33 Things Every 20-Something Should Check Before Signing that Apartment Lease

Finding an apartment can be stressful. It can be downright near impossible to find an affordable place in a big city, like New York City. While budget and location are argurably the two biggest factors, there’s a whole host of other items to consider before signing a new apartment lease.

If you need help figuring out how much you can afford to pay in rent, download my free budget template here. 

Here’s a checklist of 33 items that you should look into before moving in to your new place.

1. Water pressure levels.

2. The AC/heat situation (Central?  Window-unit: do I need to purchase it or does it comes standard? Is it controlled centrally in the building)

3. Quantity and placement of electric outlets.

4. Where the cable and/or phone outlets are located.

5. Room measurements

6. How many neighbors will you have.

7. How many registered sex offenders live within a mile radius?

8. Have there ever been any major crimes committed in or near this unit?

9. Has anyone ever died in this apartment unit before?  Ghosts, anyone?

10. Check the windows, and make sure they open and close properly.

11. Make sure all the appliances work.

12. Assess the parking situation.

13. Check the lighting both in and outside the unit.

14. Double and triple check the kitchen cabinets. (i.e. rat/mice droppings, insects and other little critters)

15. Check and flush the toilet(s) a few times. The last thing you want to deal with is weekly bathroom floods.

16. Try to negotiate an out-clause or at least favorable sub-lease terms, should you need it.

17. Ask about the pet policy,

18. What’s the maintenance policy? Ideally, it should be 24/7 hotline.

19. Invest in renters’ insurance. It’s very affordable and will offer you peace of mind, not to mention many apartment buildings now require it.

20. Make sure to ask if the landlord intends to show your apartment near the end of your lease. Not uncommon in NYC. Negotiate accordingly.

21. Inspect the apartment thoroughly for broken fixtures, stains and/or dents in any walls.

22. Check for mold and mildew especially in the bathroom(s) and near the kitchen sink.

23. If it’s an older building, ask if they use lead paint.

24. Find out about the electric situation before you move in. This also includes searching for the fuse box.

Trust me as someone who has personally blown a fuse on like day 2 of her new apartment, it’s worth asking.

25. Check for working smoke alarms and fire sprinklers.

26. Ask if you can hammer/nail into the walls. What’s the process of “cleaning it up” at move out time?

27. Early cancellation fees

28. If it’s a smaller building or duplex owned by the landlord, check to make sure he/she is paying the bills regularly. The last thing that you want is to get a notice from the electric company saying so and so has X days to pay the bill or they are shutting off the lights in all the common areas (been there?) or worse, getting a foreclosure notice in the mail.

29. Previous tenant histories

30. Swing by the apartment at several different times of the day (i.e. at least morning and/at night) before signing a lease. An apartment that could look amazingly safe and secure during the day can turn super sketchy at night.

31. Make sure the walkways to get from your car to inside your apartment are well-light and reasonably safe.

32. Noise complaints/violations

33. Visitor policies (guest limits, limitations on how many nights overnight guests can stay, etc.)

Lastly, not sure how much money you can afford to pay each month in rent? Download my free monthly budget template here.