6 Red Flags You’ll Find in Landlords

Originally posted on October 06, 2021 3:00 pm
Updated on September 30, 2021 4:34 pm

You’ve finally found the apartment of your dreams. It’s in your favorite neighborhood, all of the photos of it look great online, and, best of all, this one is actually in your budget. However, though you are probably very excited to have come across your dream pad, your work’s not quite done yet—in fact, you’re going to have to do a little bit more research before you can finally sign your name on the lease’s dotted line.

There are many things you’ll want to consider before closing out on a lease. In addition to the important factors mentioned above—location, layout, and price—you’ll also want to make sure the property owner, or landlord, is someone you’ll be okay working with for however long you might live there.

Selecting a property with a less-than-perfect landlord can be a disaster. In addition to the property not being everything you’d hoped it would be, a bad-intentioned landlord can also cause you to lose a considerable amount of money. They’ll nickel and dime you for everything in the apartment, even if it wasn’t your fault, and—perhaps even worse—they might even end up taking you to a collection agency.

Luckily, there are a few red flags that help make it easier for you to foresee an undesirable landlord experience. If your prospective landlord presents you with any of these surprisingly common issues, be sure to look the other way.

1. They Won’t Let You View the Property

This is perhaps the biggest and most obvious red flag of them all—never sign a lease for a property you have not been allowed to view. More often than not, this means they know there is something wrong with the property and they are hoping to get you locked into a contract before you have the chance to back out.

Of course, they’ll probably give you a list of reasons why you can’t view the property. They’ll likely say that there is construction being done, that they are waiting for the current tenant to leave, and offer various other explanations. If these excuses are valid (these things come up all the time), they’ll work with you to find an alternative time to view the property. If they insist on signing without even a look, however, you’re almost certainly in for trouble.

2. They Downplay Issues with the Property

There are many different things that can go wrong with a property. While some issues are small and might only be a minor inconvenience, there are other issues that could significantly impact your overall quality of life.

To help avoid any entrapments, it helps to learn how landlords often speak. When they say, “It’s just a little bit of mold”, what they really mean is, “this apartment has serious mold issues.” When they say, “the air conditioner is a little janky sometimes”, what they really mean “don’t expect for the place to be cool in the summer.” If you do notice any issues with your prospective place, be sure to confirm that these issues are actually going to be resolved and not ignored.

3. The Property Owner Lives Overseas

There are many property owners that live out of state, or even out of the country. Usually, these property owners will hire a property management team to help them manage they day-to-day tasks associated with the property.

Property management teams are not necessarily problematic. However, there are several reasons you should prefer a local landlord. Not only will they be able to act in the event of an emergency (rather than having to wait for authorization) but they will also be easier to reach in the event you need to speak to them directly. Additionally, local property owners are more likely to have a higher stake in the property’s overall well-being, and will invest their money accordingly.

4. The Contract is Vague

One of the most common complaints people have about their landlord is that, upon the end of their lease, they find they owe much more money than they anticipated. People will often remark, “How can they just charge me like that?”, to which the any lawyer would surely respond by telling you to check the conditions of the lease.

Though it will be tedious, it is a good idea to read your entire leasing contract. You should know what you will need to pay for it breaks, what your security deposit covers, how to address possible problems, and which risks you are personally assuming. A good landlord will carefully walk you through and answer any questions you might have—a bad one, on the other hand, will be deliberately vague and leave things up for interpretation.

5. The Landlord Doesn’t Have a Clear Damage Checklist

When you first sign a lease, your landlord should give you an opportunity to identify any noticeable problems within the property. You’ll be able to look for issues such as broken handles, signs of damage, and appliances that do not work.

The purpose of this checklist is to protect you from future damage charges. By identifying problems in advance, you’ll be able to make clear that anything wrong with the unit was not your fault. Any landlord that does not offer a damage checklist—or is deliberately unclear when describing the damage—is probably one you should avoid.

6. The Landlord has a Lot of Negative Reviews

Every landlord will tell you that you are going to have a great experience while living on their property—sometimes, it helps to hear from previous tenants to know what your experience might be like. If the property is large enough to have a considerable number of online reviews, you should certainly do your due diligence and read them.

Of course, it will be important to read each of these reviews with a grain of salt—people tend to post negative reviews far more often than positive ones. But if there are consistent problems appearing across multiple reviewers, you might want to steer clear.

Finding the ideal landlord isn’t easy—by keeping an eye out for these red flags, among others, you can potentially avoid a negative leasing experience. Once you’ve identified a great landlord also make sure to ask the right questions before signing your lease to make sure you’re both on the same page when it comes to expectations and policies.

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