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Apartment Hunters Checklist

Whether you’re renting for the first time or you just need a refresher, use this checklist to spot potential red flags before signing a lease. Once you’re in your new place (or even if you decide not to move), dust off your renters policy for a quick once-over.

  • What is the surrounding area like at different times of the day? Confirm it’s safe at all hours, especially if you walk your dog or commute late at night.
  • Have you met the maintenance technician? Stop by the apartment office for a visit. Many maintenance technicians have passkey access to all apartments. It’s a great benefit when you have a leak or get locked out of your apartment. (A 24-hour maintenance service might qualify you for a renters insurance discount, too.) But it’s not so good if you don’t feel safe with them.
  • Is security a priority? Check for cameras, gates, adequate lighting, buzzer entry locks or a door attendant. Attendants and security systems create layers of protection and provide peace of mind. (Added security might also qualify for a discount on your renters insurance.)
  • Are the common areas well-kept? Check out the laundry room, parking areas, hallways, elevators, trash chutes, recycling, storage areas and entryways. Ensure they’re obstruction-free, secure and well-lit. You don’t want to feel unsafe in a creepy laundry area or every time you take out the trash.
  • Who’s responsible for outdoor maintenance? If you’re in a flat or town house, you might have to maintain your walkways in the winter and lawn in the summer. Find out if there is a service and how often they come to clear the walkways and parking spaces.
  • Are there any signs of infestation? A place might look great on the surface (even recently remodeled), but an infestation could be lurking behind cabinets and under sinks. Take a flashlight and look for droppings and insect shedding around pipes, appliances and sinks. Ask if they use a professional pest control service for the building.
  • Are the doors and windows in good condition? Check for locks and tight-fitting doors. Make sure all windows are functional, have screens and lock properly. Poorly maintained doors and windows are a security hazard and can be the culprit behind higher utility bills.
  • Is the plumbing in good shape? You don’t want a reverse flow of sewer water or a burst pipe situation on your hands. (Check with your insurance agent about adding sewer backup insurance to your renters policy.)
  • Are there bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans and window ventilation? A kitchen mishap can be an olfactory nightmare if there's no window or exhaust fan nearby.
  • Are the electrical sockets conveniently located, safe and operable? It’s inconvenient and dangerous to have too few outlets, and it may force tenants to overload them using power strips or extension cords. Remember that the electrical system feeds the whole building, not just your unit. Poorly maintained electrical systems are fire hazards for everyone who lives there, so don’t chance it.
  • Are there fire and carbon monoxide detectors on every level and outside all sleeping areas? Modern homes and furnishings are highly flammable, allowing fires to spread rapidly. Carbon monoxide has no odor, so it can silently poison victims before they have the opportunity to escape to fresh air. Most states require property owners to maintain functional alarms, and some even specify the type of alarm and power source. Check the laws in Michigan here....
  • Is there lead-based paint? Look for indicators of lead-based paint, like peeling on porches and other aging areas, especially in vintage buildings (1978 or earlier). Curious children might pick at peeling paint or accidentally consume fine particles that settle as dust. Property owners must tell you if there is lead paint in the building. (Don’t repaint on your own. The dust is toxic, so leave it to the professionals.)
  • Are there leaks or signs of water damage? Check ceilings for moisture stains, cracks and flaking. These could be signs of a water leak, which could sprout mold. Mold is unhealthy, especially black mold. (And even if the property owner corrects it, proper remediation could take weeks.)
  • Is the flooring clean and free from damage? Loose floorboards, threadbare carpet and uneven floor transitions are tripping hazards for you and your guests.
  • Do you have strong mobile reception? If your cellphone is your only phone, you’ll need reliable service in all areas of the apartment. Call your best friend during the showing and take a stroll through the apartment to check the reception.
  • Is the internet access reliable? Verify your choice of internet providers. Some apartment complexes have an exclusive provider relationship, which means you’ll have to use their internet service provider or get special permission to run new lines at your expense.
  • Would you be comfortable working from home if a lockdown or quarantine situation arose? Consider the office space and amenities from the perspective of a two-week quarantine.
  • What’s the parking situation? If there is assigned parking or a garage, ask to see the space. Take note of the distance to the building entryway and if the space is well-lit and maintained. If parking isn’t included, check the street parking situation. The last thing you want at the end of a workday is to spend two hours looking for a place to park. Where you park your car (indoor or outdoor, secured garage or an open lot) can also affect your auto insurance. Call your agent to see if the location you’re considering will affect your rates.
  • How does the commute feel? Ensure you have backup options like a rideshare or public transit line nearby. Have a test run to see how long the commute is during rush hour.
  • Is it noisy? A barking dog could be a deal breaker if you’re working remotely. Schedule a showing for midday and again in the evening if you can swing it.
  • What do the neighbors think? They might not be why you sign or bail on the deal, but it’s nice to hear their thoughts (and it gives you an excuse to meet the people you’ll share your space with).

As you embark on your apartment hunting journey, having a comprehensive checklist ensures that you find a place that meets all your needs while also providing peace of mind. From evaluating the location and amenities to understanding the lease terms and verifying the safety measures, a thorough inspection can make a significant difference in your rental experience.

At Rathbun Insurance, we understand that securing the right apartment involves more than just finding the perfect space; it also means protecting your new home with the right insurance coverage. Our dedicated account managers are here to help you navigate the complexities of renters insurance, ensuring that you and your belongings are adequately protected.

Don't hesitate to reach out to your Rathbun Insurance account manager, and let us help you make your apartment hunting journey smooth and stress-free. With Rathbun Insurance by your side, you can confidently check off every item on your list, knowing that you're covered every step of the way.