• We are delighted to introduce GiftBot 2.0, the next generation of our popular gifting feature. To celebrate, we'll be giving away some incredible prizes over the coming weeks in one big Giveaway Extravaganza!

Never rented an apartment in an old building. What should I look out for?

Oct 28, 2017
I found an apartment in an area I targeted at a price I didn’t expect to find. Only thing is that it’s a much older building that isn’t renovated. What kind of things should I look out for it? I’ve already put my application in and have been approved. I am pretty locked on taking it, but I have 72 hours to cancel. Figured I should ask what others have experienced and how to look out for lemons in this situation. The building was built in 1951.

The floors are kinda noises, but it isn’t terrible. That’s the only significant thing I noticed right off the bat.

Edit, this apartment is in California, Bay Area. Feels like they are serious with dangerous substances. Should that give me any assurances that there’s no lead paint or asbestos?
Last edited:

Admiral Woofington

The Fallen
Oct 25, 2017
make sure there are no cats hidden in the walls. If there are, you must make a hole and send another cat to guide the cat out.


Oct 25, 2017
Find out if that unit had a history of bed bugs. Its very easy to get them in old buildings and a pain in the ass to get rid of them since its super easy for them to travel between units.


May 3, 2019
Electrical outlets will be a pain. Not so much their function, but where they're located. A lot of older buildings were kind of awkwardly divvied up into separate apartments, and outlets are placed in all kinds of weird spots, but never where you'd want them. My bedroom only has one outlet and its far across the room from the only logical place a bed can be. Also some rooms may not have built in light fixtures, my living room doesn't so we just had to buy a bunch of lamps and get smartbulbs to control them conveniently.


Oct 27, 2017
Take note of the electrical layout. Lots of old buildings had outlets and lights added over the years at different times. You can end up having unexpected outlets controlled by a switch, or find there are large areas where you'd have to get creative with plugging stuff in.

Also make sure there isn't any wacky utility situations if it's a converted multi-tenant home. My friend rented an old apartment for school up in Worcester, the entire 5 apt building had its heat controlled by one unit.


Oct 27, 2017
I added to the OP that it was built in 1951.
Ehhh that's not too old. If it was built with electrical wiring its not going to be too eccentric. For lead I'm pretty sure the landlord isn't required to remove it, but has to notify you about the potential dangers if it's there and they know about it. I don't think California forces landlords to conduct lead testing though. For asbestos they don't have to notify you


Oct 27, 2017
I live in a catholic school that was abandoned and then patched up by my landlady. The building is from the 1860s and most of the floors and walls are still from that time. As long as there is no structural damage its fine living in an old place.


Oct 27, 2017
If you're just renting, I don't think there's all THAT much that you need to take into consideration. Buying it would be a whole other deal, but when renting, I mostly just make sure everything works as they should (fridges, heating coils, faucets, insulations etc.) and I make sure to photograph every possible fault & broken things in walls, possible electronics, sockets etc. before moving in and sending those to the landlord ASAP with a "these faults & broken things were here already when I moved in so they are not my responsibility to (pay to) fix" message attached to it.


The Fallen
Oct 27, 2017
1) Ceiling. You might think a ceiling is a luxury item for the weak willed and hard hearted but for many they have become essential to comfortable living. If you look up and see nothing then alarm bells should ring. No ceiling - no deal.

2) Doors. Can you get in? Can you get out? If either answer is 'no, not really' then you know you're barking up the wrong tree. Leave immediately and don't look back.

3) Windows. Is there natural sunlight? Is there unnatural sunlight? Is there sky? If not then simple walk away with a look of utter disgust on your flushed face.

4) Floors. Every floor is a ceiling, but not every ceiling is a floor and not every floor is a ceiling, or a floor. Be vigilant and sure that you're not being hoodwinked. If the floor is missing hot foot it in the opposite direction screaming blue murder.

5) Walls. Once perceived as namby-pamby walls are quickly becoming all the rage with jetsetters, hipsters and the alcoholic community alike. It's never been a better time to be a wall or to own one or more. Walls are the balls so ensure their presence immediately or bow out of the deal.

6) Crysis. Can it run Crysis? Many modern properties are Crysis Ready but older apartments constructed before CryEngine may struggle or even fail to run it. Check with your potential neighbours first and make sure they're having no problems. If they are then maybe this is not the abode you should be looking at.

A final note, keep your eyes open for ghosts, ghouls, poltergeists or other spooky apparitions as their presence may help you when negotiating rent. Good luck.

Corran Horn

Oct 25, 2017
Electrical and internet for myself lol. Be surprised how many old buildings/apartments got horrible internet cuz they never updated the wiring.


