When Your Apartment Isn’t Perfect on Day 1

Frustrated guy in apartment

From Arek Olek’s Flickr Page

You searched for apartments online and toured 5, 10, or possibly 20 different places. A diamond in the rough finally caught your eye. Some paint, curtains and a nice scrubbing would do wonders here. Road trip to IKEA!!! We can make this work right?

Let’s fill out rental applications and submit those fat security deposit checks. That glorious move-in date arrives (usually September 1st) and you open the door to what will be your new crash pad for a year. What do you find?

  • Paint peeling in random areas
  • An old shower head that’s half functional
  • Doors that can’t close

The list could go on and on and on. You want to rip out your hair, scream and curse the apartment Gods. Go ahead, but at some point you have to take action. What do you do?

Luckily this is the Information Age. We have user-friendly tools to create a virtual paper trail. Let’s be honest; on September 1st how many landlords are going to drop everything and fix your problems? Not many. Your best bet is to document all issues and initiate communication with your landlord. Here is a list of steps to remedy the situation:

  1. Don’t bring any of your things inside yet. I will say this again; LEAVE YOUR STUFF OUTSIDE, or place it inside the front entryway (if you’re worried about it being stolen).
  2. Contact your landlord; say the apartment has several problems and you’re going to send him/her a Move-In Inspection Checklist. This might also be called a “Move-In Inspection Report” or “Condition of Apartment Report.” You can easily find sample reports online.
  3. Take several pictures. Make sure you get the rooms, floors, sinks, shower, appliances, windows, doors, and specific areas that are damaged. You’re not liable for repairs if things were already in poor condition.
  4. Bring your personal items inside. Be sure to clean and sanitize where necessary.
  5. Complete your detailed report. Pictures will serve as your proof.
  6. Give the landlord another call and state the problems found. Send the report via email. If he/she doesn’t have an email address, then email everything to yourself (or take a picture of the report).  Go to the Post Office and mail the report with the signature confirmation service (more proof).
  7. Health & Safety trumps everything. Consider staying in a hotel or with a friend if you notice mold, rodents, insects, foul odors, or other alarming problems.

Your apartment is supposed to be a “safe and habitable living environment” upon moving in; it’s not habitable if you have several problems. A landlord has about 5 days to respond to problems, and roughly 2 additional weeks to fix them. Stay out of the apartment and avoid the stressful situation. September is a good month to stay busy since the weather is nice.

Unfortunately, not every living situation is perfect. Some students (and young professionals) will end up in apartments that don’t live up to the expectations set in the sales tour. If you find yourself in that situation, curse the apartment Gods, grab a latte, and be proactive with your complaints on day 1.

Readers, have you been surprised when you moved in to a new apartment?  How did you handle it?  Tell in the comments about your move-in nightmares!

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