10 warning signs property renters should look out for

Deciding on which property to rent is always a major decision. You will be spending a lot of money on the move, transferring your whole life to a new location, and spending almost all of your hours at a certain place. It had better be good.

So don’t jump at the first nice place you see. Check and double-check. Here are a few things you need to look out for before you sign that lease agreement.

The ad photos are blurry or limited. When you can’t see the whole place through the pictures, the owner could be hiding something. Or sometimes, they just show the view from the outside, the neighborhood, but not the inside of the house itself — that is a big red flag.

The rent amount is too low. There must be a reason why it’s cheap, so if the rent is too good to be true, be careful. Do a little research on the standard rental rates for the area you are trying to scout.

Shared payments on utilities. It’s usually trouble when you have no electric or water meter of your own, which means that you have to share payments with other tenants. The same goes for wifi or internet connection, cable TV, phone lines, etc.

The landlord offers a handshake agreement. If there is no written contract for the lease, or if the agreement has a lot of blanks, vague provisions, and crucial points that are left out… run. 

The ad has a hostile tone. Maybe you’ve come across ads that sound crass or downright rude, stating overly strict policies or strange rules. That’s a sign that the owner might be difficult to deal with. Nobody wants a landlord from hell. And if the ad has been active for more than a month, skip it.

A middleman is usually unnecessary. Unless you are talking to a legitimate property management company, it is always better to meet and deal with the actual owner rather than a middleman.

The landlord asks for more than the usual deposit and advance payments. The standard is one month advance, two months deposit. Others ask for two months advance rental and two months deposit payments — but that should be the maximum. If you are being asked for more than that, you’d better look elsewhere.

Late payment fees are unreasonable. While we should pay our rent on time, there may be financial emergencies that are unavoidable. When this happens, landlords have to give a decent grace period (2 or 3 days isn’t decent enough) and shouldn’t charge more than 5% in penalties.

The landlord is too inquisitive. Tenants have a right to privacy and you don’t need to divulge information that is not relevant to the lease agreement. Being asked unnecessary personal questions is a violation of your legal right to privacy. So if the landlord is nosy and it’s making you feel uncomfortable, it’s probably not worth it.

Red flags when you visit the place. Never sign a lease agreement without seeing the place in person. And when you visit, check the general area for cleanliness, bugs and mold, possible parking hassles, the neatness of the garden or lawn, and possible security issues. Be mindful of the noise coming from the street and neighbors, and consider possible location-related problems like pollution, highway noise, etc.