If there is anything people hate more than moving it’s dealing with the fallout of breaking a lease. Deposits in the thousands of dollars can be lost; rent payments may be demanded by the landlord and become a legal matter; credit, as good as it might have been before, could become severely tarnished. The consequence of moving out of a unit early may vary from contract to contract, but one sad fact remains true despite disparities in the consequences. That is, on top of it all you still have to move.

We all have heard of one horror story or another related to a rental situation gone bad, but rarely have we been told how to avoid them. Before you decide to sign a rental agreement or lease—whether by yourself or with others—here are few items to keep in mind to prevent you from falling into this all too common nightmare:

(1)Friends do not always make good roommates

Closeness and respect between people at the moment (and outside of a living situation) is a very poor predictor of how well they will fair as roommates. Given that a lease is a serious and binding agreement, scrutinize your friend as if he/she was a perfect stranger looking to be your roommate.

(2) Inspect the neighborhood thoroughly

Especially if you are new to town it is important that you make sure that you are moving into a neighborhood where you will feel safe. Most walk-throughs are during day so be sure to come back at night to see if the neighborhood is still ok. Additionally, most cities’ police departments have online resources that track recent crime.

(3) Inspect the apartment

Nobody wants an apartment with mold or brown water coming out of the sink. Because many leases have an accept “as is” clause, make sure that the apartment is acceptable from top to bottom before you do anything.

(4) Make sure your neighbors have a somewhat similar lifestyle

Conflicts with neighbors over nose, people, décor and other factors can get very ugly and even lead to an eviction. Make things easy by signing a lease with a place where you’ll fit in. Walk down the streets around your prospective unit and get a sense of who you are going to be living near. Additionally, visiting on Friday or Saturday nights is often a good test of how noisy a place will be.

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