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Warning Signs To Look Out For When Renting An Apartment Or Home

List RulesPeople who've been ripped off when renting only, vote up the signs you wish you hadn't ignored.

Renting a new apartment or house can feel like a chance to start over, a fresh environment to put down roots and create new memories. But when looking for an apartment to rent, be sure to pay close attention to the details, both in the rental agreement and in the unit itself. While most people focus on the larger amenities a rental home has, it is often the smaller features that can reveal the true condition of a building and its potential for stress-inducing issues.

Listening to your gut is a good place to start. If something doesn't feel right about the unit you're considering - or if the rental agreement sounds too good to be true - honor your instinct and listen to what it says. Property owners are not necessarily in the rental game because they have a charitable urge to house and shelter people. It's a business, and they're in it for money. And, unfortunately, it's up to prospective tenants to make sure everything is safe and legal.

Below are some red flags to look out for when renting an apartment or home.

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    Sawdust-Like Piles Below Support Beams Or Near Wooden Moldings

    Photo: JJ Greive of Home Inspections Of Puget Sound / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    When termites munch away on wood, they leave behind something called frass. It looks like sawdust, but it's actually their excrement. It can range in color from light beige to black, and on (very) close inspection, it looks like a pile of miniscule, deflated footballs.

    If the rental property you're touring has wooden support beams or moldings, look under and around them for piles of frass.

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    Visible Signs Of Water Damage

    Photo: Atomicdragon136 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

    Water damage most often results from plumbing leaks or leaks in the roof. Signs of water damage can be obvious - such as standing water on the floor - or it can be more subtle, like discolored patches in the ceiling, walls, or flooring.

    Another good way to check for water damage is to give the property a good sniff. Water-damaged spaces smell damp, musty, and stale. If left untreated, water damage can encourage mold growth; allergic-like reactions, respiratory infections, and memory loss are just a few symptoms of mold infestation.

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    Suspicious Rental Agreements

    Photo: Blogtrepreneur / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

    Before paying a deposit or agreeing to rent a property, ask to see the lease or rental agreement. While both documents serve the same purpose of establishing a tenant-landlord contract, a lease is used for a fixed, longer-term rental, such as a year's lease. A rental agreement is used for shorter-term contracts, like month-to-month leases.

    Regardless of the type the landlord is using, review the document carefully beforehand. All wording should be legally sound and clear. Read the policies and fees regarding early termination, pets, and late payments. If there is language that puts you on the hook for repairs or upgrades that are not your fault or responsibility, don't sign. When in doubt, consult a lawyer.

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    Mysterious Droppings Under The Sink Or Near The Water Heater

    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Animal dropping should give any prospective renter pause. Droppings under the sink are often a sign of mice. Droppings near a water heater can indicate roaches.

    Also, bed bugs can survive a year without food, so even in an empty rental unit, bed bugs may still be lurking. Signs of bed bugs in an empty home can include discarded shells or coffeelike grounds (bed bug excrement) on the floor. If the unit is furnished, check in the mattress, box spring, and the crevices of all other furniture for small, reddish-brown stains and live bugs.

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