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What Is an Apartment Inspection?

June 1, 2022

If you're getting ready to move out, or your landlord wants to come by to check in on the property, you'll likely need an apartment inspection. Learn more about what to expect, what to watch out for, and how to pass with flying colors.

What Is an Apartment Inspection?

An apartment inspection is routine and shouldn’t cause alarm. The inspection serves as a standard check-in by your landlord or property management to ensure everything is in good condition.

How Much Notice Should You Get?

Your landlord should give 24 to 48 hours for an apartment inspection. Some landlords will provide a week to prepare. If you're worried about time to prepare, you can ask for more notice, but they're not necessarily obligated to do so and could decline.

Some states require “reasonable notice” for landlords to give tenants, which is open to interpretation. For example, California law does not permit random apartment checks with or without proper notice to tenants. Instead, they only allow inspections during an emergency or when the apartment is abandoned to make repairs or show the apartment to new renters.

It's best practice for the landlord to supply information about the apartment inspection in writing. It should state the date and time the inspection will occur and include the reason for entering the premises. Depending on your state, the landlord may also give notice that the inspection will take place with or without your presence.

What Your Landlord Looks for During an Apartment Inspection

During a basic apartment inspection, the landlord might check under the sinks, replace any filters, look for damage, and check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. The landlord may also look for cracks in the walls and ceilings, mold, water leaks, and lease violations. For example, the landlord will note if you painted your apartment pink, even though your lease stipulates that you were required to get permission first for any colors other than white or beige.

If your landlord is entering your apartment for a specific purpose, such as water leaks, they may only focus on the kitchen or bathroom. However, it's also possible that the landlord received complaints from neighbors about cigarettes in and around your premises. In this case, they may be looking for evidence that you've breached your lease by smoking.

Preparing for an Apartment Inspection

It's not required for tenants to prepare for an apartment inspection, but there are plenty of reasons you should. For starters, it helps keep a positive relationship going with your landlord. Preparing your place is also essential if you're concerned about promptly renewing your lease or getting your security deposit back.

Inside

If you're moving out, you may need to spackle and paint over any holes in the walls, clean the carpets, and get everything in working order. For example, if your fridge door is broken and you caused the damage, you should have it fixed before your inspection.

It's also good to do a deep clean in key areas, like the bathroom. Ensure it's free of mold or mildew that could pose a concern during your apartment inspection.

Leaving pets at a friend's or neighbor's during the inspection isn't necessary but could be helpful. They could distract your landlord from their visit or accidentally alert them to an issue, like a baseboard they chewed.

Here’s an indoor list of what to clean, repair, and ensure is in working order before your apartment inspection.

  • Walls and ceilings
  • Doors and locks
  • Plumbing leaks
  • Clean carpet and floors
  • Blinds or window treatments (that came with the rental)
  • Smoke detector batteries (if tenant is required to change them)
  • Fire extinguishers are available and functional
  • Appliances in good condition and cleaned
  • Cabinets free from damage or broken handles
  • Light fixtures (some leases require the tenant to change the lightbulbs before moving out)

Outside

Remember to prep any outside area you're responsible for during your apartment inspection. Weed your gardens and sweep your patios or balconies. If your lease prohibits furniture or leaving bikes on your balcony, make sure you're in compliance before the inspection.

Before your apartment inspection, run through this outdoor list of what to check, clean, and repair. These are only relevant if you rent a house or have an outdoor area that you are responsible for keeping up. However, you should still check everything on the list and point out any damage to your landlord, so they’re aware of the problem and can add it to their repair list.

  • Roof leaks or other damage from hail or limbs
  • Gutter cleaning (date of the last cleaning)
  • Garage doors or side entryways are working and in good repair
  • Cracks in the steps, driveway, or foundation
  • Deck, patio, and balcony railings secure
  • Sliding doors to outdoor areas in good condition
  • Landscaping in good condition and lawn mowed
  • Any motion detector or sensor lights in working order

Not sure what else to do to get your apartment in pristine condition? Get tips with this move-out inspection checklist to increase your odds of getting your security deposit back.

