Many of us are caught in limbo as we wait to buy our first home. Whether we are caught because of a bad housing market or because of a bad balance in our savings account, we are caught just the same. Torn between a mortgage and living with the parents, we decide to rent an apartment. It's not exactly ownership but, for the time being, it'll do.

With no lawn to water, no walk to shovel, and a gym on the premises, there are some advantages to apartment life. However, like most things, the positives are accompanied by a handful of negatives. Many of us, with no experience to serve as a guide, learn the hard way that these negatives usually involve what your landlord won't tell you. Or, at least, what your landlord will only tell you in the subtlest means possible.

The Pipes are Old and Your Water Might be a Little Brown: Last time I checked, rust wasn't part of the food pyramid. Still, some apartments, particularly those with very outdated buildings, have their original water pipes, making it clear that your water will be anything but. If you notice brown colored liquid pouring from your faucet, ask your landlord or leasing office about it. As their resident, you shouldn't have to drink potentially unhealthy H20.

Twenty-four Hour Maintenance Really Means "Leave a Voicemail and we'll get to it in a few days": I lived in a building once where 24 hour maintenance was practically the slogan of the leasing office. They sold the idea to future residents, letting them know that if they needed anything, maintenance was only a phone call away. There was, however, one problem: in order to contact maintenance, you had to call the leasing office, an office open only from 9-5 on the weekdays and 12-5 on weekends. Having the office provide you with a direct line to maintenance wasn't, as they put it, "allowed."

You Might Not Get Your Deposit Back, Even if you Deserve it: These days, deposits for apartments are ridiculous. Ranging from a couple hundred dollars to the first month's rent, the amount of money you are forced to fork out hardly seems to be in relation to the amount of damage you will cause. Unless you are planning on throwing a ton of raging parties, or you are giving up cleaning for a year, you probably plan to see at least part of your deposit when your lease is up. Well, don't count on it. Some apartments not only deduct for damage you've caused, but they deduct for changes they want to make. Their decision to recarpet your unit may have nothing to do with you, but that doesn't mean you won't foot the bill.

Even if Your Lease is Up, You have to Give Notice in Writing: If you signed a lease for a year, you expect to be contractually liberated in twelve months. Sometimes this is true, but sometimes your freedom isn't automatic: you have to give notice to vacate in writing at least a month prior to your departure. It seems a tad redundant - after all, your signing a lease for just a year kind of hints that you plan to stay just a year - but some apartment complexes enforce the "in writing" rule, hoping that people will forget, fall through the cracks and back into their complex.

Not all apartment complexes are out to get you or rip you off. Some are genuinely interested in giving you a nice place to live and don't hide any of the abovementioned items. Still, signing an apartment lease, or a contract of any sort, requires vigilance on your part. Know what you're getting into, so you know how to get out.