Prepare with a rental property checklist
Use our rental property inspection checklist so you're organized and prepared when looking at rental listings.
Many cities have friendly neighborhoods with great properties. However, it's important to know what to look for when renting a house or apartment so you can make a smart assessment about each property you're interested in.
What's on your wish list?
Before you begin looking for an apartment, it’s helpful to determine what you’d like so you can narrow down your selections.
- Do you prefer an apartment, duplex or townhome?
- How many rooms do you need? Are you looking for one or two bedrooms or would you prefer the economy of a studio?
- First floor or higher? Apartments on the first floor have easier access, but apartments on second or third levels could provide extra security.
- Do you want a yard, balcony or patio?
- Do you have pets? It’s important to know whether a landlord will allow pets, and if so, what sizes are allowed.
- Is security important? Some complexes offer the added security of restricted entrances.
- How much rent are you willing to pay? Make sure the rent works within your budget. Also, consider whether you’ll want a lower rent payment so you can save for your first home.
What to look for when renting an apartment
A rental checklist will help you stay organized and prepared when viewing properties. Here are some things to consider when renting an apartment:
- Does it have what's on your wish list? Using the wishlist items above, figure out what you really need to have and what you want. It may help you with decisions during the process.
- Does it have furnishings and appliances? If furnishings or appliances are included, find out what condition they are in. It is common for renters to provide their own furnishings. However, this is not always the case. If the unit is furnished, be sure to ask exactly what is included in the contract so there are no surprises when you move in.
- Is there parking? Some apartments have dedicated lots for your car. Others might rely on street-side parking. If there is dedicated parking, ask if it's covered parking, how many cars you are allowed to have there and what the guest policy is.
- What are the safety features? Ask about security concerns such as:
- Is the building secured with a locked entry?
- Are the doors to your apartment reinforced and what type of locks and deadbolts are used?
- Are there security cameras, intercom systems or alarms and are they always in working order and maintained?
- How much is the rent? Verify the asking price to guarantee you don't overpay. If the landlord states a higher rent price than listed, highlight the inconsistency to make sure you get the lower advertised price. Check the rent of similar properties in the vicinity so you don't pay too much. Also, be prepared to identify potential rental scams.
- Are there maintenance issues to address before you move in? You should check the faucets, toilets and windows for potential water leaks, look inside cabinets and closets, be on the lookout for bugs, and look for holes in the wall. Once you take possession, you might be responsible for any issues.
- Find out how to submit a maintenance request. You should verify who makes the repairs. You want to be sure the landlord appropriately manages the property and responds quickly to repair requests. Find out what the maintenance procedure is and confirm there is a plan in place for repairs. When viewing a property, the current condition of the apartment will offer clues to the upkeep routines of the landlord. Make a list of questions to ask your potential landlord about apartment maintenance.
- What is the neighborhood like? When you are considering renting a specific property, ask your landlord about your potential neighbors. You should research your potential neighborhood and find out:
- How do neighbors like the area?
- Are there any businesses very close to the building where there is noise at night?
- Is it a busy area with significant traffic due to the surroundings?
- Does the local police department have online or in-person information about crime statistics in the area?
- What is the application process and screening criteria? Ask the landlord to explain the application and screening processes and application fees. A thorough screening process shows the landlord is careful about finding good renters. If a credit check is needed, read more about preparing for an apartment credit check.
- What are the payment methods that are accepted for rent? Landlords can choose which forms of payment they will accept. However, some landlords make it easier for tenants and allow tenants to pay rent online. The option of online payment allows for automation, security and convenience for both tenant and landlord.
- And lastly, does it fit your budget? Be realistic about expenses. Confirm the property fits your budget so you are able to pay bills on time, build savings and still have money for entertainment, travel and even your first home. Ask about potential hidden fees. Is there a pool or gym in the building and are there any costs for those services that are not mentioned up front?
How to look for an apartment using online resources
There are many sites to help you look for apartments online. You can filter your search by location, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, price range and amenities, just to name a few. You can also find square footage, utility information and pictures of both the inside and outside of the property. By narrowing down your search, you’ll save time and money by looking only at available listings that include your preferences.
Here are some apartment search sites to help you find your dream space:
Contact potential landlords and arrange for a tour
Once you find rentals you’re interested in, contact the landlord. You can send over a renter profile with your contact information and renter history so the landlord knows you’re ready to rent.
Safety tips to consider when viewing potential rental properties
- Does it seem too good to be true? It just might be.
- You know the saying — there is safety in numbers. Bring along a friend.
- Let others know where and when you are going and then check in with them after your meeting.
- Always be aware of your surroundings. Look for quick exits in case of an emergency.
- Be sure your cell phone is easily accessible and charged — keep it in your hands.
- What is your gut telling you? Trust it.
Watch for scams
While you’re reviewing rental listings and viewing properties, be aware of some potential rental scams as you begin your search. Some examples are listed below:
- Trying to get payment before even meeting or showing you the property
- Wanting money to hold the property because the landlord is not available
- Fake listings
If you become the victim of a scam, call the police immediately. And above all else, be safe when looking for potential apartments. If the rental listing seems too good to be true, it just might be a scam.
Renting can be an exciting time in your life, and you can make it as stress-free as possible with our renters guide, asking the right questions of your potential landlord, and foreseeing potential issues with a rental property checklist.
Once you've decided on the perfect place, be sure you are protected against the unexpected with renters insurance. Get a free quote now.