Some years ago I moved to DC, and after checking out a number of apartments I finally found one that seemed like a gem. It was a large, 8-story building, vintage luxury style, the kind that had lost most of the luxury but maintained most of the charm. I was excited. I did a walk-through with the building manager, everything looked great, and then, I opened a kitchen cabinet and found a roach trap...and two big, dead roaches.
I tried to remain casual as I asked about the dead roaches hanging out in a kitchen cabinet. The property manager didn't miss a beat, telling me that the previous renters had caused a "tiny" roach problem, but not to worry, they were taking care of it. As a precaution, I did a quick internet search of the building, using the property name and location. Lo and behold, I immediately found a series of complaints dating back a few years about a serious roach problem at that location, many previous tenants complaining that the property management company wouldn't pay to have the building exterminated.
Had I believed the manager's story, I might have taken the apartment because it did look great, but doing a little research revealed a deeper issue that I did not want to walk into. If you're a renter, here are 5 problems you have the right to run away from, and we'd love to hear what yours are too!
1. Infestations. Roaches, rodents, bed bugs, termites, and even squirrels can really ruin your day if they're allowed to go forth and prosper in your home. Infestations can happen, and it's not always the fault of the property owner, but whoever is taking your rent money needs to take care of any pest problems. This can be put in writing in your lease, and if you're currently hunting for a rental, do a quick search of the building, property management company, or owner's name to see what you find.
2. Mold. Mold is pervasive, toxic, and really hard to get rid of. It's also hard to spot, and can appear in a home that otherwise seems perfectly clean. Good places to check for mold are underneath sinks, around refrigerators, air conditioning units or vents, under carpets, and in basements. Unless you have a written guarantee that the property owner is going to remove the mold, this is one to run away from because mold can make you sick, and as a renter you don't have the ability to pull up carpeting and remove dry wall in order to clean it out.
3. Excessive Fees. Check your lease for any hidden fees that go beyond the standard security deposit. If a property management company wants to charge you non-refundable "move in" fees, I say run far away, it's not a good sign. Other shady fees include trying to charge for extra tenants (if you want your significant other to move in with you, you should not be charged extra for that). You should also not be charged any "move out" fees either, since your security deposit is intended to cover any costs caused by damage.
4. Broken Appliances and Faulty Wiring. If the property owner drags their feet or ignores your request to fix or replace a broken appliance like a refrigerator, stove, or washing machine, run away. Not only is it inconvenient, it's disrespectful. If you notice faulty wiring (especially a concern in older homes and buildings), the issue needs to be corrected immediately because it's a fire hazard. If the wiring is not replaced ASAP, run away!
5. Unavailable Property Owners and Building Managers. Whether your issue is excessively loud neighbors, pests, a broken window, or clogged shower drain, if your requests to fix problems go unanswered, run away. It's really the equivalent of skipping out on rent, since the property owners are not holding up their end of the bargain. If the property is not being maintained and your rights as a renter are not being considered, it's a deal breaker.
What have you run away from as a renter?
(Image: Julia Brenner)
Re-edited from a post originally published 3.23.12 - JL