Moving into a brand-new townhouse (renting). What should I know?
February 10, 2015 10:04 AM   Subscribe

I'm moving in on Saturday. I've lived in dorms or apartments since leaving for college. It's a brand-new townhouse, built last year, owner has never moved in and we'll be the first renters. What sort of new-house things should I know? Bonus: How do I make sure the local flying dinosaur cockroaches don't move in too? I've always had a trash chute!
posted by anthropomorphic to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You take the trash out of the house every night. There will be a can, it should not be house adjacent, but a bit away. Make sure it makes it out to the curb on trash days.

You may want to check the HVAC filter, it might need a change. I change mine every 30 days.

You want to find out about bug spraying. In Florida I had the house sprayed monthly. This should run you about $30 per month.

If you have ceiling fans, make sure they're going in the right direction, you change them for hot/cold weather.

Check and make sure that everything's working. Appliances, HVAC, etc.

Find out where the plumbing clean out is. During construction all kinds of construction materials get flushed into the plumbing. I had a clog of rags, drywall mud, and other stuff. I could open the clean out and get the stuff to come out on the lawn, so bath water didn't sit in the house. You'll need a channel wrench to open it, but that's a good thing to have anyway.

Other than that, you should be okay.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:15 AM on February 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

Taking the trash out of the house every night will help, but isn't strictly necessary - I don't do a daily trash run, and I've also not had a roach problem in the 7 years I've been in my own current place. (I saw ONE waterbug once - ONCE - in 7 years' time, which the exterminator who regularly came to my building said had probably only come in to escape the cold, and was NOT a sign of a larger infestation lurking in the building.)

And about that exterminator - since you're renting, see if your landlord has a regularly-scheduled visit from an exterminator. I rent too, and we have a guy come by every month offering to spray repellent in the kitchen, or whereever we've seen any bugs. Nine times out of ten I waive the offer because I just plain don't ever see anything.

Other than that - the biggest thing you can do is avoid leaving food or crumbs out. If you don't leave half-eaten sandwiches at your desk over night or anything, the roaches won't have anything to eat, and they won't be interested.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:37 AM on February 10, 2015

Best answer: New construction is sometimes missing a few things that you take for granted when a place has already been lived in, you might want to check these and work out a deal with the landlord for who pays and installs:

-coat hooks/hangars
-towel racks in bathrooms
-shelving in closets/pantry
-shower curtain
-window blinds/shades (temporary paper ones can work since these can be expensive)
-hookup of cable/phone/internet wiring from the provider's demarcation point (possibly outside or in a shared entry space) to the jacks in the rooms where service is wanted

Also, new appliances like ovens will often need to be run for a bit to burn off the new plastic/oil/whatever smell before you use them.
posted by frontmn23 at 10:37 AM on February 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

FWIW the OP is in Texas, where I believe the local dinosaur roaches are palmetto bugs of a somewhat different variety than NYC roaches. OP you will specifically want to keep everything quite dry and maybe use a regular barrier spray for those dudes.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:40 AM on February 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Most of these are things you probably won't ever need, but worth taking precautions for:

A bigger living space means it makes even more sense to take the advice you learned on fire safety day in elementary school: make a fire safety plan and review it with whoever you live with. (Where are the fire extinguishers? How will you exit the house in the event of a fire and where will you meet up if separated?) It only takes five minutes.

Know where the circuit breaker panel is. You might never need it but if it's hidden away out of sight somewhere you don't want to have to be stumbling around in the dark trying to find it if you ever trip a breaker in the middle of the night. (By the way, does everyone know where a flashlight is?)

Know where the water and gas (if you have it) shut-off valves are, again you'll probably never need them but won't want to be looking during an emergency.

Check if the smoke/carbon monoxide alarms actually have batteries put in (assuming they're not hardwired, although sometimes even those need a backup battery too).

Assuming you are in Texas radon is probably not a problem, but if you have an underground space you use a lot it might be worth periodically checking the radon level with one of those $10 test kits you can get at the hardware store. Especially since new construction generally has better air sealing, making radon a slightly bigger concern.

New construction can sometimes get a few little cracks in the wall as the foundation settles, usually in the basement. This isn't a big deal, but as a precaution you can stick a bit of masking tape with the date written on it across the end of the crack. Check back in a few months, if the crack has grown past where you've taped it you might want to follow-up on that, though that's really a job for your landlord.
posted by Wretch729 at 11:18 AM on February 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yeah, in Texas you just do your best with roaches. Get rid of your moving boxes immediately (they like to lay eggs in the corrugation), keep stuff dry (and let the landlord know if the sprinklers are making soggy places near entrances), use barrier spray, and understand that they are tougher than you and they outnumber you and sometimes one is going to get inside.

Find out where the water shut-off is (it's probably in the ground near the curb in a green or black hard plastic box) and get a shut-off tool (any hardware store - you can take a picture of the shut-off and they'll help you get the right tool) to keep in the garage. Toilets have shut-off valves, and most sinks do too, but if a pipe breaks or you have some sort of horrible shower catastrophe, you'll want a way to cut off the main.

I always see responses here to questions like this that make some pretty far-stretching assumptions about landlords, like that they have any money or want to negotiate your roommate/neighbor problems or are going to buy you shower curtains and hangers, and you may want to clarify up front exactly what sort of things your landlord will actually address or specifically wants you to let them handle, with the understanding that pretty much everything else = your problem. It is very unlikely they're going to come plunge your toilet because of a poop issue, but they probably don't want you snaking it yourself if there's a hairbrush down it.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:56 AM on February 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

Lyn Never's third paragraph advice is great, but conversely, don't make any permanent changes to the property without getting your landlord's approval and determining who will pay. E.g. painting; some landlords allow you to repaint if you restore the original paint color when you leave, with the tenant bearing the costs. Some are happy to have improvements to the property (the lease usually says that the landlord doesn't have to pay for those); others want it left as is. Check on local landlord-tenant law. And whatever you do to the property, don't make any difficult-to-reverse modifications or undertake any repairs without checking with your landlord, unless it's truly an emergency (e.g. the situation I had in a rental in Paris a few years ago where the water feed line sprung a leak outside the shutoff valve for the apartment, on a Friday evening of course, and I had to call an emergency plumber).
posted by brianogilvie at 4:06 PM on February 10, 2015

I'd consider renters insurance if you don't have any already or figure out exactly what the arrangement with the landlord is. Sure, a broken drainpipe might get fixed eventually, but who will pay for the emergency work or damaged property?

A townhouse is higher stakes than a dorm or an apartment with a manager, with more things that might go wrong. Also, stuff breaks on a bathtub curve model (if something is going to fail, it's more likely to fail right away or at the end of life at a much later date).

As for taking out the trash every day; I have "dry trash" and "wet trash." Dry trash (and recycling) go into bins under the counter. For wet trash I cut the head off a 1.67L plastic bleach jug (or similar sized vessel) and save clear plastic produce bags (you know, those rolls at the grocery where you rip one off - might even encourage you to buy more kinds of different produce) to line it with. Check for air-tightness first, though (blow open, twist top, squeeze). After cleaning up after dinner, tie it off and leave it by the door and trash it on your way out next time.
posted by porpoise at 7:29 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

« Older Is this relationship worth pursuing?   |   Philadelphia weekend ideas that are easy on the... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.