Even a great rental will be hell if you're stuck with a bad landlord. Don't be blindsided by a dud. Heed these warning signs before you commit to a lease and it's too late.
The areas outside the actual apartment aren't up to par
Even if the apartment you tour looks immaculate, be wary if the rest of the building seems surprisingly run down in comparison. What about the landscaping outside, the lounge or the laundry room? These are things that good landlords keep on top of because they contribute to the quality of life in the building. Don't be drawn in by the bait of a showy apartment only to realize that the building itself isn't maintained or protected from danger.
There are signs of neglected maintenance
Even little problems could be an indication that the landlord isn't invested in making this apartment the best it can be. Little cracks in the ceiling, a dirty oven, even — gasp — signs of an infestation are things you should take very seriously as they are indicators of how your landlord will treat any other, larger problems that crop up while you live there.
You're having trouble getting ahold of the landlord
If you can't seem to get your landlord on the phone before they are even officially your landlord, how hard do you think it will be once you have a maintenance request? Taking your money is the easy part. If your landlord isn't returning your calls in a timely manner or isn't doing what he says he will, that is what he'll continue doing for the duration of your tenancy.
He dodges your questions
When you inquire about repairs that will be made or ask questions about the lease, does he avoid making specific statements or just give you a general, "don't worry about it" type of answer? That's a bad sign. Your landlord should want you to be happy and be receptive to your concerns (within reason). He should respond to problems with a plan and a timeline to get it resolved. If he won't give you a straight answer, the actual answer will probably never be what you want to hear.
The lease looks fishy
You're reading that lease oh-so-carefully, right? Do you see any strange clauses that seem out of the ordinary? Are there any unusual charges tacked onto your rent? Investigate before you sign. Bad landlords have been known to dream up all sorts of extras, sometimes even trying to pass on building insurance costs, taxes and all sorts of other fees to tenants, on top of their rent. Not cool.