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Added Apr 02 2014

before you rent that apartment:

- check the mailboxes, if there are no labels on the mailboxes, or they're haphazard, or if they look like the tenant had to put them up, then your prospective landlord does not care
- if possible, interview current tenants without prospective landlords knowledge
- check the clerk of courts website for violations and civil cases the landlord and/or building has had

do this before you commit and you'll be better off than if you hadn't

  • julie X-ray Lakeview Mom

    I wonder if your talking about my bldg I rent from!!! Great tips bc it is an indicator of the landlords. Mine CERTAINLY do not care and now I look back, the warning signs were there. Good tip!

  • Rachel D. just hungry

    Good advice, especially the mailbox tip. I never really considered that! But how does one go about interviewing the current tenant of a place you're looking to rent without seeming completely creepy? It's something I have considered in the past but was not sure of a proper approach!

  • Juniper Stuff, and also Things

    I have had good luck coming to showings with a small card in an envelope that says "thank you!" on the front, and leaving it in a conspicuous area in the unit I've considered renting. The landlord almost never asks (since it says "thank you!" and we are walking through someone's living space, sometimes on short notice) but if they do I just explain that it's good manners to thank someone for opening their home for me to tour. Inside the card is indeed a note of thanks, but also my contact info, in case they want to contact me privately about the unit or want to share anything.

    I once declined a unit that looked good because the current tenant had some specific concerns about building maintenance that weren't obvious at the showing.

  • That is a really good idea Juniper. You can also check online for reviews on various companies, to see how they manage their buildings. I have been lucky, the first apartment I rented was from a client of my Moms and the second was rented by the boyfriend of my roommate, so he could tell me what I needed to know. But I have had people come up to me a few times as I was coming home, mentioning they were thinking of renting here and asking me questions, which I was happy to answer. My guess is that they came by when they thought tenants would be getting home from work, in order to ask them.

  • I don't agree on labeling the mailbox part. I was a renter for 15 years before I purchased my property and now I'm a landlord for six units. Whenever I have new tenant which does not happen because I have very stable tenants, I ask the tenants to place their own labels on their mailbox if they care to receive their mail. It's none of my business.

    Does that make me a bad landlord? I guess the prospective tenants should care more about the cleanliness of the property inside and out and to determine if the apartment will serve their needs and if they can afford it.

  • I was in property management for a dozen years with over 640 apartment units - one of the first things I did was to ask the tenant what they wanted on the mailbox/and entry systems or door bells, and I had engraved inserts made (cost $1.25/ea). The first impression, beyond the exterior, is the entryway. The uniformity lends to the overall impression a tenant has. A landlord who does this probably attends to other minor details with equal rigor.

  • Michelle Edgewater Edgewater Resident: Love the neighborhood!

    My landlord just labels the mail boxes with our apartment numbers, no names. Easy peasy.

  • L

    The mailbox thing is not necessarily an indication of a bad rental. I live in a 6 flat on Berteau and we put our own names on the boxes and it is a wonderful building with many of the tenants have been in the building longer than 2 years.

  • I agree, the mailbox labeling doesn't necesarily indicate much ... we label our own in my building. What I REALLY care about is whether someone is going to respond quickly when I have a plumbing issue or my fridge breaks down & our building manager has been fantastic on that kind of stuff (when my fridge was broken & it was going to be a couple of days to get the part, he even brought a spare fridge up to my apartment)

  • Joan M. Back in Lincoln Square and liking it.

    Since you're talking mailboxes, you might want to check the NUMBER of names on individual boxes. The last rental I moved out of in Albany Park had six - count 'em, six - names for the apartment directly above me. That, of course, didn't include the children in that unit. Even if they had been considerate neighbors (which they weren't), the potential for noise would have been obvious to any landlord who gave a darn.

  • Catbus Philosopher, Third-Class

    For me, the trick is to look at the window frames. Battered wood frames with cracking paint and steel window frames tell you loud and clear that the landlord is letting things go all over the building. Anodized storm sashes suggest that the landlord cares about keeping things up to date. Vinyl storm sashes tell you that the landlord wants to LOOK like he's keeping things up to date, but he's doing it on the cheap.

  • Bowmanville Mike

    I like to see if there's a dead body in the apartment I'm about to rent. If so, I'd seriously consider going someplace else!

  • loraine t washington 5 yr. resident

    @ Bowmanville Mike, that's funny.

  • LS64

    Catbus Really.. I rent a place that has some of your so called look out for landlords comments My inside place is superb. That is where they spent the money first. New everything! I do not live or rent the outside. Do you rent or live in a place with bad looking windows. When I look out a window I see life. I don't care if my windows are wood old steel or what ever.

  • Actually the quality of the windows only really matters if you pay for your own heat. I don't so I don't care as much if heat is lost so long as the landlord keeps the place warm enough. Mine does. If you have to pay your own heat, the quality of the windows do matter greatly. It will cost you a lot more every winter to heat a place with old deteriorating windows.

  • Catbus Philosopher, Third-Class

    Suit yourselves. I've never had an apartment with good windows that wasn't well kept up, and I've never had an apartment with old, beat-up windows where the landlord didn't let all sorts of other things slide as well.

  • This comment has been removed by EveryBlock staff because it is a personal attack.
  • Aron Long tlme Lincoln sq home owner

    I know many eastern Eurpean landlords who have worked hard to acquire buildings and keep then in pristine condition .That said I am a landlord and allow only 2 tenants per apartment .I lable the mailboxes , wash windows ,plant flowers ,and expect the renters to keep their apartments clean and bug free .

  • Michelle Edgewater Edgewater Resident: Love the neighborhood!

    I think Catbus has a point. The worst landlord I ever had and the worst apartment I ever rented had horribly-fitting windows that shook and rattled and twice cracked just from the wind. Now, I always check that windows are well fitted and sturdy.

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