Unfortunately, a lot of the renters in Norristown are low-income, so if an offer comes their way that will save a bundle of money, they'll take it. But the repayment bad landlords or property managers expect is always in the tenant's worst interests. If someone is storing furniture for you free of charge, you can't complain much if they don't fix things around the house. If someone offers to help you move in or out, you can't complain if the apartment isn't ready or if they tell you with no notice that you have to leave 2 weeks sooner. Better to seek favors from people you WANT to do favors for in return.
Over the weekend, I heard of 2 other incidents, both in Montgomery County (one in Norristown)--two different landlords. In both cases, the renter went to look at a rental property, liked it, signed the lease and wrote a check for 1st and last month's rent. What they both failed to do was get a copy of the lease, signed by the landlord, before their move-in date.
When they arrived at their new apartment/house with all their stuff, the places weren't ready for occupancy yet. Despite the fact that both landlords had agreed verbally to the move-in date, they both claimed that they hadn't signed the lease yet or cashed the checks, so they weren't legally bound to have the properties ready. The tenants couldn't move in.
In the one case in southern Montgomery County, the renter at least had someone she could stay with for a week until the apartment was ready. In the other case, the person had no where to stay and was forced to get a motel room. She's on a low, fixed income and can't afford a long stay, but the landlord has no urgent incentive to work faster, other than the loss of a few weeks rent, which doesn't seem to faze him. Neither of these landlords had qualms about making someone homeless.
In at least one of these cases, a real estate agent was involved, and she was responsible for getting the lease signed by both parties. She allowed the landlord to put her off so the lease was never signed. But she DID give him the check, and both renter and agent assumed he'd cash it promptly. The landlord had listed the property on the market, which he shouldn't have done if it wasn't ready for occupancy.
So, if you're looking for a rental property, if you want to go through a real estate agent, you might do better to use a realtor. Pretty much anyone can call themselves "real estate agents" and may not have much training. "Realtors" are regulated by the National Association of Realtors, and usually have more training and know the business better. Whether you use an agent or not, make sure you get a copy of the lease, signed by the landlord, within a week of signing it yourself, and long before your move-in date. And frankly, I would insist on having that signed copy BEFORE I write the check.