Reasons You Can Fail an Apartment Inspection

Unfortunately, there are some ways you could fail your apartment inspection. Here's what to watch out for.

Illegal Pets

During an apartment inspection, keeping illegal pets will be evident even if they're staying over at a friend's while your landlord is present. Pet odor, dishes, treats, or damage like chewing are apparent signs of pets to landlords.

Many people are sensitive to odors and dander. Even if you deep clean your apartment, animal urine could still be lingering on the floorboards or fur collecting in the corner. It's unlikely you can remove all of the evidence of illegal pets on short notice.

Signs of Inappropriate Behavior

Your landlord will be laser-focused on your lease terms. For example, you could fail your apartment inspection if you invited someone to live with you without consulting your landlord or are subletting a room.

Smoking is a deal-breaker for most leases. Unless your lease expressly states you can smoke inside your apartment, you will likely fail your infection. Smoke smell is notoriously difficult to get rid of and isn't always noticeable if you're a smoker. You may think it smells fine, but the landlord can smell it.

Grime and Stains

A dirty apartment with carpet stains could cause you to flunk your apartment inspection. There is probably language in your lease terms about keeping your premises clean, habitable, and in good repair, with the exception of normal wear and tear.

Even a quick clean before your apartment inspection is better than nothing. Save most of your cleaning time to tackle problem areas, like your kitchen or bathroom.

But before you start cleaning, check your lease terms. For example, if you have real hardwood floors, it may stipulate that you can’t use bleach on them. If the landlord walks in and sees bleach out next to a mop, you could fail your inspection on the spot.

What Happens if You Fail an Apartment Inspection?

Failing an apartment inspection could mean forfeiting your security deposit to deal with the damage or issues. The landlord is also unlikely to offer a letter of recommendation for future rental properties. In some cases, you could get evicted or face steep fines depending on how you breached your lease.

Can You Say No to an Apartment Inspection?

There are situations where you might be able to say no to allowing entry to your apartment. While landlords have a right to access, you also have the right to privacy as a renter.

Each state has different rules about apartment inspections and the reasons for entry. For example, if the apartment building is undergoing an emergency or you abandoned the property, the landlord can enter in pretty much any state.

Other states only allow entry for specific reasons, like showing the apartment to other tenants. There may be times you can say no, but it depends on your area. Your landlord will likely find a legal reason to enter and perform an apartment inspection no matter where you live.

If you’re unsure if your landlord is violating your right to privacy or you have concerns, learn more about dos and don’ts for landlords during apartment inspections.

Do You Get Second Chances After an Apartment Inspection?

There are no rules or laws about whether or not tenants can fix issues in the apartment after an inspection. It's primarily up to the landlord or property manager and depends on the problem.

If you simply needed some spackling and paint to freshen up a few spots before moving out, your landlord may be fine with coming back for a final walk-through and checking your work. However, if parties or negligence were the cause of the damage, you may not have an opportunity to make things right.

It never hurts to ask! But your best bet is prepping for your apartment inspection like it will be your only one.

If you’re doing an apartment inspection when you move in, the process works differently. Point out any existing damage or issues and make sure it’s put in writing. Otherwise, you could be liable for the damage. Review your lease terms thoroughly and make sure everything is appropriately represented. This rental inspection checklist gives you peace of mind.

Are There Any Benefits to An Apartment Inspection for Renters?

There are some upsides to having an apartment inspection if you're a renter. You can show your landlord issues in the apartment, appliances that need updating, and any other repairs. If you're moving out and the apartment is in sparkling condition, it also makes it easy for the landlord to return your security deposit.

Using Apartment List to Help You Find the Perfect Apartment

If you're ready for an apartment inspection to move out and find a new place, we're here to help. Use Apartment List to start looking for the perfect apartment.

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AUTHOR
Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
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