Red Flags for Renters to Watch Out For

Trista - October 24, 2021

5. Look out for a landlord who doesn’t present a checklist for any damage in the beginning. 

It is imperative to complete a checklist to note any current damage to the property when you first do a walk-through with the landlord of any rental before signing a lease and moving in. The reason for this is due to accountability. If you don’t go over a checklist in the beginning, then you could look over many damaged things, both minor and major. Later, the landlord might blame you for the issues, if you bring up a problem after you move in. They will assume you were the cause of it.

If the landlord is going to blame you for damaged or broken things, they may decide to charge you for said things, even if you are not at fault for those things. The landlord, however, could maybe not have a clue about those things ahead of time, so they wouldn’t feel in the wrong for blaming you. A checklist helps you prove what was already destroyed and what may become damaged while you are living there. It can honestly help both you and the owner of the property out in the end. So ask for a checklist if they don’t provide one when doing a walk-through. 


4. Renters must do a walk-through before signing anything.

Another major red flag for renters is if a landlord won’t allow them to view the rental before signing the lease. You may have seen pictures of the unit online. A landlord could even send you photos over through text or email. However, this is not the same thing as seeing it firsthand. These types of prints only show so much. This sign is a bit concerning because the landlord may be hiding something. Perhaps they don’t want you to be aware of an issue. It could be anything from lousy insulation, annoying pests, or even a mold problem. The landlord might not even be the owner or have access to the property.

It’s important to realize that once you sign the lease, you are obligated to comply with its terms. That is, unless the rental lease is describing another property. In some cases, other issues with the lease, or local ordinances, permit you to walk away. Before you sign the lease, demand to see the property. If you are moving in from out of state and it’s possible, send someone to check it out on your behalf. It’s best just to look somewhere else if the landlord refuses to let you check out the property before signing anything.


3. Renters need to discuss with the landlord all cost responsibilities.

All cost responsibilities should be clear. That goes double when it comes to paying for or repairing certain things in any rental. Discuss issues with potentially broken appliances, fixtures, utilities, or even extermination services in the future. It should be clear who is responsible for said things from the very beginning. In Florida, for example, the state bar offers a residential lease form with such information. It delineates what the landlord will pay for and what the tenant is responsible for. Also, the paper states limitations on what the tenant must spend out of pocket for major repairs or maintenance of items listed as the tenant’s responsibility.

If your potential landlord decides not to disclose this information or says that you will simply figure it out later on, they may be looking to stick you with the entire bill. So before you sign that lease with anyone, ask about those costs that may happen, find out who is responsible for said things, and get anything about it in writing, if it isn’t already in the lease itself. It will save you the hassle and stress of having to figure it out later.


2. Don’t hire a landlord who wants you to wire money or pay with cash.

A major red flag to be aware of is if the landlord wants you to wire them money or asks you to pay in cash only for your security deposit or anything else. It is never good to transfer money by wiring or pay with cash to a landlord you don’t know. That sounds very suspicious. It’s not standard practice for any business; plus, it’s quite unnecessary, and it is common for scammers. Don’t allow that to happen. If they are persistent about it, just walk away. It’s not a loss to you. 

So before you sign the lease with a landlord who asks for a wire payment or cash only, confirm that the landlord does own the property. Did you use a real estate agent to help you find the property? Make sure they are certified! Also, double check to be sure that the property management company is reputable. We advise that you ask if you can pay in a more established method, such as a certified check of some form. If they say they cannot accept that, do not sign the lease.


1. Renters should be wary if the property owner has a foreclosure status.

Sometimes unfortunate things happen, and the owner of a property may be in foreclosure. If that is the case, the owner may continue to rent to their unsuspecting tenants, which is too bad. Landlords tend to take the first and last month’s rent, along with a security deposit. However, the landlord can still lease the property by the authority through a writ of possession. And it may sound outlandish. However, it happens quite often, and then the renters are without a house, despite paying all of the rent on time. You might not have as much legal recourse as you think when this happens, so be careful!

It also seems that over the last few years, judges have become less sympathetic to tenants. They don’t care about those who don’t do their due diligence and end up in these circumstances. So before you sign the lease to someplace, check public records. Look for the county where the rental is and see if a ‘lis pendens’ is against the owner. This legal document declares that a lawsuit is pending against the property. Furthermore, that the owner is in foreclosure status. If there just so happens to be a pending lawsuit, do not sign the lease. At least contact your attorney first to see if you can negotiate for cheaper rent.