Don't Rent Trouble!

Finding a decent place to live can be a challenging job. You must perform a thorough inspection and you must keep looking when a rental unit does not pan out.

The following information on checking an apartment comes from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection Bureau.

Supplies

We recommend that you take the following supplies when you check out an apartment:

  • flashlight
  • light bulb
  • hair dryer

These will be your inspection tools.

Electrical

  • Turn on each switch to see if it works. If there is no bulb in the socket, use yours.
  • Check every outlet by plugging in your hair dryer. There is a problem if a fuse blows out or the dryer won't turn on.
  • If outlets or sockets do not work, there could be dangerous defects in the electrical system that could cause a fire.

Plumbing

  • Turn on the the faucets to see if they work or leak.
  • Flush the toilet to see if it operates properly or leaks.
  • Check the drains.
  • Look under the sink to notice any drips.

Look Up

  • Does the ceiling have a water stain or crack?
  • Are walls water stained or cracked?
  • These things might indicate a leaking roof, defective rain gutters, or defective plumbing upstairs. water damage could cause the ceiling or walls to collapse.

Safety

  • Are there smoke detectors in the apartment and building?
  • Are there deadbolt locks on the apartment doors and on the building doors?

Windows

  • Are there storm windows and screens?
  • Very gently push on the windows to see if they are secure or loose.

Rodents and Roaches

  • Get your flash light ready. Open cabinets and immediately shine in flashlight to detect roaches. Look for roach eggs.
  • Look for rat and mouse holes. Also look for droppings in the back of cabinets and closets.

Water Heater and Furnace

  • Make sure there is a furnace. Check on the condition of the furnace.
  • Even in the summer, push the thermostat up to see if the furnace works.
  • Look at the water heater to see if its working.

Lead and Radon

  • Ask the landlord whether the building has been tested for radon. High levels of radon can cause illness such as lung cancer. Visit the EPA's radon site for more information. 
  • Lead is highly toxic. Low levels of lead can harm a child's brain. It can cause convulsions and even death. Landlords are required to notify tenants of the presence of lead paint. Visit the Lead Awareness site for more information.

Find Any Problems?

If you notice serious problems, think carefully about the chance you will be taking with your family's health and safety. Ask yourself, "If the landlord did not make these repairs for the last tenant, why should I believe that the landlord will make the repairs for me?" If you do rent the apartment, make sure the landlord puts promised repairs in writing.