Jan 13, 2018
Los Angeles
Some older buildings don't allow air conditioner units (the type you have in a window). Not sure if that's because of older wiring that can't handle the load, or maybe concerns about it falling out from 6 stories up. Anyways, if you are the type who needs air-con, check if you can have one. (unless it already comes with central air, anyway).


Oct 25, 2017
Dead bodies should be a deal breaker, unless you live in San Francisco in which case you will welcome the opportunity to not be making 80k a year and yet still be a paycheck from homelessness.

In all honesty, lead paint and suitable electricity should be your main concerns.


Oct 25, 2017
51? That ain't that old just make sure they got good internet everything else takes care of itself.


The Fallen
Oct 26, 2017
Check the windows for drafts.

Take a look at the circuit breaker panel (usually in a closet) and where any telephone / ethernet / coax lines terminate. On another forum, someone posted a pic of their apartment's wiring closet where all the wires and patch panels were painted over in layers of paint.

I flushed the toilets when I visited and checked the various faucets/showers. Any other ways to test it?
In the kitchen and bathroom(s), look under the cabinets for leaks when the water is running and for any water damage that may have been painted / plastered over. The supply line for a toilet can also leak. Look for mold.


Oct 29, 2017
I live in an old historical building in europe, and it's absolutely gorgeous, however, the electrical wiring is so old and busted that the electricity company wants to shut it off until it's fully replaced because they think it's too risky to keep it on.

people mentioning the internet - good shout, but if its coaxial or fiber, it should be fine, the only internet really affected by old wires is copper based phone line internet (dsl). Personally have 1 gbit available here.


Oct 25, 2017
I used to live in a circa 1920’s building. My unit was just above the boiler room, so it was almost always warm, even in the dead of winter. Even with (as you’ll see below) my radiators shut completely off.

Being above the boiler room also meant my radiator would knock like fucking crazy. It took over a year to resolve that and I lost a lot of sleep in the process, because it would sound like someone swinging a fucking hammer on pipes in my room.

Flip side is my unit was one of the few that actually had hot water.

Rats were also a fairly consistent problem. Old building means lots of secret entrances bourne out over the decades.

Never had many electrical or internet issues like others seem to have had, and everything had fresh coats of paint so lead wasn’t a concern, however during hot summers when everyone was using their wall unit AC’s, the circuit breakers building-wide would often get flipped. Small building with utilities included, so I think we all shared the same circuits.
Last edited:


Oct 27, 2017
- Mold
- Lead
- Electrical circuit
- Plumbing
- Isolation
- Ask neighbours how much they pay for heating during winter. This can add up significantly over the years.
Oct 27, 2017
My building is from 1928. There have been many renovations, so it's fine. My apartment, however, has not been wholly renovated in a long time, so it gets really cold in winter, has shit doors, the windows are probably from 1928, the oven is from the 1970s, and everything is kinda patched on. No air conditioning, so in summer it's at 30°C day and night. Thankfully, I leave town in summer.

The building itself is fine however, other neighbors have had their apartments renovated and the services from the building itself (Water, gas, internet, electricity) leave nothing to be desired.


The Fallen
Oct 27, 2017
Living in an old apartment my main point would be isolation. It's perfectly renovated and everything, got no problems with anything except for the temperature. It can get very cold in the winter and extremely warm in summer.

I absolutely love my place, these shifts in temperature can be dreadful. If the summer was as bad as it was last year I probably would've moved.


Oct 29, 2017
Planning laws were never the best back in the day and they knock structures up wherever without a thought for historical and cultiral signifcance. Ensure that the where you're moving wasn't erected on an old Indian burial ground. Trust me, it never ends well...



Nov 9, 2017
1950's isn't old. Last year I looked at an apartment in the attic of a house built in the 13th century. Had a creepy vibe and the creakiest floors ever so I didn't go for it.


Dec 18, 2017
1950's isn't old. Last year I looked at an apartment in the attic of a house built in the 13th century. Had a creepy vibe and the creakiest floors ever so I didn't go for it.
1950s is ancient when you're renting an apartment. Engineering has advanced lightyears since then. Most apartments don't hold up that well over time and usually aren't built well in the first place.

- plumbing, as people have already mentioned
- window/environmental sealing
- outlets and electrical wiring
- air conditioning
- appliance age
- elevators

Those are the main things I like at when I find a new apartment. What to check specifically? I dunno. You have to use common sense. See how much noise comes from the windows. Put your hand near the windows and see if you feel a draft or look and see how much dirt/bugs/water has come from outside.

Having lived in apartments all my life, I prefer to move into places built recently with new appliances. Old places are too much of a hassle.