Before renting a property, it is imperative to make sure that it is free from any health hazards and won’t compromise your and your family’s safety. The Balance notes that every landlord is legally mandated to maintain their rental unit for safety. However, you can not always be sure that a landlord is committed to ensuring the safety of a property. As a renter, it is important to do your due diligence and confirm for yourself whether a rental property is the same as advertised as well as up to current health standards.

Along those lines, we’ve listed five “safety” red flags to watch out for when scoping out your rental property.

Light Bulbs and Sockets Aren’t Working ⁠

When visiting a rental property, the first thing to check is whether the light bulbs, light switches, and electrical sockets are working. If the sockets aren’t working or if the light bulbs are burnt out, this could be indicative of the landlord’s overall neglect for safety. Replacing a broken light bulb and fixing a malfunctioning socket are small, simple tasks that any responsible landlord wouldn’t miss. Another cause for malfunctioning lights could be an underlying problem with the unit’s electrical system, which could definitely present a safety hazard.

Strange Odors

As you walk around a potential property, be sure to take note of any foul or unusual odors that you might encounter. Some of the most common sources of bad-smelling odors around the home include cigarette smoke, pets, sweat, and garbage. A foul-smelling unit illustrates that a landlord hasn’t taken proper care of a property. If a landlord did not even bother to clean thoroughly before bringing in a potential tenant for viewing, how could they be expected to respond to tenant needs in a reasonable manner?  While most odors are remediable through intensive cleaning, some distinct smells like mold, mildew, and dead animals are much harder to get rid of. If you smell a gas leak, HomeServe warns that this could be due to poorly maintained or faulty appliances, or even because of issues with the gas pipework or gas meter itself. Problems such as these could potentially be fatal and might even lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Not only should you always avoid properties that smell of gas leaks, but be sure to report them to authorities too, if needed.

Stained or Rusty Fixtures

Another sign that a rental property is neglected is if you notice that fixtures are stained or rusty. Make  sure to carefully examine the fixtures in the kitchen, bathroom, and garage and check whether or not they are well-maintained. Stained fixtures are not just unsightly, but rusty metal fixtures could also be a source of nasty bacterial infections. It is even more discouraging to consider that it is not at all difficult to clean or replace a property’s fixtures. If a landlord can’t be bothered to fix or maintain stained or rusty fixtures, it is a clear red flag that the landlord doesn’t care much for hygiene.

Discolored Ceilings

Yellowish or brown stains on the ceiling are a sign that the rental property has endured water damage. Common causes of these stains are burst pipes, leaky appliances, roof leaks, an overflowing toilet, or a leaking bathtub. If you notice that a ceiling is sagging in a potential rental, it’s best to turn your back and immediately walk away from that property. Saggy or collapsing ceilings are signs of a severe water leak and the only solution is to replace the entire ceiling. You absolutely do not want to rent a property with a ceiling that could potentially collapse while you’re inside.

Evidence of Pests

Another reason why it is necessary  to thoroughly investigate a property and check all the closets, drawers, and other nooks and crannies is that you don’t want to find creepy-crawlies and other unwanted inhabitants. Mouse droppings, spider webs, termite pellets, and ants are indicative that the property is already occupied by other pesky tenants. If you notice any of these things, be sure to raise the problem with the landlord. If the landlord doesn’t have a plan to address the pest issues, it’s best to cross the property off your list.

Hunting for the right property isn’t easy and can be time consuming, so it can be very tempting to bypass or skim over our tips due to wanting to settle on a place quickly. However, even the most seemingly perfect home could potentially be hiding something undesirable or even hazardous, and it’s up to you as a responsible renter to find these things out before committing to a rental.

Once you’ve settled on a place, or if you are a current renter planning to ask your landlord to repair any issues that may be present in a rental property, please head over to our blog post entitled ‘What Should You Legally Include in a Maintenance Request?’ for some additional advice.

Riva Jordan is a budding interior designer and blogger. She’s always had an interest in design and the role it plays in people’s lives. She has been working in the industry for nearly a year, while also working on a design and lifetsyle blog that will help people create the space of their dreams.