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Renting an Apartment – What You Should Know

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It seems like “back to school” is a long way off, but move in day at St. Cloud State is just over a month away. If your kid is planning on renting an apartment, here are a few things to know before they sign the lease. 

The Neighbors

Go there on the weekend if you can, or sometime after quitting time. Everyone will likely be home, so you’ll see how noisy the place actually is. If it’s too noisy for you and you prefer quiet for studying and reading, find another apartment because you’re going to hate the place and then you’re stuck. Also, if there’s an apartment above you, ask if there are children living there. You can’t help kid noise and you know how bouncy and full of energy they are. They may be noisy and there’s nothing you can do about it. I always ask what floor the apartment is on before I look at it. The last apartment I lived in, I was very fortunate because I was on the top floor. That’s a blessing and a curse because sound goes up, but ear plugs are a wonderful thing.


The Water

Turn on the shower and flush the toilet. If the water pressure is really low, the toilet isn’t going to work very well and it’s going to be that way forever. Also, try a glass of water from the kitchen sink. If it tastes like metal, that could signal trouble with the pipes. If you like the apartment otherwise, invest in a Brita, or call a water service like Erkens, Finken or Culligan and check out how much it costs for their drinking water systems. Just make sure you don’t have to haul those five gallon tanks up the stairs. I made that mistake once. Notice I said once.


The Laundry Sitch

If you’re lucky enough to have a washer and dryer in the unit, make sure they work first and if not, ask the property manager to have them fixed before you move in. If there’s a laundry room down the hall, ask how many people have to share it. If 20 apartments have to share one washer and one dryer, find the closest laundromat. It may cost a little more at the laundromat, but if you go at an off time and can hog all of the machines, you can get a ton of laundry done at once.


The Smell

If the previous tenant was a smoker and it was blatantly obvious that they chain smoked with the windows closed, or they had a cat and you were allergic or it smells like pee, ask the property manager if the apartment’s carpet and walls will be professionally cleaned before you moved in. If there’s an odd smell and you can’t seem to find where it’s coming from, run away. That could signal issues with mold. That was one thing I asked about when I rented my last apartment. I asked for them to be cleaned before I moved in and when I opened the door for the first time, there was new carpet installed and the walls were patched and spotless. It was amazing and all I did was ask for the carpet and walls to be cleaned.


The Doors and Windows

Open and close all of the doors and windows. If there’s a problem, the property manager should fix it for you right away. Whether it’s a door that doesn’t close properly, a closet door that’s off its track, or a window that doesn’t open, make sure they are aware of it and fix it before you move in so you aren’t charged for it in the end.

Also, notice the kinds of cars that are parked in the lot. Are they a bunch of crappy rust buckets that look like they haven’t been driven in months? That usually speaks to the caliber of tenants in the building. As you’re walking through the halls, look at the walls and carpeting. Are the walls clean and railings sturdy or are the walls decorated with crayon stick people and the railings wobbly and rusted? Is the carpet nice, clean, and up to date or is it threadbare, stained and a funky green color?


Did you know?

Almost half of all renters don’t get their security deposit back. If it’s an apartment or a house you’re renting, don’t expect to get your security deposit back. A new survey by RentAProperty.com found that two out of every five renters never see their deposit ever again.

On average, renters lose $460. The reasons people don’t get their deposit back are due to normal wear and tear, not cleaning and damage that was there when they moved in. I had one apartment try and pull this on me, so every time there after, I asked for an itemized list of what needed to be cleaned when I moved out and made sure to do it and then have the manager double check my work before I handed in the keys. I always got my deposit back with interest.

A great resource for finding apartments is Move.com. This is literally where I have found all of my apartments. They have photos and phone numbers to call for more information. Just try and do a drive by so you can get a look at what the property looks like in real life. Sometimes the manager goes around and cleans up before the photos are taken to make it look really nice, but it reality there are bikes in the yard, clothes hanging over the balcony and wonky satellite dishes half attached to the building.

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