Kayla Coco-Stotts
August 1, 2022
Article type:
Moving Help & Tips
Applies to:
Real Estate

Rental Horror Stories Part 2: Viewing a Property and Finding Warning Signs

This is Part 2 in our Avoiding Rental Horror Stories series. If you’re at the beginning stages of finding a rental property to live in, head on over to Part 1 of this series, which covers what you should look for when researching potential rentals.

For this installment, we’re covering what to do once you’ve selected properties to tour or speak with the management/landlord about. Using the following steps, you will put together an extremely well-rounded view of the rental properties you’re looking at. In doing so, you can avoid becoming another renter with an abysmal rental horror story.

Avoiding Rental Horror Stories: Your Tour Is Essential to Figuring Out What the Place is Like

You can tour a rental property either in-person or virtually. Although in-person tours are best for getting a feel for the place, virtual tours are a great option for those looking to move far distances. Just make sure to ask plenty of questions during a virtual tour, since you won't be able to do some of the steps included below. Don't be afraid to get more clarity from the landlord or management.

Talk a Walk Around the Area

Before or after you tour the property and specific unit, walk around the neighborhood. Take note of the general feel of the neighborhood and the activities you see. Is it a quiet neighborhood or is it bustling with activity? The surrounding area will have a direct impact on your experience within your rental, and it'll tell you what your experience living there will likely entail.

Be Picky About the Look of Common Areas

Before you tour your chosen unit, make sure you get a feel for the common areas of your rental location. This may not be applicable if you’re renting a townhouse or a single-family home, but for apartments and condos, common spaces are key indicators are to the level of care devoted to the rental property.

Make sure the common areas look clean and well kept. If there’s amenities such as a gym, an outdoor space, or a pool, be sure to check those out as well. If the areas look run down and dated, then likely management isn’t performing regular maintenance on the space.

Look for Signs of Disrepair or Pests

Common spaces can also hold key signs that your rental property is dealing with pests such as cockroaches, mice, rats, and more. Look for these key indicators that pests may be afoot:

  • The door jams have a dirty, dusty appearance
  • There are small droppings on the floor, especially near corners and crevices
  • There are holes and imperfections on the walls and floor
  • The common areas have a musty odor

Ask About Procedures for Maintenance Requests

Maintenance requests are a necessary benefit for many renters – the landlord or management is required to fix issues that arise within the rental in a timely manner. However, some landlords and management do not fulfill maintenance requests – either they take weeks or months to fulfill requests, or they don’t service rental units at all.

When you tour the rental property, be sure to ask what their procedure is for maintenance requests. If you end up applying to live at that property, be sure to double check your lease for their official maintenance policy and compare that with what was told to you when you toured the space. You want to live at a place where maintenance is regularly performed and the landlord or management has an organized system for submitting maintenance requests.

Tour Your Exact Unit

Often when people tour rental properties, they end up viewing a staged unit that isn’t the one they’ll be applying to live in. Though this doesn’t have to be a deal breaker, be aware that it invites the possibility that the unit you end up renting isn’t up to the standards shown in the staged unit you saw previously.

When touring a rental property, try to view your exact unit. If it isn’t available at that time, try to work with the landlord or management to arrange a time to view the unit before you apply. This way you can avoid any unexpected surprises when you move in.

Be Sure to Test Every Single Feature Within Your Unit

If you’re able to tour your unit, make sure to test all the features. Don’t be afraid to turn on lights and flip on faucets. Use the following checklist on your walkthrough:

  • Test all doors and locks
  • Test windows and see if they open
  • Check all windows for locks and screens
  • Test the bathroom thoroughly – shower, toilet, sink
  • Test the kitchen thoroughly – stove, sink, fridge, freezer
  • Test the HVAC system if applicable
  • Flip on all the lights

You'd be surprised at the amount of small repairs that need to be performed on a space while it sits empty between renters. These small issues don't have to be deal breakers in the slightest. In fact, you can request that they be fixed before you move in. That way you don't have to continually submit maintenance requests after you get all your boxes and furniture in your space.

If the landlord or management express disinterest in fixing the minor issues you note while checking the features within your unit, that should be a key indicator to avoid renting that space.

Tour the Place at a Busy Time of Day

Though it can be more convenient to tour a rental property before or after your working hours, be aware that you can get a more accurate feel for noise and foot traffic if you tour during a busy time of day. Try to tour rental properties between 12-5 PM during the week to understand the noise level both in your unit and around common areas.

Take Note of How Secure the Building Is

Though this isn’t as applicable for rental properties in quiet neighborhoods, you should always note how secure your rental is.

  1. How easy is it for the public to access your rental property and your unit?
  2. Can you properly lock your unit?
  3. Have there been reports of break-ins in the area?
  4. Is your car easily accessible by the public or is it in a secure location?

Ask What Their Policy is for Pest Prevention

Unwanted houseguests, like insects and mice, can happen in any residence. Proper pest prevention can keep these pests at bay and should be conducted on a regular basis by your landlord or management (unless they tell you otherwise). When you tour the complex, be sure to ask what the rental property’s practices are for pest prevention. Some properties leave it up to the tenants, while others conduct regular prevention. Get a feel for what the property's policy is and whether that aligns with your plan for living in the space.

Ask About Their Noise Policy

Noisy neighbors and loud neighborhoods are elements of rental living that landlords and management have little to no control over. However, some rental properties instantiate quiet hours: usually during sleeping hours like 10 PM – 6 AM. These quiet hours are usually included in leasing paperwork where tenants are expected to keep the noise down.

Be sure to ask what the rental property’s noise policy is so you can get an understanding for what to expect in terms of noisiness from neighbors.

Avoiding Rental Horror Stories: Set Yourself Up for Success Down the Line

After taking a tour of the rental unit, property, and surrounding area, you should have a pretty good understanding of the situation you’re signing up for if you choose to rent that unit. Take into account every pro and con and decide whether the unit would be a right fit for you and your life situation.

At this point you’ve successfully avoided a lot of red flags that could spell disaster after you sign your moving paperwork. But before you’ve settled in and grabbed the keys, you should discuss the potential for rent raises with your landlord or management.

Try to Lock in Your Rate for the Next 1-2 Years

A great way to avoid unexpected rent raises and another premature move is to lock yourself into your current rate for an extended period of time. Most leasing paperwork is contracted for a 12-month period, but if you plan to stay put for longer, you can potentially lock in your rent rate for the next 2 or 3 years.

And if you’re planning to renew your lease, this is a great opportunity to keep your rent stable for the next couple of years. Rent raises are forcing tenants out of rental properties all over the U.S., so avoid early moves by locking in your rate.

Ask if Management Conducts Rent Raises, and By What Percentage They Typically Raise Rent

Communicate with management or your landlord about the possibility of a rent raise before you finalize everything. This way you can prepare yourself when your lease is up for renewal, and you are less likely to be surprised by the amount.

Though This Doesn’t Guarantee a Horror-Free Rental, You Are More Likely to Know What You’re Getting Into

There’s no guarantee that a rental property won’t come with hidden surprises, or a landlord or management company won’t be dishonest with you just to get you into the available unit as quickly as possible. But by conducting thorough research, exploring the rental property, and communicating with your landlord/management about their procedures, you can assure that you’ve taken all the steps possible to avoid a rental property that doesn’t suit your needs.

And if you’re looking at rental properties and have an upcoming move, you can obtain a free moving quote online today. Get ideas for availability and pricing so your move can happen without you having to lift heavy furniture and bribe reluctant friends.