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Commentary on Lifehacker's "Seven Things I Wish I Knew Before Getting My First Apartment"

posted Feb 24, 2014, 12:42 PM by Alex Wainberg
Generally, this Lifehacker article is pretty good, but I'd like to add a few things from a legal perspective.

1.  Reading the lease is the MOST important part!  The author hammers home the importance of doing this pretty well (as has this blog on numerous occasions), but I think this should be the first thing mentioned.

2.  The second most important thing is to Keep Track of Everything.  Before moving into the apartment take pictures and/or video and fill out (and keep a copy) of a move-in form*.  Then when you move out, take more pictures/video so you can defend yourself against false/overblown claims of damage.  This is the best way to get your security deposit back.  Additionally, keep copies of all communication between you and your landlord (including the managers, employees, repair-persons, etc...).  Email is best, but texts and voicemail are good too.  If you have a conversation in person or over the phone, follow up with an email in order to keep a "paper-trail" of your communications.  These recordings can be used to enforce your rights and protect you from unscrupulous landlords.

3.   The title of the first section, "You Can't Pick Your Landlord", is a bit misleading.  As the post explains, you can in fact learn about your landlord through direct questions to the landlord and their employees, and asking questions of current tenants.  I would add that you should also google the landlord and/or the building.  Read reviews with a grain of salt (generally satisfied tenants don't go out of their way to post things), but definitely read them.  Also check your local property assessor's and/or rental license site (depends on what your locality has available).   If a landlord has had trouble in the past with regulatory problems, fires, etc... you should know.  So remember that you CAN pick your landlord, and you should make that an informed decision with some easy research.

4.  Know how to get your security deposit back!  This involves not just your lease, but, in many states, statutes as well.  It's good to check with an attorney or tenants' rights group site to make sure you are protecting your rights.

*If the landlord doesn't provide you with a move-in checklist, then find one online.  Also feel free to add to forms, change words, and add pages if necessary.