Before You Sign That Lease: Do Your Research!

I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve received over the past few years saying “I wish I had read your blog before moving into my apartment, now I’m stuck with a slumlord.”

Here are some tips and resources for researching your potential new landlord — while I can’t guarantee you’ll get a great landlord, this may help weed out the extreme slumlords.

  1. Look into your potential landlord’s legal history.  Does he/she have multiple foreclosures, rent escrow cases, lead paint lawsuits, etc?  That’s probably not a good sign.
  2. Is the property a registered rental?  You can search multi-family properties online  (even if it’s just two apartments in a rowhouse).  For single-family homes, call Baltimore Housing at 410-396-3575.
  3. Was that rehab inspected by a building inspector?  Was the work done with permits?  If you search an address, and no permits were found (or no recent ones) — you may want to think twice about the home.
  4. If your landlord is a contractor or “does home improvement work” — is he/she licensed?  No license probably means no permits, no inspections.
  5. Are the property taxes and water bills current? You don’t want to move into a new rental home, only to have that home go on the city’s tax sale list a few months later.
  6. Ask for references from former and current tenants — see what others have to say about your potential landlord.
  7. The most important — trust your gut instincts.  If something doesn’t feel right, or look right — don’t sign on the dotted line!

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7 Comments

  1. Does the Landlord have a lead certificate, because, if not, you could live rent-free forever, as long as you block him from entering to do a lead test in order to get one.

    • Baltimore Slumlord Watch

      For someone who seems to hate tenants as much as you do, why in the world are you in the rental property business? Stop buying properties, especially if you’re going to do the work without permits, or leave them boarded up. You’re from New York — go back there and get into real estate.

  2. Sage advice BSW Friends! I’ll add just one other, if the property is owned by a Limited Liability Corporation, represented by a manager, make sure you know how to contact the principal of that Corp. BEFORE YOU SIGN. Slumlords hide behind these corporations to do their dirty deeds. If you have a legal issue sometimes it can be hell trying to find out who the owner really is.

    • Baltimore Slumlord Watch

      Absolutely — almost all of Baltimore’s worst slumlords are LLC shell companies.

  3. i thought you spend a fortune rehabbing houses and give fantastic service to grateful tenants?

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