Three individuals stand in a living room, as they look for a place to rent

There’s a lot to think about when you’re looking for a new apartment, condo, or house to rent. How much do you want to spend per month? Will you be able to find something in the neighbourhood you’ve had your eye on? And how can you be sure you’ll get along with your landlord? While you’re busy picturing yourself in your new home, do yourself a favour and check these to-dos off your list before you sign your next lease:

  1. Inspect the space for pre-existing conditions that could be signs of trouble. Whether you’re looking at a new-build condo or an older house, you need to keep an eye out for signs that more serious problems may be just around the corner. Carefully look for:
    • Cracks or water damage in the ceilings, walls, and floors
    • Moisture or stains around plumbing fixtures
    • Signs of mould or mildew on the walls and ceilings (often in the corners)
  2. Give the windows a good once-over. First things first: make sure there is at least one window in every room that can be opened — if the windows have been painted shut or won’t open for some other reason, you may not be able to get out in an emergency. You should also check that the windows have secure locks and are free of any chips or cracks. While you’re at it, look for mould or mildew in and around the window frames, too.
  3. Make sure all doors and other entrances are secure. All doors should fit properly in their frames and be able to shut tightly. Doorknobs and locks should be functioning and should be tightly in place, with no wiggle-room. Any doors that lead outside should have deadbolts that can be locked from the inside without a key — that way, if you need to leave home in an emergency, you don’t want to be running around looking for your key. If you’re thinking about renting a unit in a condo building, check that the building’s main entrance is secure and that storage areas and the parking garage can only be accessed by people who live there.
  4. Give the bathroom a practice run. Check these to-dos off your list:
    • Make sure the toilet flushes properly and doesn’t run when it’s not in use or leak onto the floor around it
    • Turn on the shower to see what the water pressure is like and make sure the temperature settings work
    • Try the faucets and make sure the sink drains properly
    • Open the cupboard below the sink and check for leaks or water damage
  5. Check for potential pest problems. Use a flashlight to check out areas where pests are commonly found, like gaps or cracks in the walls or baseboards, behind kitchen appliances, inside kitchen cabinets, and around the bathtub. You should be looking for rodent droppings, insect eggs, and other signs that you may end up with some unwanted roommates. Depending on the location of the place you’re thinking of renting, you may be able to find online listings of past reports of bed bugs or other pests in the building.
  6. Make sure the space has working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. These are essential when it comes to safeguarding your home against fire and preventing carbon monoxide poisoning. Depending on where you live, they may also be required by law.
  7. Carefully inspect the kitchen. There are plenty of things in the kitchen that can pose potential problems when not properly maintained. Be sure to:
    • Look inside the fridge, stove, and other appliances to make sure they’re clean and in good condition (e.g., the oven should not be coated with burnt food residue; if it is, you should ask the landlord to have it cleaned before you move in)
    • Try turning on all of the appliances to make sure they work
    • Check for mould or mildew inside the fridge and cupboards
  8. Inspect outdoor areas for potential safety risks. It’s a good idea to walk around and inspect the perimeter of the property, including walkways, driveways, and fences. Make sure these areas are properly maintained and there are no signs of potential safety or security issues.
  9. Talk to the neighbours. If you have an opportunity to talk to someone else who lives in the building before you sign a lease, ask what they think of the neighbourhood and the building’s upkeep.
  10. Carefully review your lease agreement. Make sure you understand the agreement completely and ask questions about areas that seem unclear. If you’re uncomfortable with any part of the agreement, consider asking the landlord to amend it and make sure they initial the change.

Don’t forget about renter’s insurance

Giving your new home a thorough inspection before you move in is a good way to make sure you get off to a smooth start in your space, but sometimes it’s impossible to predict when something will go wrong. You should know that your landlord’s insurance policy probably won’t protect you or any of your stuff in the event of an emergency like a fire or theft — you’ll need tenant insurance for that. Tenant insurance also includes third-party liability coverage, which you’ll need if someone injures themselves in your rental unit or you accidentally cause damage to someone else’s belongings, for example.

Once you’ve found a place you love, contact your group’s licensed insurance broker so they can set you up with a tenant insurance policy.

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