When you sign a lease, you are entering into a binding legal contract. The terms of the contract, the duration, the conditions, and of course the financial situation all must be agreed upon by both parties (the lessee and the lessor) before it is signed by either. Once it is signed, each party (tenant and landlord) is bound by law to honor their end of the bargain.
Most leases are signed for a year. Ask anyone who has wanted to get out of a bad lease, and they’ll tell you: A year can be a long time. Before signing a lease, it is absolutely necessary to check out the building’s history, discover its online reputation, and find out what its tenants (current and former) have to say.
Every apartment building has a manager (or superintendent or landlord) who oversees the day-to-day operations of the building. The building manager – especially in larger buildings – is generally not the owner of the building, but instead is usually part of a management company. The building manager is the person with whom you are most likely to have the most contact.
This is the person who will be your liaison between the building’s owners, maintenance department, etc. This is the person who will collect your rent and field your complaints and requests. You’ll want to know about this person’s reliability, temperament, integrity, experience, and tendencies.
The owner of the building is often a real estate investment company that makes money by pooling their capital, buying buildings, and renting them to tenants for a profit. You are likely to never meet these people, as they are not involved in the building’s maintenance, upkeep, or management. Their reputation, however, is vitally important.
Do they have a good reputation? Do they have a history of successful ventures, or are they known to pull out of investments and leave their properties at the mercy of future owners? They are invested in you. You must investigate them.
Finding the Right Information
Learning about the history and reputation of your prospective apartment building’s manager and owners has become infinitely easier in the age of the Internet. Run both the name of the management company and the owners’ holding company through the Better Business Bureau. Here you can easily find out – for free – if either have any lawsuits, complaints, or municipal issues that are outstanding or settled.
Next, visit a few of the Yelps of the real estate world. Apartment Reviews, the reviews section of Apartments.com, DoNotRent, and Renter’s Voice are all good resources. Here you can find statements from current and former tenants.
The Old-Fashioned Way
Finally, you’ll want to gather information the way people used to do it before they had all the world’s information at their fingertips. This method, which might be better than all the others combined, actually requires – gasp! – some human interaction. Go to the apartment building you’re considering moving into, walk up to a few people you’re comfortable talking to, and say, “Excuse me. I’m considering signing a lease in this building. How do you like living here?” It sounds amazing, but you’re more likely to get real, true, verifiable information this way than any other.
Moving is stressful. It’s easy to try to see only the good because you want things to work out. But the reality is, before you sign a lease is when it’s most important to be skeptical and inquisitive. The alternative is almost always more expensive and traumatic.
Image courtesy of Smart photo stock
Photo provided by: smartphotostock.com
Image courtesy of MyBlogGuest