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Things To Know Before You Sign

Things To Know Before You Sign

Korok Chatterjee

12 August, 2020

This is a story we’ve heard over and over: “This place seemed awesome, but when I moved in I found out there were all these problems!” This is a (constantly growing) list of things to check when moving into a new apartment or house as a renter, as well as tips on how to avoid them.

Why is it important?

  • You can protect yourself from future disputes over your security deposit if you document the condition of your unit at move-in.
  • The move-in condition is a good signal as to whether or not a landlord maintains their property well.
  • Renting a unit is a major life and financial decision. The landlord should be completely understanding of your desire to thoroughly vet your future home.

The List

  • Fire safety: Are the smoke detectors operational? Is there one in every room? In common spaces? In stairwells? Where is the fire extinguisher?
  • Carbon monoxide detectors: Many states require residences to have one.
  • Fuse box and water shut-off valve: Locate them and see if you have access.
  • Doors and locks: Do they function appropriately? What barriers are there in place to prevent unwanted intruders? Do you have a dead bolt?
  • Air conditioning/heating: Critical if you live in a region with extreme temperatures.
  • Water damage: Do the ceilings and/or walls have wrinkles or discolored / dark regions? Molds are common. They should be discovered and annotated upon move in.
  • Wall damage: In particular, check behind the doors to see if the knob has damaged the wall.
  • Pests: Keep an eye out for cockroaches, mice, etc. Ask if there have been any infestations or if exterminators are employed regularly. Many states have regulations requiring the reporting of bedbug infestations.
  • Window functionality: What are the possible routes of emergency egress? Are there screens?
  • Blinds/curtains: Are they properly fastened? Are they easy to operate?
  • Floor damage: Take note of scuffs, scratches, warping, etc.
  • Appliances: If possible, check the operation of the refrigerator, washer/dryer, range, oven, microwave, garbage disposal, and dishwasher.
  • Cabinets and countertops: Check for damage and operability of cabinet doors.
  • Bathroom facilities: Does the hot water work? Does the toilet have a strong flush? Do the sinks drain and plug appropriately? Do the tanks fill appropriately?
  • Lights and fans: Do they function appropriately?
  • Electrical outlets: Consider bringing a small lamp to test them.
  • Towel fixtures, paper towel/toilet paper holders: Are they usable and properly affixed?
  • Closet space: Is there enough space? Are the shelves and rods stable? Sliding closet doors often have bent rails and are difficult to operate.
  • Mailbox: Is there a package receiving service? If the building has locker-style boxes, do the boxes open readily? Can you send mail? Is there a nearby collection box?

What you can do about it

  • Ask your landlord for referrals from previous tenants. Similarly, if you can, rent from someone with a well-established public reputation (e.g. a highly reviewed property management company) or a landlord who comes with a recommendation from someone you trust.
  • Ask the landlord if they can fix the issues before you move in. Alternatively, use the issues as leverage in negotiating a lower rent.
  • If you’ve already moved in and/or signed a lease, your landlord may be obligated by law to fix certain issues.
  • If your landlord refuses to fix an issue they are legally obligated to, you may be able to get free legal assistance from your local tenant’s union or rent board. Often, a strongly worded letter from an attorney is enough to force them to act.
  • Even if there is a court order mandating your landlord to fix the issue, they may simply refuse to act, relying on lax or delayed enforcement to evade the expense. In this case, you may be able to petition your rent board for a rent reduction for decrease in services or withhold payment of rent.

Above all, be informed before you rent. Always vet the property you’ll be living in, always make sure there’s a legitimate lease, and learn as much as you can about your local, state, and federal renter’s protection laws.

Thank you to Eileen Pan and Unsplash for the cover photo.

Negotiating A Landlord Down By 10%

Negotiating A Landlord Down By 10%

Anonymous Hedgehog

22 July, 2020

A Padfever user recently negotiated their new lease down by about 10%. We asked them how they did and thought it would make a great story to share.

For the purposes of this post, we'll be referring to the source(s) of this story as Anonymous Hedgehog (AH) and all other roommates as roommates.


AH was looking for a place to live in San Francisco recently. Before venturing out and applying to places, they did the following:

  1. Found areas they wanted to live in.
  2. Calculated upper limits that they were willing to pay.
  3. Analyzed the market and calculated rent ranges in the areas they wanted to live in.

Actively Searching

AH used Craigslist, Trulia, and Zillow to find places to live. They applied to several places and saw as many as 5 places in one day. They looked at placed in North Beach, Nob Hill, SOMA, etc. Eventually, it came down to two places: one in North Beach and one Nob Hill.

The two units were different. The North Beach one was an old victorian house that came unfurnished and priced at $4900. The Nob Hill one came furnished, was managed by a newer property management company, and was priced at $5500.


The San Francisco rent market has been in a free-fall ever since COVID-19 hit. This gave AH elevated confidence that they could negotiate landlords down and get a more fair rent. They intended on negotiating the North Beach unit down to $4600 and the Nob Hill unit down to $5000 (or $5200 w/ parking).

Negotiations succeed for the Nob Hill unit. They had a good sense of the market since they had seen several other units. They also had other listings to rely on to push the price down.

