You’ve found the perfect place and can’t wait to move in. You’ve already envisioned what the apartment will look like once you get all moved in and how you’re going to decorate.
But before you get too excited, you’ll want to check out the landlord. Even the prettiest of apartments are a pain to live in if you’ve got a landlord that negatively affects the living arrangement. You’ll want to avoid potential issues with the landlord, so it’s necessary to do a little digging to find out if living in their apartment is worth dealing with them or not.
So, how do you go about finding a great landlord? What methods and resources will tell you how good or bad a landlord actually is? Here’s how to check out a potential landlord before signing a lease so you can tell if you’ll like living in their rental.
What makes a good landlord?
While saying a landlord is “good” will vary from person to person, there are some things that generally make a great landlord. Things like obeying rental laws, maintaining the property so it’s habitable and being good about communicating with tenants are key characteristics of a good landlord.
On top of that, you can get more granular and look at individual items, like if they make repairs in a timely manner, give even more than the 24-hours required notice for any date they plan on visiting the property, have an effective method of collecting and tracking rent money, stick to the terms of the lease, etc.
Talk to current tenants
It may seem a little weird at first, but simply knocking on a door or two to chat with current residents when looking into a location is the most helpful way of finding out what a landlord is like. Other people understand what it’s like to have a terrible landlord, so people are typically pretty happy to help out and talk about the landlord.
Make sure you have a few questions ready to ask other tenants about the landlord, apart from “is the landlord good?” Be specific and ask about things like how long it usually takes for the landlord to make repairs, how much notice the landlord gives when they plan to stop by and how responsive the landlord is when issues arise. Asking specific questions about the landlord can help you understand crucial aspects of living in the apartment and it will weed out the bad landlords.
Read reviews on Rent.
When you search for apartments on Rent., there are reviews for each listing you can read. These reviews are mostly from people that have lived at each property, but there are also times that interested parties leave a review about the landlord, which you also may want to pay attention to.
For those that have lived in a listed apartment building, you’ll likely get a good idea of what they liked and didn’t like about living there. While not every review will mention the landlord, there are some that will specifically mention the landlord or property management company that you’ll want to pay attention to.
The reviews from people who were looking into an apartment, but didn’t actually live there, are helpful since they can tell you what it was like just looking at the apartment building and if they had a bad experience with the landlord on their search. Some of these potential residents filled out applications or toured the property and had such a bad experience with the landlord that they felt the need to write a review about it. This might be a sign. If there are lots of bad reviews from people who didn’t even give living there a chance because of their experience with the landlord, it’s probably best that you steer clear, too.
Read reviews on third-party sites
Similar to Rent., there are other sites where you can read comments about landlords to get an idea of what type of landlord they are and if you’ll like living in their rental property. A few of the best third-party review sites are WhoseYourLandlord, ApartmentRatings and Rate My Landlord.
These sites are free and make it easy to filter through different cities and areas you’re interested in so you can find landlords and property managers in the area. Keep in mind that when you’re reading them, there might be a few negative reviews about the landlord written by bad tenants. So, look at reviews as a whole — if there are lots of great reviews and only a few bad ones, the landlord is probably pretty good. On the flip side, if there are lots of bad reviews and only a few good ones, make the assumption that the landlord isn’t one you want to deal with.
Look at property management company ratings
If you’re looking into apartments managed by entities larger than a singular landlord, you can check out property management company reviews. Since most of these companies manage multiple properties and buildings, they usually have a lot more reviews to look at.
Sites like Yelp can help you look into property managers and how they handle things, not to mention most of these companies have their own websites you can check out to learn about their management style and which properties they manage.
Check out social media
Apartment complexes often have their own social media accounts, such as Facebook, where they create a community for their apartment residents to share events, observations, etc. These groups are very telling since you can see what individuals are saying and what issues about the landlord are constantly being brought up.
Multiple residents may post about the same issue, which is a red flag. However, if there are no negative comments, it’s a good sign and you can probably assume that the landlord isn’t having a negative effect on most other tenants’ living experiences.
Keep in mind that you may come across a few crazy community members with strong opinions, but it’s pretty easy to decipher those from the good tenants.
Look into public records
If you’re curious to see how frequently a landlord evicts tenants, you can check public records from the city. In most states, eviction records are public and you can look at them online or request them from the city. You’ll typically need the landlord’s name and the address of the unit you want to look into.
There are times when a landlord needs to evict a resident — the tenant stopped paying rent, let friends move into the property without notice or approval or was participating in illegal activities. After all, renting out properties is a business for the landlord and it’s how they make money to live and provide for their family. They need to make tough decisions at times so things don’t negatively affect their source of income and evicting a bad tenant doesn’t make the landlord a bad person.
However, if you find that a landlord has evicted lots of other tenants, it might mean there’s a problem and a possibility of getting evicted yourself should you decide to sign a lease.
Seek out past tenants
This one is a little more difficult as it’s not easy finding an old tenant to talk to. However, some asking around might help you find previous tenants to talk to. You can see if any other renters currently in the building are in contact with old tenants and if they’d be willing to put you in touch.
Once you find an old tenant, ask them why they moved and what issues they had with the landlord (if any). They may seem a little more honest than current residents since they no longer have to deal with the landlord and they aren’t as worried that saying something negative will come back to bite them.
Build a good landlord-tenant relationship
Building a good relationship with your landlord can affect whether or not you think they’re a good landlord or not.
Good landlords will typically do things that some people simply don’t like, such as hold a security deposit, impose fees if you don’t pay your rent on time and require that you keep the place clean while living there. Renters that don’t like these things will probably have negative things to say about the landlord when in reality, the landlord hasn’t done anything wrong.
So take what you hear with a grain of salt and use your better judgment by building your own relationship with a potential new landlord. If you’re a good tenant, chances are that you won’t have issues with your landlord in most scenarios.
Avoid a bad landlord
There’s no such thing as a perfect landlord and many of them will likely make mistakes or do things you don’t like at some point. Really, an ideal landlord is one that manages the apartment reasonably and makes sure it’s a comfortable and habitable place to live, communicates well and ultimately, lets you live in peace.
Remember that finding a good apartment to live in comes from finding a good landlord. You don’t want to sign a lease and regret it later on due to the landlord, so do your research on the landlord and the living situation before signing and you’ll be just fine!