Before sign the dotted line to an apartment that looks like a dream, check the following 14 details that will save you from some unpleasant surprises down the line. Disclaimer: we are not lawyers. Please talk to a lawyer if you have legal questions!

  1. Move out details - Are leases automatically renewed or are you given time in advance to decide whether you want to stay in your apartment or not?
  2. Sublease details - Some landlords or property owners just need a month of notification in advance if you need to move out. Others demand that you stay and still others will let you find a replacement, but only ones that can pass their background check.
  3. What's the reputation of the complex or the landlord? Check where you can read tenants feedback on parking, office staff, safety and other important facts.
  4. Decorating - Can you repaint or put holes in the walls? If there's a backyard, are you allowed to use it as a garden?
  5. Cell phone reception - Silly as it may sound, sometimes your carrier won't reach into an apartment's walls, making for a very frustrating year.
  6. Windows, heating and cooling - Those big windows facing west may be great to watch the sunset out of, but if you live in a building with poor insulation, it's going to be boiling in the summer.
  7. Mail service - If you get a package from UPS or FedEX, where are the packages held and who signs for them if you are not home?
  8. Safety - Some apartments have a front door with four locks, but a backdoor that leads into an unlocked alleyway. Check the apartment and security system thoroughly before you move in. Also use your own judgement. If a neighborhood feels sketchy to you, even if the apartment is a dream come true, listen to your instincts.
  9. Cable and phone hook ups - In older apartments, getting these installed in your apartment will cost quite a bit of extra money. Also be aware that many older apartments don't have a lot of electrical outlets, which might not seem like a problem before you sign a lease, but will be once you all of your stuff is moved in.
  10. Extra fees - These can include late fees for rent, first and last month deposits, a cleaning fee prior to moving in
  11. Neighborhood - There's more to picking a good neighborhood safety. Also consider if there's a grocery store, pharmacy, hardware store and other necessary places nearby.
  12. Traffic and commuting - You might be physically close to work, but it still takes three bus transfers all over town to get there. Or, if you drive, you may be spending a sixth of your time at home circling the block for parking.
  13. Storage space - Sometimes your furniture doesn't actually fit your apartment. Or you get tired of hoisting a bike up three flights of stairs every single day. Check and see if there's a locked, apartment wide storage space to make your life a little easier.

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