often scammers will list a home or apartment that isn’t even for rent and will take whatever sum of money they can from you before disappearing. It’s especially something to be mindful of in high-demand rental markets like Denver, CO and Salt Lake City, UT.

When looking for a rental property, watch out for these key rental scam indicators:

  • The rental property is listed by someone who isn’t verifiable on the rental database or with a quick Google search
  • The listing doesn’t have any supplemental images of the actual property
  • The listing does have images, but they're watermarked with a different entity's branding
  • The person who listed the property is only willing to communicate through text or email
  • The person is unwilling to show you the property (often they will say they live out of town)
  • You’re being asked to pay money before you’ve signed any agreement
  • The property is listed for a price that’s much lower than what others are going for

If you've come across a rental property that feels too good to be true, you should probably just move on to another more reputable option. Rental scams and moving scams can happen to anyone.

Research the Neighborhood

Even if a unit or building are in great shape, the neighborhood you move to has a lot of impact on your day-to-day life. When researching the area surrounding your potential next rental, look for the following:

  1. What are the crime rates in the neighborhood?
  2. Is the neighborhood walker/biker friendly if you plan on walking/biking?
  3. Is the neighborhood near a school/kid-friendly attraction if you have children?
  4. Is the neighborhood near to public transportation if you plan to use it?
  5. Are there any locations that may cause disruptions to your lifestyle like concert or sports venues?

By Taking These Steps, You Can Save a Lot of Time

Though rentals can look enticing by their listings, keep in mind that they’re engineered to look that way. Listings often don’t reveal a lot of the finer details that can quickly tell you if it’s the right fit or not for you as a renter.

Refer back to this article as you conduct rental research and use it to vet your options. Once you’ve got a working list of rental properties that check all your boxes, schedule times to tour the rental property. Then, be sure to follow key steps outlined in our Part 2 of this Rental Horror Stories. Part 2 dives into key steps you should take during your tour and before signing your rental agreement that'll help you avoid getting stuck in a rental property that's fit for a horror story.