Cheap Apartments for Rent: 10 Warning Signs

(Last Updated On: May 15, 2019)

Finding cheap apartments for rent when you’re planning a move can seem like you hit the jackpot, but be cautious! Check these things before you dive into a cheap apartment!

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Looking for cheap apartments for rent? Keep these things in mind!

Apartment hunting can be stressful, difficult and often expensive. When you think you’ve finally found the perfect apartment, you could be overly optimistic and miss things that would otherwise raise red flags. Don’t settle for cheap apartments for rent that are unsafe or scammy. Keep these things in mind when you’re shopping for your next apartment!

Bookmark this list so you can have it ready for your next apartment walkthrough!

cheap apartments for rent

1. Structural damage to the apartment is a major red flag.

As you’re walking around the apartment, it’s important to look for damage. Things like holes in the walls, doors off the hinges and other small problems could turn into so much more in the future. If your only option is to take an apartment that has damage, you must get in writing that it will be fixed. As a last resort, you could take an apartment that has damage to it, but make sure the damage is documented before you move in so you are not blamed for it.

Landlords that have cheap apartments for rent might try to cover up damage like holes in the walls with pictures or other decor items. Make sure you’re checking behind these items and looking in every corner of the home to figure out if there is damage! Finding damage and making note of it can make a huge difference in getting your security deposit back after you leave.

2. Black mold is common in cheap apartments for rent.

When you’re looking at cheap apartments for rent, you should be checking for all mold. Mold can take on many different appearances. It can be dark and slimy or it can have a fuzzy appearance (this is very common in refrigerators). You can use this helpful tool from the CDC to learn about different types of mold and how they can negatively affect your health.

Finding black mold, or any color mold, can be a major red flag when you’re apartment hunting. All mold can be harmful if you breathe it for a long time. Even if you don’t see any mold, it might be a good idea to find out about what the property manager or landlord is doing to prevent mold.

3. Learn more about the landlord.

Absent landlords are increasingly common in the rent industry. Your landlord might rely on property managers or even other companies to handle the day-to-day tasks of running apartment buildings. This is an affordable and effective way for landlords to make an investment without sinking all their time into it. In general, absent landlords are acceptable, but you should take time to do some research. A simple web search can tell you more about your landlord, the property management company or the apartment building in general. As you search for cheap apartments for rent, it’s a good idea to look out for these things:

  • Lawsuits involving the landlord, management company or building.
  • Complaints on review sites (take these lightly, many complaints come from disgruntled tenants).
  • Business information about the building or management company.

4. Water damage causes more problems than just mold.

Leaks and other types of water damage not only leads to mold but it can also cause a lot of other problems in an apartment. Water damage can weaken the floor, roof and even the walls down to the studs. You can be injured by water-damaged structures and can get very sick from materials that have water damage.

The easiest way to recognize water damage when you’re looking at cheap apartments for rent is to check for water spots. These can be found by looking at the ceiling, on the walls and sometimes on the floor. They will appear to be yellow or brown on white walls and ceilings. They may appear darker on floors or walls that are painted dark.

5. Check to see if the building is kid-friendly (or not).

Whether you get a kid-friendly apartment depends on a few different factors. If you have children, the chances are you’ll want to keep an eye out for an apartment building that has a lot of families. A lot of kids in the building will give your child built-in playmates. Many apartments that have a lot of families also have cool features like playgrounds and meet-ups for kids.

If you do not have kids, you might still want to keep an eye out for kid-friendly apartments. Knowing what to look for will help if you want to steer clear of kids. Many people choose to live in areas without a high population of children if they work nights or they have strange hours where kids in the building could be detrimental to their sleeping habits.

The easiest way to find out about kids in a potential apartment building is by asking! You can ask the apartment office or the landlord. While you’re checking out apartments, look for signs of kids like playgrounds, children’s’ toys in hallways, common areas and outside.

6. Some cheap apartments for rent come with high crime rates.

Always check the crime rates for the area you’re moving. If you’re looking for cheap apartments for rent in a small town, you might be able to get an accurate picture of crime rates just by looking at the statistics for that city. If you’re looking in a bigger area, you can usually narrow down the information on crime by the neighborhood or area you’re living in. A quick web search with the name of your city or neighborhood can provide you with an accurate depiction of crime in that area (usually from the police department’s website).

We understand it’s probably hard to find cheap apartments in areas where crime isn’t a problem. An area with high crime might not always be a deal breaker. You can take steps to stay safe if you have to live in a neighborhood with high crime. Protect yourself with awareness, knowledge of the area, a security system for your budget and other measures.

7. Look around at the appliances.

Old appliances are somewhat normal in cheap apartments for rent, but you need to make sure they are safe. Check the appliances in the apartment when you do your first walkthrough of it. Look at the appliances, check behind them and make sure they have the right type of electric plug. Then, try to turn on things like the stove. If they do not seem to be working, this could be indicative of appliances that are too old and can be a safety hazard. In the best-case scenario, non-working appliances can be proof that a landlord is actually a slumlord. In a worst-case scenario, they could cause a major problem like a fire or gas leak.

If you find the appliances are very old or not in working order, talk to the landlord about replacing them before you move in or sign a lease for the apartment.

8. Even cheap apartments for rent have credit check policies.

It seems so counterintuitive but many apartments require great credit. Even when you’re looking at cheap apartments for rent, the chances are landlords are going to check your credit. Many times, they’re just looking for past evictions, money owed to other rentals or foreclosures. They could also look for things like excessive debt and bankruptcies so keep that in mind.

Talk to the landlord before they do the credit check. They can often tell you what they’re looking for. If you know you have something like that on your credit, it could save you the burden of paying an application fee for something you won’t be approved for. It may also be worth asking if there are alternative methods for learning about you as a tenant. Your landlord could:

  • Talk to previous landlords.
  • Get references related to work.
  • Speak with previous neighbors about you as a tenant.
  • Possibly take a higher deposit amount to offset any unsavory information in your credit report.

Want to learn more about fixing your credit and getting out of debt? Check out all these helpful resources we have to offer!

9. Check the apartment for pests.

Cockroaches, bed bugs, termites and other pest infestations are a huge problem in cheap apartments for rent. It’s a good idea to know the signs and look for them when you’re checking out an apartment for the first time.

To find out if there are pests, check the apartment for mouse droppings or other telltale signs of rodents. Even if you don’t find any, talk to the landlord about what they’re doing to actively avoid any infestations in the home.

Cockroaches pose another huge risk. While many people assume they’re only in areas that are very dirty or are filled with food, the fact is they can pop up anywhere.

Bed bugs are yet another problem and can run rampant in apartment buildings. Checking for bed bugs is as easy as looking for live bugs, their casings and trails of blood that they leave behind. While this article is geared toward looking for bed bugs in hotels, you can also use it to help you find bed bugs in an apartment building.

10. Make sure you are protected in the apartment.

Even though safety features aren’t something most people think about until they need them, it’s important to take these into consideration when you’re looking at cheap apartments for rent. You should make sure that the apartment you’re looking at has:

  • Working smoke detectors.
  • Carbon monoxide detectors (if there are any sources of carbon monoxide).
  • Working locks.
  • Safety features like railings around porches.
  • Proper handrails on steps (hint: almost all steps need to have a handrail).

Many of these measures are life and death so it’s important to know what you’re looking for and discuss the absence of any of these with your potential landlord.

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