What to look for when touring potential apartments

By Kathleen Foody

When it comes to searching for an apartment, Susan Salzman suggests using your nose. Or bringing along a friend with a sensitive one. “We get (tenants) struggling with water damage a lot,” said Salzman, property maintenance supervisor for the city of Champaign.When it comes to searching for an apartment, Susan Salzman suggests using your nose. Or bringing along a friend with a sensitive one.

“We get (tenants) struggling with water damage a lot,” said Salzman, property maintenance supervisor for the city of Champaign. But a quick check of the drywall along the floorboards or being aware of any musty odor in an apartment can be a warning sign to new renters.

Salzman and other area housing experts said a quick check of several key items can save University students time and frustration in the long run.

A look at some of their top suggestions to keep in mind during apartment tours:

Appliances

Make sure you are satisfied with the condition of the refrigerator, stove, air conditioner and other appliances when you move into the apartment. Appliances are not covered by Champaign codes and could end up costing you money if the landlord refuses to replace the unsatisfactory items, Salzman said.

No basement or attic apartments

Salzman said these units often have serious code violations due to low ceiling height and windows that do not allow for emergency exits during a fire or other situation.

Doors and locks

Doors should be in good repair and include a dead-bolt lock, said Clay Baier, a housing inspector for the city of Urbana. Doors should include a peephole and be solid and thick, Salzman added. The dead bolt should be hand-operated rather than requiring a key.

Exterior lighting

The hallways and walkways of the property should be well-lit. Salzman recommended visiting the building at night to make sure you feel safe and comfortable there. “There are a lot of areas that aren’t terrifically safe,” Salzman said. “Be sure that you’ll feel comfortable getting home from a night class in that area.”

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

Landlords are required to install working a smoke detector in each bedroom in the unit and a carbon monoxide detector in the unit as well. “If they’re not showing you an apartment with working detectors, that landlord may not take your life safety that seriously,” Salzman said.

Question everything

Use the tenants in the apartment as a resource about every aspect of living there. “If you get to meet current tenant, ask them anything you can,” Salzman said. “Do the landlords fix problems; do they treat (the tenants) badly (if they have complaints), do they come promptly to fix things? A lease is a year long and it’s very expensive to be living there, so don’t hesitate.”

Other suggestions from the experts:

  • Do the faucets work? Do they leak?
  • Does water drain quickly from the tub or shower?
  • Do the light switches and electrical outlets have covers?
  • Are the tenants forced to use extension cords because of too few outlets?
  • Do you control your own heat?
  • Is the apartment you are touring the one on the lease?