Unless you still live in Ma’s basement, you know what a pain in the ass moving can be. It’s often expensive, it’s always time-consuming, and you usually lose and/or break stuff. So the last thing you want to do is add insult to injury and find that you’ve gone through all that only to wind up in a new place that has a bad landlord — and there are plenty of bad landlords out there. So we asked Tara Benson, author of The Landlord Learning Curve, for landlord red flags you should look out for before signing on the dotted line.
1. THERE’S MINOR DAMAGE THAT’S ACTUALLY MAJOR
Most rental properties have normal wear and tear — maybe it could use a fresh coat of paint, or the bushes could use some trimming. But long-term neglect can suggest you’ll run into more serious issues down the line. “Look for things like mold on the bathroom ceiling above the shower, or behind the washing machine — these are problems that should have been taken care of,” Benson advises. Also keep an eye out for safety issues like missing railings and broken steps. “Usually city inspectors are on top of those kinds of things, and most landlords are aware of liability issues that go along with safety issues. So if they’re not taking care of them, they don’t care about your safety.”
2. APARTMENTS ARE SHOWN WITHOUT NOTICE
You wouldn’t want prospective tenants busting in unannounced while you’re watching Girls and reading Cat Fancy, would you? Typically, landlords are expected to give tenants 24 to 48 hours notice before showing a place. “It’s a courtesy to your tenants to give them notice,” Benson says. “So asking if the current tenants got notice is a good way to see if the landlord cares about tenants and their rights.”
3. HE ONLY ACCEPTS CASH
If the landlord insists you pay the security deposit, rent, and anything else in cash — in other words, he won’t accept a cashier’s check — something’s fishy. “If he only wants cash, then he’s not reporting it to the IRS,” Benson warns. “And you should always make sure you have a record, whether it’s a check or a receipt for a money order, because a shady landlord could come back and claim that you never paid him.”