When you are looking for your first apartment, you may not realize how important a good landlord will be to your well-being and happiness during that first year on your own. But how do you tell a good one from a bad one before it’s too late? Don’t worry, there are plenty of signs that can let you know ahead of time which type your potential landlord will be!
Whether you live in a family-owned building or a big apartment complex, landlords have the responsibility to keep your property in good condition and to keep open communication with you if issues do arise. So, we’re essentially looking for someone who is responsive and shows good follow-through.
When you think about the application process, ask yourself:
- Were they responsive to your questions?
- Did they appear interested in your requirements, or simply making a “sale”?
- Did they provide a way for you to contact them during office-hours?
- Is there a separate method to contact them outside of office hours, in case of emergency?
You also want to feel that you are safe in your apartment and know that your landlord has appropriate follow-through when there are issues. Think about:
- Did the landlord properly vet your renter’s application? Did your references get called by the landlord?
- Did they perform credit or other employment checks?
- Have they provided references that you can check with? If so, be sure to ask about the landlord’s approach to dealing with problems.
- What is the turnaround time they provided on emergency issues (i.e. leaks)? On basic issues (i.e. cosmetic problems)?
A great way to tell if your landlord will be fantastic or not-so-fantastic is to check out your lease. Good landlords will be specific about the apartment and your responsibilities (sometimes with more detail than you wanted to sit and read through!) and is adamant about getting any exceptions written on paper. While this may come off a bit abrasive at first, it is generally a sign of an experienced landlord who knows it’s best to have everything in writing to avoid any future misunderstandings.
Be sure to also ask for language in your contract about when they are “allowed” to enter your apartment (i.e. under which circumstances, what permission is required and how much notice must be given) and what could warrant eviction. Again, a good landlord shouldn’t have an issue including the “tough stuff” in your lease or talking to you about it before you decide to sign!
On the flip side, bad landlords are pretty common, and are also possible to sniff out ahead of time! If your potential landlord exhibits any of these traits, keep looking…
- Unresponsive to calls or emails – This is a big one! You need to be able to reach your landlord!
- Long turnaround times for your questions via email/phone
- Rushed apartment tour or conversations
- Avoids or dodges questions about the unit, utilities, or location
- Lack of clarity of responsibilities for the unit (i.e. is unclear on your responsibilities versus theirs)
- Does not deliver a clear contract, or does not require you to review the contract before you sign
- Applies very vague rules on returning your security deposit
Think about all of these guidelines when checking out apartments. Remember that your landlord is the the one who decides how well your unit and the entire complex or building are maintained and protected. If you want a great first apartment experience, be sure to choose a great landlord!