Safety Checklist: What to Check Before You Rent a House or Apartment

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 The world is a dangerous place, and we’re not just talking about walking the streets at night, there are many dangers which can be hidden in your home, the very place where you’re supposed to be safe. Whenever you’re searching for a new home, whether you’re renting or buying, you do need to do a few checks to make sure that your dream home isn’t going to affect the health of you or your family. Check out that none of these environmental health hazards are lurking for starters, and avoid having to make a claim on your renters insurance.

Asbestos – now then, before we knew what we know now, asbestos was used in loads of buildings, well, before around 1980 it was anyway, so if you’re looking to rent a home in a building which pre-dates 1980 beware and ask the landlord if there has been any asbestos inspection.  Exposure to asbestos has been linked to many fatal diseases including asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma and laryngeal cancer.  Just because the asbestos is there it isn’t necessarily a health hazard, but if it gets damaged and opens up the possibility of the pores getting into the air where you can breathe them in you could be in big trouble. If there is any damaged asbestos it must be either removed or repaired before the place is occupied. Be aware, be safe.

Lead was used in loads of old buildings too, before we became aware of just how dangerous it can be. It can be inhaled, ingested and even absorbed through your skin, so there’s really no escaping from it. It is particularly dangerous to young children as lead poisoning can cause learning difficulties, retardation, even death – yes my friend, it’s that serious.  Tons of lead paint was used before 1980, and this can be really dangerous if it’s still present in your home, especially if it is chipped or flaking. Ask whether any old paintwork has been tested for lead, just to be on the safe side.

Mold used to just look unsightly, before we realized just how dangerous the spores can be. It doesn’t matter whether you’re young or old, mold can be really dangerous, especially if you suffer from asthma, allergies or other respiratory ailments. Whereas most molds might just cause your eyes to water or a stuffy nose, in much more severe cases it has actually attributed to brain damage. Now then, most homes have a little mold somewhere, maybe in the corner of the bathroom for example, but there are different types of mold. When you’re first looking around a prospective rental home use your nose as much as your eyes, if you get a musty whiff then there’s a mold problem. If there is mold is must be cleaned thoroughly and the source of the mold (ie the damp problems) dealt with.

Radon might not be so well known as mold, lead or asbestos but can be equally as dangerous, in fact, after smoking and exposure to asbestos, radon is the leading known cause of lung cancer. You need to be particularly aware of the dangers of radon if you are renting a basement apartment or if your apartment has a basement. Radon is very secretive, you can’t see it, you can’t smell it but if it’s there you are in grave danger. Have it checked out before moving in.

Carbon Monoxide is another deadly killer which can be lurking in your home. Any gas heating appliances, for example, need to be checked as they can potentially leak out lethal levels of Carbon Monoxide if they are broken or not regularly maintained. It’s a good idea to have a Carbon Monoxide detector in your home in any case, just to be on the safe side. You might find that having a CO detector lowers your renters insurance premium too, it’s well worth checking, you can be safe and save money at the same time.


Door Security – the easiest way to get into an apartment is through the door, right, so you need to be sure that the door is not only secure but that you can see through it somehow, either via a window or a peephole. You need to think about door keys too, after all, many apartments will have seen lots of tenants come and go over the years and they’ll all have needed a key. Check with the landlord about who might have a key or how often the locks have been changed, it’s a good idea to insist that the locks are changed before you move in so that former tenants (who you have no idea about) can’t come a calling if they feel like it.

Lighting – make sure that all hallways and stairways are well lit, which stops people of dubious motives from being able to hide in the shadows for starters. You need to feel safe and secure in all aspects of your new home.

Access and Building Security – is another thing which is out of your control but can make a big difference to your safety. Are there any surveillance cameras or other deterrents in the grounds, what about security personnel. You don’t want to think that just anybody is free to go wandering about outside your window do you?

Neighbors – are a vital part of your security, that’s why neighborhood watch schemes have been so popular. There’s nobody quite as likely to spot something suspicious as a nosey neighbor so make a point to get to know them, if you watch out for them they’ll be sure to watch out for you.

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