4: Make Your Housing Plan — Rent

Walk Through Before You Sign

Before you actually sign a rental agreement, perform a walk-through. If the place you are renting is occupied, ask if you can sign the lease once the premises are vacant. You don’t want to find out that furniture or rugs are hiding unsightly or unclean areas of the rental. 

Do your walk-through with the manager first, getting sign off on any problems you find. Document damages with time- and date-stamped pictures with a cellphone. Most reputable landlords will have a checklist to fill out before move-in and at move-out.

Courtney’s Story

CourtneyWhen Courtney went looking for her first apartment in her hometown of Tucson, Ariz., one offer was too good to pass up. It was close to work and the first month was free. She signed a one-year lease and moved in. The carpet was a wreck — worn thin and coming up in places, but the move-in flier promised new carpet as needed, and the property manager agreed that hers qualified. 

When Courtney asked about the carpet after moving in, she found out that the original manager had been let go, the fliers were gone, and there was nothing in the lease about new carpet.

Courtney soon discovered the problem was worse than she thought.

“I saw this giant roach crawl out from under the carpet where it was coming away from the walls,” she says, “and when I lifted it up, there were dead roaches and roach skins everywhere.”

After weeks of trying to get the carpet replaced and the apartment sprayed for bugs, Courtney decided that she had to move out. She broke her lease and found herself on the hook for almost $1,500, including paying for that “first month free” that she was promised when she moved in.

Looking back, she says she never would have rented that apartment with the carpet as it was, but the manager had made her a verbal promise. Not getting that part of the agreement in writing turned out to be an expensive lesson in things to consider before signing a legal contract. Read Courtney’s full story on

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