Mark Roemer image of a person getting ready to sign a rental agreement with keys on the table.

A Renter’s Guide to Avoiding an Awful Landlord

Being in the rental business for the better part of a decade, I have talked with many landlords and tenants alike. When I talk to the landlords, I hear about horror stories of terrible tenants. Conversely, when I speak to tenants, I hear about appalling landlords. I tend to take it with a grain of salt. The reason is that people tend to embellish the problems they have with other people. Likewise, they tend to try to make themselves look better than they are. If there is one piece of advice that I could offer you, it would be that he only way that you will be able to know the truth is to talk to both parties involved and somewhere in the middle the truth will be found. I, Mark Roemer, am going to share some ways that you can avoid bad landlords. After all, I am not just writing blogs that are directed towards landlords. I want to make sure that the rental community remains strong for years to come.

Much like there is no way to tell if the landlord will have a tenant that is not awful, there is no way for you to know if you are going to have a terrible landlord. Much like going to a job interview or meeting a date for the first time, you are not meeting the real person. You are merely meeting their representative. People like to make themselves out to be better than they are. So, when you meet the landlord for the first time, you will assume they are helpful, relaxed, fair, and easy to work with. That is what they want you to think. Before long, you will realize that they have no intentions on fixing things that need repairs, snooping on you over the fence, or digging through your trash so they can tell your next landlord. These are all things I have heard of landlords doing.

With around 65% of the population under the age of 35 renting, there is a need for landlords. The problem is that there are a few bad apples that ruin it for those of us that are respectful and honest. I am going to layout things that you can do if you have a bad landlord in the paragraphs below.

Search the Internet

Just as you would do before you meet for an online date or a job interview, make sure that you do your homework on the residence in question. Take any information that you have at your disposal and drop it into your favorite search engine. This can be anything from the name of the landlord, the property management company, or the address of the residence. Submit your query and see what pops up. Often, people that are wronged will make a post about their experience somewhere. A few of the more reliable sources are the Better Business Bureau, Apartment Ratings, Whose Your Landlord, Rate My Landlord, and Review Your Landlord. Of course, this is not a definitive list, but, in my opinion, some of the most reliable sites the internet has to offer.

It is crucial to keep in mind that the majority of the people that write these reviews have had a poor experience. You will likely be unable to find any information from people that loved the apartment. So, take what you read as a grain of salt. However, if you see a recurring theme in the complaints, you should probably steer clear if you can.

As a side note, know that you are legally allowed to ask for a background check on the landlord. While this may tell you if they have any criminal convictions, it will not tell you if they are a nosy person that likes to rummage through your trash or recycling bins.

Look at the Conditions of the Apartment

Under no circumstances should you ever rent an apartment without looking at it first. There can be some rare instances that you would, but as a general rule, this is terrible practice on your part. When you arrive at the apartment, you are going to want to make as many checks on things as you can. While you can turn on the water faucets and check the pressure, make sure all the lights and appliances are in working order, or look at the walls for imperfections, this is not going to tell you everything you are going to need to know. After all, you are likely going to be unable to know if the hot water cuts out after three minutes in the shower. You will be unable to tell if there is a strange smell coming from the sink every time you use the garbage disposal. Some things you will have to find out when you get there. However, it is your responsibility to make as many checks as possible before you hand over your deposit and sign on the dotted line.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

When you arrive at the property, before you go inside, make sure you look around the area. I have talked to a few tenants that didn’t notice there was a fire station just a few feet away from their apartment. They later found out that it was one of the busiest stations in the city. They would have sirens blaring at all times of the day and night. This was hard since they had a young child that was a shallow sleeper. They spent countless nights awake with the child after the sirens woke the kid in the middle of the night.

Other things that you should be attentive to are the proximity of any major roads and what the neighbors are like. Come back to the property when you are not with the landlord. Do this at different times of the day. See if the place is genuinely quiet or if the landlord was blowing smoke up your bum when they said it was a quiet neighborhood.


I, Mark Romer, hope that I have shared with you some exciting things to consider when you are looking for a new place. Remember, try to be as honest as possible with your prospective landlord. Just as much as you don’t like surprises, they don’t either.