Before you move in
Big Mistake #1. So you've signed the lease on your new apartment and you are ready to move in. You probably received a document called the pre-move in checklist. It allows you to document all the existing imperfections in the apartment, so that you don't get charged for them when you move out. In my experience, most people either do not fill this form out at all, or don't do a good enough job detailing the apartment condition. Big mistake! Moving day is usually hectic for most. You're trying to coordinate a lot of different activities at once. You just got done filling out multiple pages worth of leasing paperwork. Now we want you to do more paperwork? Well... yes. If it saves you a few hundred dollars at the time of move out, isn't it worth it?
After you move in
Within the lease paperwork there is usually a clause stating that you are responsible for notifying management when there is a maintenance issue. If you do not, you could be held financially responsible for the cost of the repairs. What what?? How can that be? Isn't it the landlord's responsibility to fix things that are broken? Yes it is, but, this clause exists so that a $5 problem does not become a $500 problem. Even if you've signed leases in the past you may not have remembered that this is in the lease. Why? Let's go back to moving day. Again, very hectic. You've got four friends waiting to help you move, and you have to get the moving truck back by 5 PM. You don't have time to read the entire lease and understand it, so you sign everything, get your keys, and go. In my experience, most people do not take the time to read and understand the lease (a legal contract by which you are bound). Big Mistake #2!
When you're ready to move out
Let's talk about Big Mistake #3! Not documenting the move out condition of the apartment. Every landlord will assess the condition of your apartment after you have left to see what needs to be done to put it back together and formulate any charges due. Digital cameras were quickly adopted in larger property management firms to document move out conditions. I say, you, as the resident, must do the exact same thing. If a dispute arises over move out charges, and God forbid it should go to court. The side with more tangible proof usually wins. So few people do this and they lose their leverage because of it. I want to take it one step further though, by telling you to take lots of detailed, close up, well lit photographs of your apartment. Why bother with all that cleaning and have no proof that you did it?