There are plenty of apartments available that are well managed and have a nice amenities. However, some renters may encounters property managers who do not make their tenants or building upkeep a priority. The information listed below will help you become more informed of what to watch out for, especially if you plan to live outside of the campus neighborhood. The place you choose will be your home for the next 10 to 12 months, so choose carefully.
Good and Bad Signs
Below are a list of good and bad signs that may help to identify if you are making a good choice when choosing your apartment. Some of these issues are more important to some than others.
Public transportation nearby/available parking
Abandoned and dilapidated buildings
Clean buildings and nice landscaping
Broken glass/non-working cars
Gang and other graffiti
Well-maintained interior and exterior
Decrepit exterior, gang markings, peeling paint, missing window screens or storm windows
Name & contact information of management company posted on the building
Faulty front door, doesn't automatically shut and lock
Safe, well-lit common areas
Broken or no intercom
Secure mailboxes and lobby
No lock on lobby door
Working two-way intercom
Broken or very small mailboxes
Self-locking front and rear doors
Safe and well-lit building areas
Laundry and storage areas in poor condition
Common area walls and floors dirty
Worn, dirty carpet, bad lighting and poor paint job
Missing fire extinguishers, smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors on each landing, no fire doors on each floor to stairways
Has or has had building code violations in the past 12 months
Peep holes and double locks on exterior doors, including a deadbolt security lock
Pry marks or cracks on the front and rear entry doors and frames
Working windows with storms and screens
Clean and cleanable bathroom and kitchen walls and floors
Windows that don't open or close properly, drafty frames
Level floor surface
Rusty plumbing fixtures
Stain-free paint jobs and smooth plaster walls
Toilets that don't empty on first flush and/or don't shut off
Ice in refrigerator freezer and all stove burners working
Poor hot water and poor water pressure
Working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
Old kitchen appliances, in poor condition or don't work
Working electrical outlets and enough circuits
Holes in floors, between floors and walls, around pipes and/or walls and ceilings
Modern heating and properly functioning air conditioner unit
Signs of roach and mice/rat infestation
Adequate closet space and storage
Smells of sewer gas, cigarette smoke and cooking gas
Interior doors to bedroom and bathrooms
Room size large enough for your furniture
No repair or other work required, apartment is ready to rent
Familiar with building/part of management team
Appears rushed or in a hurry
24-hour maintenance personnel on premises or lives nearby (prompt repair service)
Won't negotiate terms or lease conditions
Answers all questions and willing to put terms in writing
Independent agent, not a landlord, property manager or owner
Pleasant demeanor and professional attitude
Has extra-special rules about elevator use, guests, extra deposits
Rude and unprofessional tone over the phone
No 24-hour emergency number or person on premises
You should also too-good-to-be-true rental incentives such as:
- Two months of free rent
- No security deposit and half off first month's rent
- Refer a friend and get a $500 rental rebate
In cases like these, sometimes the property owner will drastically cut rent rates on a building in attempt to lure new tenants to a building that has a high tenant turnover due to faulty conditions, or it could be the case of new management looking to fill a building that has recently reopened. You should always find out the reason for such an aggressive incentive. The most desirable apartments usually do not stay on the market for more than eight weeks at a time and rarely offer such generous incentives. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Talk to current tenants. Find out current tenants' opinions of the building and why they are choosing to live there. You should not take what is said at face value, but if every tenant's remarks are similar, you should take what they are saying into serious consideration. You can also check out building review sites such as Apartment Ratings and Apartment Reviews.
Check out the neighborhood during different hours of the day. Sometimes the atmosphere is much different at night than in the morning.
Ask These Questions
- Who do you report building emergencies to?
- Where does the maintenance manager live?
- Do you have or have you had any building code violations in the past 12 months? You can also contact the Daley Center in Chicago for this information.
- Do you have problems with roaches, mice/rats? If not, have there been problems in the past? How often do you exterminate?
- How often are maintenance checks performed? (Should be at least every three months.)
Check These Features
- Cabinets – do they open and close properly?
- Flush the toilet & turn on faucets - is the water pressure okay?
- Floorboards – are there loose floorboards?
- Common areas, laundry room, recreation room, wall and stairwells – are they clean and well maintained?
- Visit at another time to access building noise level and scenery – is the night scene all right?
- Workmanship – are the paint jobs sloppy and/or tub caulking messy?
- Signs of bug and rodent infestation – look in kitchen and bathroom areas especially under the sink for droppings, nests and other residue.
- Find out average tenant age group – are you all right with living around this age group?
- Run the dishwasher and stove and check refrigerator freezer to confirm proper performance.
- Test air conditioner and heating source to make sure it works properly.
- Sturdy door locks and working windows.
- Examine floor for marks and stains.
- Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide monitors – in working condition?
- Intercom – works properly?