How to find a great landlord – and a good apartment to rent

Finding the right rental property can be very stressful. Renters spend most of their time searching for a rental unit that satisfies basic living needs, such as the size, look and location of the property. But if you don’t find a great landlord, you won’t enjoy living in your new home even if it has all of the things on your rental property wish list.

How should you find a great landlord? Here are some suggestions you should follow:

Go visit the rental property

Nothing is better than an eyewitness, someone who actually has firsthand experience living where you want to move. So take time to explore the area and talk to tenants. They will have a lot of the information you need.

They will be able to tell you about the property and why they like or don’t like living there. This might sounds intimidating, but just be polite and most people will likely be more than willing to help. Be sure to ask:

  1. What are the pluses and minuses of the rental property?
  2. Are repairs done in a timely fashion?
  3. How are complaints handled?
  4. Are disputes resolved quickly?
  5. How is security maintained?
  6. Are basic services like water and heat delivered consistently?
  7. Ask what else you should be asking about. Current tenants often know things about a property that you don’t. Ask them to tell you what they like and don’t like about living there.

Ask them about turnover:

  • Do residents stay for a long time?
  • Is there a community?
  • Are residents more transient?
  • Talk to the building engineer about whether issues quickly resolved?
  • Is the property well managed and kept up? 

Be sure to look around the property itself. A great landlord will make sure:

  • Is signage is attached properly to the building and around the property?
  • The fencing is in good shape
  • Are parking spaces properly striped?

Check out the landlord online

A great landlord will have a website that:

  • Showcases the landlord’s property
  • Provides additional information on the lease, rules and regulations
  • Features contact information for the engineer and landlord

Use Google, Yelp, and other sites to review landlord rating. Also, review ratings of the rental companies, apartment complexes before submitting an application.

When it comes to reading online reviews, you’ll need a discerning eye, because often times unhappy tenants will put up a review that may not accurately reflect the situation, how the landlord responded, and how the ultimate resolution played out for all parties. Just remember, people use review sites to complain more than compliment.

Landlords and public records

If you want to turn up the online spotlight, check out public records, most of which are available online.

A check of the local court’s website can reveal a lot about how a landlord has conducted his or her business. Did the individuals or businesses face criminal or civil charges? What were the resolutions? Look for:

  • A person or company that always seems to be in court
  • Who has faced substantial fines in the pursuit of his or her business
  • The nature of the complaints, and whether they seem reasonable or not

The county auditor and treasurer websites can tell you whether there are unpaid taxes on a property or it’s in default. These are warning signs about the landlord and their property.

Look for a landlord who will go the extra mile to make you happy

Most landlords are reputable business people who live by the rules. Great landlords will go the extra mile to make you feel comfortable in your new home.

Ron Carter is the former Business Editor of the Columbus Dispatch.

Read more about landlords and finding a great rental

Landlord Rights When a Tenant Breaks the Lease

I don’t have a lease and I can’t afford the rent

This post was updated April 21, 2022