Take Aways

Anonymous Hedgehog was able to negotiate down a new lease from the listed price by doing the following:

  1. Knowing the fair market rent for the area before hand.
  2. Having a few comparable units to use as an example for negotiation.
  3. Applying to a few different places in case negotiations fall through.

The current market conditions give renters negotiation power. Several listings are posted for months before they lower their prices and fill their vacancies.

COVID-19 Renter Protections

COVID-19 Renter Protections

Abraham Elmahrek

05 April, 2020

There is a ton of confusion around renter protections during COVID-19. Several counties and cities, along with states, have their own rules. We've made a small attempt to gather some of the resources that have been made available state, county, and city wide. It's not every thing though.

Eviction Protection

Useful definitions:

  • Paused: Court proceedings for evictions are not active.
  • Suspended: Enforcement of evictions are not active.
  • Delayed: New cases deferred.


State Protection Start End
Alabama No
Alaska No
Arizona Yes / Paused 03/24/2020 07/22/2020
Arkansas No
California Yes / Paused 03/16/2020 05/31/2020
Colorado No
Connecticut Yes / Paused 03/16/2020 03/27/2020
Delaware Yes / Paused 03/13/2020 04/16/2020
Florida No
Georgia No
Hawaii Yes / Suspended 03/17/2020 Indefinite
Idaho No
Illinois Yes / Paused 03/21/2020 04/07/2020
Indiana Yes / Paused 03/20/2020 05/05/2020
Iowa Yes / Suspended 03/22/2020 04/16/2020
Kansas Yes / Paused 03/20/2020 05/01/2020
Kentucky Yes / Paused 03/25/2020 Indefinite
Louisiana Yes / Suspended 03/18/2020 Indefinite
Maine No
Maryland Yes / Paused 03/16/2020 Indefinite
Massachusetts Yes / Paused 03/13/2020 Indefinite
Michigan Yes / Paused 03/20/2020 04/17/2020
Minnesota Yes / Suspended 03/23/2020 Indefinite
Mississippi No
Missouri No
Montana No
Nebraska No
Nevada No
New Hampshire Yes / Suspended 03/17/2020 Indefinite
New Jersey Yes / Paused 03/19/2020 Indefinite
New Mexico No
New York Yes / Suspended 03/22/2020 06/20/2020
North Carolina Yes / Paused 03/13/2020 04/12/2020
North Dakota No
Ohio No
Oklahoma No
Oregon No
Pennsylvania Yes / Paused 03/18/2020 04/03/2020
Rhode Island Yes / Suspended 03/19/2020 04/18/2020
South Carolina Yes / Paused 03/17/2020 03/31/2020
South Dakota No
Tennessee Yes / Suspended Unknown Unknown
Texas Yes / Paused 03/19/2020 04/18/2020
Utah No
Vermont No
Virginia Yes / Suspended 03/16/2020 04/06/2020
Washington Partial 03/18/2020 04/09/2020
Washington D.C. Yes / Suspended 03/13/2020 05/31/2020
West Virginia No
Wisconsin Yes / Paused 03/27/2020 05/26/2020
Wyoming No


County State Protection Start End
Maricopa County Arizona Delayed Unknown Indefinite
Pima County Arizona Suspended 03/18/2020 Indefinite
Ventura County California Paused 03/16/2020 03/27/2020
Broward County Florida Suspended 03/17/2020 Indefinite
Orange County Florida Suspended 03/16/2020 Indefinite
Seminole County Florida Paused 03/19/2020 04/15/2020
Brevard County Florida Paused 03/19/2020 04/15/2020
Osceola County Florida Paused 03/19/2020 04/15/2020
Cook County Illinois Paused 03/13/2020 04/16/2020
Jefferson County Kentucky Suspended 03/17/2020 Indefinite
Baltimore County Maryland Suspended 03/16/2020 Indefinite
Davidson County Tennessee Suspended 03/17/2020 Indefinite


County State Protection Start End
Alhambra California Moratorium 03/27/2020 05/31/2020
El Monte California Moratorium 03/20/2020 Indefinite
Fresno California Moratorium Unknown 04/18/2020
Los Angeles California Moratorium 03/15/2020 Indefinite
Pasadena California Moratorium 03/17/2020 Indefinite
Rancho Cucamonga California Moratorium 03/20/2020 05/31/2020
San Bernardino California Moratorium 03/18/2020 Indefinite
San Diego California Moratorium 03/17/2020 Indefinite
San Francisco California Moratorium 03/13/2020 Indefinite
Denver Colorado Moratorium 03/17/2020 05/11/2020
Atlanta Georgia Moratorium 03/17/2020 05/20/2020
Boise Idaho Moratorium 03/25/2020 04/15/2020
Boston Massachusettes Moratorium 03/17/2020 Indefinite
Boston Massachusettes Moratorium 03/17/2020 Indefinite
Albaquerque New Mexico Moratorium 03/19/2020 Indefinite
Santa Fe New Mexico Moratorium 03/13/2020 Indefinite
New York New York Delayed 03/17/2020 Indefinite
Seattle Washington Delayed 03/13/2020 Indefinite


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Pharexia / CC BY-SA (