Don’t Rent Your Next Apartment Without Going Through this Checklist First!

You might be looking for an apartment across town or across the state line.  No matter where you are moving from, there are many things to keep in mind. So please consider these guidelines and recommendations as important steps to take before you pay that deposit and sign your new lease. Talk to passersby, potential neighbors and local shop owners for every area you’re considering.  As them what they know about the building, the street and the neighborhood. You’d be surprised at how helpful they not only are but want to be.  Here is a checklist to keep you on point the next time you check out an apartment to rent.


An Apartment Checklist You can't Miss

The Ultimate Checklist for Renting Your Next Apartment


What kind of access does it have and what do you need?  Is there an elevator or will you be maneuvering your leather sectional up three flights of stairs with your soon-to-be ex friends?  Do you have family or friends who have accessibility needs to consider?
Communication with the outside world – Make a couple or more phone calls. Do you get great reception in the kitchen but once you move to the bedroom you’ve begin to chant ‘can you hear me now’? Is there a scant trace of Wi-Fi? What internet availability is there?  Work-at-home types know that sufficient download and upload speeds are critical. Do you have a choice of providers?

Utility Costs

Check to see how long it takes for warm water to reach both the kitchen taps and the bathroom taps and shower.  The longer it takes the more money is literally flowing down the drain. Windows that are double-paned or double-glazed and tight will avoid higher heating bills. Check to see if the windows open and close easily for those beautiful days.  Is the toilet low-flow or much older?  Older toilets will use much more water and drive up utility costs.  Does the rent include gas, electric, cable, trash and water? If it doesn’t, older plumbing will cost more in the long run. Also, don’t forget to check for door drafts.


Think about security both inside your new home and outside. Will you be walking to and from public transit at night or walking dogs?  If you run for fun, then pay extra attention to the surrounding area.  If you have a power outage is the circuit breaker inside or out?   Does every window have a secure lock?  Look for, and test, smoke detectors, sprinklers and carbon-monoxide detectors. Does the kitchen and any area with a fireplace have a fire extinguisher?  What about online shopping? Is there a secure location for package delivery or pickup?


Most importantly, are pets allowed? If so, ask about deposits, fees, breed or size restrictions, extra cleaning requirements, and even pet rent. Is there a nearby dog park or an area for your pet’s immediate use?

Mutual Respect

Visit the apartment at night and weekends to assess whether neighbors are mutually respectful. Are they quiet and orderly? If there are parties going on, is the noise and activity level reasonable and considerate of families with children or those with work schedules?  Do they pick up their property or hang their laundry over the railing?  If you can tour the potential apartment at night, can you hear local businesses like restaurants, bars or sports venues?


How do you get to and from work or school? Is traffic a breeze or a nightmare? How long will it take you? Are there bike lanes for your safety and convenience? What’s the bus schedule on your neighborhood line?   Does your new apartment offer a gym or pool or game room? Are they part of the rent or extra?   What about a laundry? Is it on site or nearby? Are there outdoor spaces? Are they communal? Are grocery stores and restaurants, entertainment, attractions, medical care and churches nearby?


If it’s street parking, are there restrictions like time or day?  Does your car need to be moved for street cleaners or trash collection? Does parking cost extra? What about guest parking? How many spaces are assigned? Can you get parking passes?

Additional storage

Is there extra storage for holiday boxes or a Christmas tree? Are you an outside sports enthusiast with a kayak, mountain bike, dune buggy, dirt bike, motorcycle, canoe, snow shoes, skis or scuba gear?  Is there additional storage available and on site?  Can you purchase additional storage? Is there garage space available?


What kind of, if any, changes can you make? Can you paint, change the window treatments, hang things on the wall or replace lighting? If you make changes and they are portable (e.g. window treatments), can you remove them when you move? When you’re ready to leave, does the apartment need to be returned to its original condition?


What’s the policy for both emergency and non-emergency repairs? What is the process for emergency maintenance requests? Is there someone available during office hours? Is maintenance on site or on-call? Is maintenance available 24/7? What’s the response time for both types of repairs?  What costs are the renter’s responsibility?

Legalities of the Contract

How Often Does Rent Go Up? By How Much?
What are the leasing terms regarding the rent, the beginning date and ending date? Is it a month to month?
What’s the late rent policy?
Are there Move-In Fees?
Rent, Deposits, Insurance and Fees
What are the refundable and non-refundable deposits?
First and last month’s rent?
Security deposits?
Guest/Roommate Policies
Insurance requirements
What specific utilities are included/excluded in the rent?
Credit and background check fees?  Application fees?


Does everything work… literally?  Ask the landlord or property manager to bring a socket tester and test all outlets.  Also make sure there are enough outlets in each room, and enough 3-prong ones. And as much as we hate to think about it, check for any signs of an insect or rodent infestation (such as droppings or chew marks).

In the bathroom, check for leaks by running every faucet. Check under the sink to make sure there are no drips, discoloration or odors. Do the sinks hold water and drain properly? Make sure the shower head works and has sufficient pressure.

In the kitchen, check each appliance to make sure it works properly and don’t forget the garbage disposal!  Turn all the stove burners on. Open and close the oven door and note the number of racks including the broiler rack. Open and close the refrigerator door and check every drawer. Check any musty smells. If there is an ice maker, make sure it works too. Make sure the refrigerator is well-cooled and the freezer is cold.  Open and close all the cupboard doors and drawers. In the bedroom and living room, open and close and raise the blinds.

Take notice with even the smallest of aesthetic details, like stains on the carpet, chipped paint, lose wallpaper or nail holes in the walls and evidence of past water damage or leaks.  Notice the ceilings and closets as well. Make sure the fireplace (if there is one) works… safely!  These suggestions are not immediate disqualifiers for your next apartment, but they will help you get the brutal truth about your next potential home.

Make sure that you find the perfect fit before signing any lease agreement. You might think that checking all these things, like a light switch, is silly and something you’re willing to overlook.  Remember though, when it comes time to moving out, your landlord won’t.  Getting a new place that suits your needs, taste, budget and that is well-maintained can bring you years of joy.


The Apartment Walkthrough: Things to Watch Out For Before You Move In

Property 101: What You Need to Know When You’re Apartment Hunting


4 Responses to “Don’t Rent Your Next Apartment Without Going Through this Checklist First!

  • I agree with you in that it is important to choose an apartment to rent where you can get the best phone reception. It is important to remember that doing some research and to assess your needs carefully can help you find the best apartment for your needs. We want to make sure our son finds a good apartment while in college, soI’m glad I found your page.

    • admin
      2 months ago

      Marcus, thanks for the kind words. Most of our properties that we manage are in the mountains so I can’t tell you how many times we hear about poor cell reception. These days most smart phones can still make calls if you activate Wi-Fi calling. So that’s another thing to think about – internet service providers! Best of luck with finding an apartment for your son!

  • I like your advice to ask about their pet policies and amenities nearby if they are allowed. I would have almost forgotten about this since I was so focused on determining how I can save most. It would have been such a misfortune if I have found the perfect apartment but wouldn’t allow my kitty. Thanks for the reminder and the checklist when looking for an apartment!

    • admin
      2 months ago

      Elsa, it’s our pleasure! Pets are so important! Glad we could help. Happy apartment hunting!

%d bloggers like this: