In the springtime, “for rent” signs pop up like spring flowers all across Manhattan. Whether you are looking for a one-bedroom apartment or a house to share with six other people, finding the perfect rental space from the hundreds available can be challenging and, at times, overwhelming.
To ensure you get the rental unit you want and avoid surprises once the boxes have been unpacked and the moving truck has driven away, it’s important to be observant and thorough.
Do a complete walkthrough or two
Before signing a contract, do a thorough walkthrough with a representative from the rental company. Point out all damages, stains and issues readily visible. If the company says they will fix these issues before you move in, ask for it to be denoted with your contract. If the issues remain when you move in or weren’t going to be fixed before you moved in, ask the representative to come back for a second walkthrough before you move in all your belongings. Take pictures of all issues, and document them. If the rental company has a formal way to document damage, take the time to fill it out completely and accurately. Moving day may be stressful and busy, but taking the time to make sure all previous damages and issues are recorded can save you time, headaches and money when it comes time to move out.
When doing a walkthrough, it is important not to breach the privacy of the current tenants. Don’t open drawers or use appliances without their permission and supervision.
Check the plug-ins, lights and water
Sure, you may have five plug-ins in your kitchen, but if only the one that’s half hidden behind the microwave works, it isn’t very helpful. When you do your walkthrough, look to see what plug-ins have devices plugged in to them. If the current tenants are there, ask them if all the plug-ins work. If not all of them do, ask which ones are defunct.
Look skywards as well. If you are touring apartments during the day, the apartment might have a lot of natural light. But this natural light disappears pretty early in the winter. My current apartment doesn’t have an overhead light in the living room. I noticed it when I toured the apartment but thought it wasn’t going to be a big deal. However, unless you go to bed before 7 p.m. a majority of the year, not having an overhead light in a main room is going to be annoying. Lamps are good, but not great. If you come home after dark, it’s a long, key-fumbling, book-bag dropping journey to the nearest lamp.
Talk to the current tenants
While the current tenants aren’t always present at a walkthrough, if you are seriously considering a rental unit it is worth the time to make contact with the current tenants. Ask how much their monthly utility bill is. Many rental companies have contracts in which tenants only pay for certain utilities, but even those can add up quickly in older and less efficient units. Find out what the noise level is like in the surrounding apartments and how the existing appliances work. How is the parking situation at the house or apartment complex?
Also, find out why they are moving. If they are moving due to problems with the unit or rental company, find that out. Get their opinion on how they liked the apartment. They may have had problems with it that you don’t see just by touring the place.
Before you sign a contract, consider how far your apartment is from campus. Are you going to be walking, riding a bike or driving to campus every day? Distances may seem short by car, but if that is your walking path every single day Monday through Friday you may feel differently about it. Travel the route of your projected method of transportation several times. Even if you plan on driving to campus, try walking or riding your bike just in case. Think about all weather conditions. How will you feel walking to campus in January after a huge snow storm? Are you all right with the morning hunt for a parking space before your 9:30 a.m. class? These are all important things to consider.
Read your contract
Before signing any contract, read it carefully all the way through. Make sure the terms of your lease are clearly outlined and that you understand them. If the rental company tells you that repairs will be made before you move in or while you are living there, ask for it to be put in the contract. Contracts are legally binding documents that can ensure that promises are fulfilled by both parties. Once signed, you are legally responsible for the agreement in the lease—even if you did not read it or understand it.
K-State’s Consumer and Tenant Affairs Office recommends that perspective renters also check that the building meets all city codes, ask questions about the effectiveness and quality of the landlord and ask lots of questions about the rental company.
For help understanding a lease or other aspects of a rental agreement, contact the Consumer and Tenant Affairs Office at 785-532-6541 or email director Justin Scott at email@example.com.