Depending on where you live, you might find it tough to land a great rental unit that fits within your budget and meets all your needs. But even when you find a place that’s located in an awesome location and seems like an affordable deal, it can be a total nightmare if you wind up stuck with a terrible landlord. Sure, many landlords are awesome, but some are not. In fact, some are downright shady, and even break the law when it comes to screening renters and dealing with them on a regular basis.
To avoid having to deal with a shady landlord, make sure you look out for the following signs before you sign a lease.
1. The Landlord Ignores Major Issues
While scoping out an apartment to rent, make sure you have your eyes peeled for certain issues that could wind up being a big problem after you move in. If you notice very weak water flow in the shower, signs of pests, and a faulty door lock, you’ll want to bring these issues up with the landlord and ask if anything will be done about them before you move in.
You’re absolutely entitled to be informed about any issues that seem off. If that information is not readily communicated to you, or the landlord seems to be brushing them off with a “don’t worry about it” type of answer, take that as a red flag and move on.
2. The Landlord Asks to Be Paid in Cash
Asking for rent to be paid in cash likely means the landlord doesn’t want any paper trails of the transaction. And if this request for cash is accompanied by the lack of a lease, then you’ve got double trouble. A lease stipulates your legal rights as a tenant. It protects you against illegal rent hikes, unnecessary fees and charges, and the right to quiet enjoyment of the property. Without a lease in place, you aren’t technically the resident of the unit in the eyes of the law. And if only cash is accepted as a form of rent payment, it could be a big sign that there is likely some illegal activity going on behind closed doors.
3. The Exterior of the Property is in Shambles
The actual unit itself can be in tip-top shape and well-maintained. But if the rest of the building looks like it’s been neglected in comparison, this is a bad sign. Sure, you want the unit you’re renting to be immaculate, but the rest of the building or complex also contributes to the quality of life.
The landscaping, exterior, common elements, laundry room, parking lot, and other shared areas play a big role in how much you’ll be able to enjoy the property. Don’t be sucked into the appeal of the unit itself only to be stuck with a building that’s less than par.
4. The Landlord is Tough to Get a Hold of
If you’re already having a hard time getting in touch with the landlord before you even agree to move in, imagine how hard it’ll be once you’re actually tied to a lease. This can be a real problem, especially if there are pressing issues that you may have with your unit.
What if the A/C goes out on the hottest day of the year? What if you get locked out? Anything can go wrong, which can often require immediate attention. If the landlord doesn’t answer the phone, or doesn’t even offer a phone number at all, something’s up. If it takes days before the landlord returns your calls, don’t expect this behavior to cease once you’ve signed a lease.
5. You Find Negative Comments Online
These days, nothing is hidden from the internet. You can literally find just about every answer you need simply by entering a search query in Google.
If the landlord or the property management company has bad reviews or has been linked to lawsuits or scandals in the past that are easily noted online, you might want to think twice before signing a rental agreement.
The Bottom Line
Don’t rush into a lease. Just because you fall in love with the first place you see, there’s still some homework to do. Be conscious of how the landlord behaves and how your questions are answered. Have a chat with other tenants if possible, and conduct an online search to see what type of information you can dig out. Once you sign a lease, you’re stuck for the duration of the agreement, so make sure you sign a contract only if you’re confident that the landlord has your best interests in mind.