I’ve been around the renter’s block a few times in Beijing, as we’ve moved four times in the past five years. It seems like as soon as we get settled into a place, the landlord decides it is time to sell. So, here are my musings on some of the things to check when you think you have found the apartment of your dreams – and a few things to do once you move in.
Are the windows open when you walk in to check out your rental? Odds are, you are going to have sewage smells coming from the bathroom drains (sink, floor, shower, bathtub and possibly the toilets). Contractors and builders often leave out the u-joints in the plumbing to skimp on the job and pocket the cash. This results in noxious smells in bathrooms and some kitchens.
Visually inspect drains, along with a whiff test, and try to get the landlord to cover the cost of installing the missing plumbing. Odds are, they won’t unless your rent is north of RMB 20,000 a month and you will likely need a decent plumber like Mr. Wu, that we blogged about in 2011 here on how to cast out the plumbing demons.
Speaking of plumbing, test all the taps and flush each toilet a few times. Note leaks and show the landlord. They usually are unaware of the condition of the plumbing and are too busy showing you how nice the TV is.
Is the grout or caulk mildewed or otherwise stained? Try to get it addressed by the landlord. Unless they’re obviously new, soak the shower heads and faucet filters in white vinegar overnight to clean out all the mineral deposits and kill the legions of bacteria that are likely lurking inside. Your loved ones may not notice, but you will be glad you did.
Check that all the drawers and doors are in good working order. If the doors have locks, make sure the keys are provided so your kids don’t get locked in, or worse, the bathroom gets locked with no one inside.
Make sure all the windows and screens and the front door are in good shape. Management is usually responsible for fixing any related problems here.
Check all of the appliances to ensure they are in working order. Odds are the refrigerator will need to be cleaned and aired out to diminish old food smells.
It won’t always work, but you can ask that the landlord cover the cost of having the apartment thoroughly cleaned before you move in. This will make things easier on you and any domestic help that you might have.
Once you have the lease, pull all the air conditioner filters and vacuum them along with the back and underside of the refrigerator (you can pull the aluminum cover off the lower portion of the back of the fridge to access the fan underneath for cleaning). There is a good chance this has never been done and it should reduce your electric bill by helping the appliances run better. You may also need to clean out shower drains or washing machine drains as there is likely to be a lot of old hair down there.
Finally, kick back and relax on the sofa – but don’t be afraid to take in the covers (along with the curtains) and have them cleaned by the local laundry/dry cleaner. They will know if simple washing or dry cleaning will suffice. Once you have the place in tip-top shape, enjoy your new home. Just don’t be surprised if the landlord decides to sell it out from under you.
Photo courtesy of securecat (Flickr)