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Selecting an Apartment|Landlord/Tenant - Students' Attorney Program - ASUW

Lists of Available Housing
The most commonly consulted sources for available housing in Laramie are:

Laramie Daily Boomerang newspaper
Classified ads section
320 Grand Avenue
742-8153

The Branding Iron newspaper
Distributed on the UW campus and other Laramie locations

UW Residence Life and Dining Services
Washakie Center (lower level)

Laramie Chamber of Commerce
800 South Third Street
745-7339

The notice bulletin boards in the Wyoming Union and other locations on campus.

Laramie real estate agents - Consult the yellow pages

After selecting apartments that meet your needs, contact the landlords to be sure which ones are still available.

Inspection
A careful inspection of the apartment not only makes sense, it is an important responsibility of a prospective tenant. Failure to conduct such an inspection may result in a waiver of rights to complain later about defects that could have been discovered upon reasonable inspection.

Inspection should include:

  • Doors and windows: Be certain that all locks and latches operate properly; that interior locks can be opened without any special knowledge of keys; that windows allow proper ventilation and safe egress during an emergency (that windows are not painted shut); that code compliant means of egress are available; and that secondary means of egress are available (especially in basement units).
  • Building systems in general: Ask if the landlord can provide documentation of recent inspections by licensed contractors.
  • Plumbing system: Check the operation of all faucets, fixtures, drains, and associated plumbing for leaks, corrosion, and other damage; and request that the landlord agree in writing to the proper repair of any defect before you agree to sign a lease and begin occupancy.
  • Electrical system: Check for obvious damage to fixtures, outlet receptacles, switches, lighting fixtures, switch and outlet plate covers, fuse boxes or circuit breaker panels; if the fuse boxes or circuit breaker panels cannot be immediately located, ask where they are and evaluate their condition; look for taped breakers or evidence of overheating or arcing; feel the box or panel to determine the normal operating temperature (a warm or hot box or panel may indicate a possible overloading condition); determine if the number of available circuits and outlets are adequate to serve your needs; check for extension cord usage and cords or wiring running through doors, walls, windows, under carpet and for improper wiring methods; if electrical system defects are found, request that the landlord agree in writing to install new permanent wiring and that the work be done by a licensed contractor before you agree to sign a lease and begin occupancy.
  • Heating System: Check for proper operation and function of all system components including clearance to combustibles and proper workmanship; check the condition of the furnace filters (if forced air system) and the exterior vent outlets; check the condition of the appliance venting system; determine if the vent(s) are intact and properly secured; look for evidence of corrosion or soot; check the operation and condition of the water heater and venting if gas fired; check the condition and for the safe installation of solid fuel burning appliances or fireplaces and the condition of their venting systems; and ask the landlord for documentation of any recent cleanings and safety inspections.
  • Life and safety systems: Check for working smoke detectors and insist, at a minimum, that detectors be present near the sleeping areas; ask about the age and condition of the installed detectors; if the detectors are painted, more than ten years old, or documentation is not available, insist that new devices be installed; make certain that if the detectors are electrically interconnected they all function when any one is activated; inquire as to who is responsible for smoke detector maintenance and battery replacement; check to see that a fire extinguisher is present in the unit; if an extinguisher is present, make certain it is rated a minimum of 2A10BC (information will be found on the rating label) and that it was inspected within the last year based upon the dates punched on the attached tag; if no extinguisher is present in the unit, make certain one is available within 75 feet of travel distance outside the apartment unit; check to see if that extinguisher's pressure gauge indicates that it has pressure and if it is serviceable; and check to see if a carbon monoxide detector is present in the unit and determine its age and condition.
  • Appliances: Check for proper operation and function of all appliances; check if all cords and appliance systems are in good repair with no visible damage; check to determine if there is any grease buildup and whether any appliances are operated off an extension cord; check the flame heights on gas appliances and whether the flame is adjusted properly (blue color without any evidence of sooting); and check under and in back of all appliances for cleanliness and any possible damage.
  • Walls and ceilings: Check to see if all are intact so that fire and smoke cannot spread; and make certain wall surface materials are not highly combustible.
  • Room and closet space: Make sure that the space available in the unit is adequate for your needs.
  • Other: Check the flooring and carpets, if any, for defects and cleanliness; and make certain the bathroom tiles and fixtures are not defective in any way.

Certain conditions within the apartment can and should put the prospective tenant on notice to inquire further. For example, water stains on a ceiling may be evidence of a leak in the roof and loose tiles and grouting around the bath or sink may be evidence of water seepage.

Any defects should be brought to the attention of the landlord, and an agreement for him to repair the defect should be made in writing prior to renting.

Inquiry
Asking the landlord questions about the apartment is another important step in selecting an apartment. Questions often overlooked, but which can become serious contentions later on include:

  • The availability of parking
  • The costs of utilities
  • Ask to see previous bills and about deposits for having meters changed
  • The availability of a vacuum cleaner and laundry facilities
  • Damage deposits and refunds
  • Trash removal
  • Any rules and regulations concerning the unit
  • Who will make ordinary repairs

An even more valuable source of information can be other tenants and resident managers. Often an agreement is only as good as the person who signs it. Inquire about:

  • Whether the landlord makes repairs promptly
  • The landlord's promptness in refunding deposits
  • Any unnecessary interference from the landlord

Making a Checklist
If after diligent inspection and inquiry you decide to rent, obtain a copy of the lease and any rules or regulations and study them carefully. The Students' Attorney is available to review them with you and to discuss not only what they say, but what they don't say-which can be just as important.

On the day you move into your apartment, and with the landlord present, make a duplicate checklist of any damaged furniture or appliances and any other defective conditions, and both you and the landlord should sign each of the checklists. If the landlord refuses to sign the checklists, make a list anyway in the presence of a witness and send a copy of the list to the landlord by certified or registered mail. Always retain one of the duplicate lists for your own files. This checklist may be the only evidence you will have if a dispute over damages later arises.

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