When you apply to rent a home, you can be sure that the landlord will do his homework on you. He’ll require references and almost certainly check your credit. That allows him peace of mind that you’ll be a good tenant. But how do you know he’s a good landlord? If you want to avoid problems such as tardy repairs, noisy neighbors, unfair lease terms or even foreclosure, check him out before you sign.
Check local government records. Look online at the municipal tax collector’s site to see if the landlord is up to date on all property taxes. Then look at the clerk’s office or website to see if there are any notices against him, such as a trustee's sale notice or notice of default – both signs he may be heading for foreclosure. Check local court records to see if the landlord has been sued by tenants or others, and check police records to see if there have been lots of calls to the apartment building.
Be on the lookout for the condition and cleanliness of the property. Look to see how well maintained the outside of the unit is, including the landscaping. Check for working smoke alarms, secure door locks and up-to-date appliances. If the landlord has other properties in the area, inspect the outside of these too, to see if they appear to be well cared for.
Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints registered against your prospective landlord's business. You can also search for the landlord's name online to see if her name appears in any news stories that might be positive or negative.
Pay a second visit to the property and interview current tenants or neighbors. Ask them if they can share their experiences with this landlord. Ask specifically if he is responsive to requests for repairs or other problems and if he returns calls promptly. Ask if he has kept the rent at a steady and reasonable level. Ask if he treats them with respect.