Apartment hunting is no easy feat. Once you’ve finally found a place that’s within your budget, close to public transportation, and home to an awesome roommate, you’ll probably just want to sign the lease and call it a day — but not so fast. Did you make sure to thoroughly examine the place for any red flags? Unless you take the time to check that everything is in working order — particularly in older apartment buildings — you could be setting yourself up for some serious problems down the road. So before signing a lease, run through this checklist of apartment features you have to inspect first.
1. Properly Working Fridge
If you’re viewing an apartment that’s currently occupied, this might make you look a bit sketchy. However, real estate author and attorney Ron Leshnower says it’s important to know whether or not the apartment’s refrigerator is in good working order. The first thing to check? Something incredibly basic that, if overlooked, could mean a fridge full of spoiled food.
“Open and close the refrigerator door to make sure the handle works,” he recommends.
Also, take note of the temperature inside the refrigerator and freezer. If it doesn’t feel cold enough, it could be a sign that it’s not working properly. If the tenants are around, ask if they’ve ever had any issues with the fridge keeping food cold during hot summer months. Note any previous issues, and ask your landlord if you have a concern.
2. Functioning Windows
This one is important year-round. You want to make sure you can open and close your windows without letting in any drafts. Drafty windows can mean freezing air in the winter, but if you can’t even open them, you might be stuck in sweltering heat during the summer. Checking to see if your windows work is a simple task that could save you a lot of headache later.
“Open the windows to make sure they’re not stuck,” Leshnower says. “And make sure they can be locked for your security.”
Take note of any drafts or cracks you see. It could be something you barely notice, but if left unseen, you might waste hundreds of dollars in energy trying to warm up or cool down your apartment later.
3. Weird Partial Carpeting
Regardless of your personal feelings on carpeting, partial carpeting can be a sign of a bad coverup. Principal broker and CEO of Love Where You Live Realty, Mike Mishkin, says some landlords try to hide damaged floors by throwing a carpet down on top — which is pretty much the equivalent to putting a giant bandaid on the problem.
“If there is partial carpeting, make sure you ask your broker why that is,” says Mishkin. “It might be there to cover eroded wood or buckling floors, which could end up causing you problems down the road.”
If you notice any weird partial carpeting, ask the landlord if there is a history of floor damage. If he/she doesn’t answer your question clearly, it could be a sign of something fishy. Make sure to clear this up before signing a lease.
4. Clean Running Water
One good thing about most plumbing issues is that they’re usually pretty apparent. Head to the bathroom and kitchen and run couple of quick checks you’ll have clean, properly running water upon moving in. Make sure you have hot water (it’s your right as a tenant), and look for anything else that signal potential water problems.
“Run the shower and sink,”Leshnower says. “And flush the toilet, so there are no unpleasant surprises after you move in.”
See if the pipes underneath the sinks leak when you run the water, and pay attention to the water pressure in the shower.
“Checking under the sinks can sometimes reveal other water damage, which could be blamed on you as the tenant if not noted upon the initial inspection,”explains real estate representative Ivan Ciraj
Also take note of anywhere that water doesn’t drain easily, which could a sign of blocked pipes, as well as any areas where you see mold.
5. Functioning Door Buzzer
If the apartment’s amenities include a buzzer system, make sure it’s actually in good working order. Mishkin says to ask if you can test it out while you’re doing your walkthrough. Have your roommate stand outside and buzz in while you listen to hear if it works from the apartment. Then make sure you can buzz him or her in without a problem.
So, you’ve compiled a list of issues. Now, how do you bring them up to your potential new landlord? Rather than rely on a landlord’s word, Leshnower recommends having the landlord agree to address these problems in writing.
“Have him consent to fix the issues within a certain time frame by adding that language to your lease,” he recommends. “This way, your problems are more likely to be addressed, and you’ll feel more comfortable signing your lease. It will also prevent a situation where the landlord later claims that you, in fact, caused the problems that need repair.”
Don’t let potential apartment problems weigh you down on move-in day. Nip them in the bud before signing a lease so they don’t cause unwanted issues for you and your roommate.