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Rental Inspection Checklist - What to Look For

By: Justin Chaplin
September 4, 2019

Though your new apartment may have looked pristine during your showing, it’s still imperative to inspect the space before moving in. You want to be sure that the condition of the property is up to your standards.

Not doing so puts you at risk of paying for damages if you discover items that need repairs. Worse yet, you may have to pay upon move-out, which can affect your chances of getting your security deposit refunded.

A pre-move-in rental inspection is your chance to let the landlord know you're a conscientious tenant. While some landlords will offer an inspection, many won’t unless asked to do so. If not offered, contact your landlord and schedule a walkthrough.

Once scheduled, you want to be prepared with a rental inspection checklist. Bringing a list ensures that no detail is left behind and you've done your due diligence.

Apartment Rental Inspection Checklist

If you don't know where to begin when creating your apartment inspection checklist, don't worry… we’ve got you covered. Here is everything you should be checking off on your rental inspection checklist before moving in. 

1. Exterior doors, windows, and walkways

Doors

Before diving into the interior of your apartment, it's essential to check out the exterior first. Take a close look at any doors. Check to see if there are any gaps around the edges. Is light coming through? Does the door open and close properly? 

If there are gaps, this will lead to air escaping your apartment, which will make your heating and cooling system work harder. All of this results in only one thing — a high utility bill.

Windows

Windows can also be a major issue when they're not properly installed. Make sure none of the window panes are broken, damaged, cracked, or have any gaps. Push down on the windows as well. That'll give you a good indication whether or not they're loose and need to be repaired soon. Depending on where you live, screens in front of your window may be critical. In areas with hot and buggy summers, they're a must. Make sure to check that the screens are in good condition, without any holes or other damage.

Locks

Check out all the locks on the doors of the apartment. Do they work? Are they securely installed? Or is the point-of-entry only protected by a flimsy system? If there's no bolt or other security measure installed, ask your landlord or property manager to provide one. If you’re particularly handy, ask if you can install one yourself. Your landlord will likely be completely onboard with this addition. 

A secure apartment means that there is less of a risk of theft or damage to the property. But just in case, be sure to be covered by renters insurance.

Porches

Any porches or decks on the property are essential to include on your rental inspection checklist as well. Any rails should be checked to make sure they're stable, as well as any gates or fences. 

Check any exterior wood or concrete for water damage or cracks, and don't forget about any trees surrounding your apartment. Are any branches within striking distance to your apartment? If you're living in a hurricane-prone region, you're going to want to ask about that.

2. Climate Control

Locate your HVAC unit, water boiler, or any climate control system installed in your rental property. Turn the system on, and try out both the heating and cooling setting. For both settings, walk to each vent in the apartment and make sure that air is coming out at the appropriate temperature. If you don't have central air, but do have a radiator, ask your landlord to turn it on if you're inspection is during warmer months.

Take a look at the air filter and see if the primary vent has been properly maintained. Check for rust and any other damage or debris around the vents in the apartment, as well. You may also ask your landlord for a history of maintenance on the system. If not, you may request that it is checked out.

Utilities that are not properly maintained will increase your average electricity bill.

3. Electric

Outlets

Thoroughly examining your apartment’s electricity is one of the most important things to include on your apartment inspection checklist. Bring along your phone charger and plug it into each outlet—yes, every single one. Make sure that all of them are working and not sparking or loose. Faulty outlets are a major fire hazard, and just an overall pain to deal with.

Lights

Head over to the light switches and turn those on and off a couple of times. If any switches have dimming features, turn the dial to make sure it's functional. Try plugging something in while the light is on to see if it flickers. Flickering light fixtures indicate that there may be a deeper electrical problem that the landlord needs to address.

4. Walls and Ceilings

Cracks and Chips

If you've lived in a well-kept space for some time, you may have taken the walls and ceilings for granted. When you're inspecting your rental, you'll want to take a closer look. Check your bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom, living room and dining room for any cracks, stains, or chips in the walls. 

Further, you shouldn't drill any holes in the apartment unless your landlord indicates that you are free to do so. There should be more information on what you can and cannot do to your apartment in your lease agreement.

Mold and Water damage

If you see any mold or signs of water damage, point those out immediately. Water damage is usually observable by noticing stains or puffiness in the paint. Water damage is usually easy to spot because it will cause stains on wallpaper and bubbling which causes the walls to warp. Extensive water damage may also compromise the structural integrity of the wall, so be sure to keep an eye out for it.

The ceilings of your apartment will need some addressing if you notice any excessive chipping, cracking, or puffiness. You won't enjoy waking up from a good night's sleep with a flurry of paint chips on your covers.

Mold is a huge problem in humid areas. In apartments without proper ventilation and air circulation, mold can build up and become a health risk. If you notice any mold in your apartment, your landlord will need to have it cleaned or removed. 

Tumi-1983

5. Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Smoke Detectors

By law, your apartment is required to have a minimum of one functioning smoke detector. However, you should look for more than one. There should be smoke alarms installed in the kitchen as well as every bedroom. This is especially important if you are living with small children. Make sure to test the smoke detectors as well.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

If you're moving into an apartment with a fireplace or a fuel-fired heater, you need to have a carbon monoxide alarms. While not necessary in all apartments, it’s still an excellent safety precaution to take. Locate any installed detectors and search for a green light, or indicator that it's functioning. 

In case you're not sure why this is necessary, carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless gas. It can have horrible health consequences including damaging the brain and lungs. If inhaled in large amounts, carbon monoxide can be fatal. 

So… yeah. Be sure to check them out. 

6. Bathrooms

Odor

Walkthrough all of the bathrooms in the rental. Before inspecting the nitty-gritty, note the overall smell. Any peculiar odor, particularly musty or damp smells, indicate there may be a mold issue or water damage that you're not able to see on the surface. If such odors are noticed, let your landlord know and request a professional inspection to detect any possible underlying issues.

Toilets

Check that the toilet seat is sturdy. Flush the toilet, preferably more than once. Watch to make sure the bowl refills as it should and that the toilet stops running after a brief amount of time. The second flush will tell you how long the toilet needs to reset. You'll also want to check the surrounding area behind the toilet and the floor for mold, cracks, and any other damage.

Showers

If you have a tub-shower combo, turn it on, and check that the appropriate switch works. Make sure water is able to come out of both the showerhead and bath faucet. Put your hand in the water stream and see if it has enough pressure, and that the temperature adjusts appropriately.

Make sure that the drain works properly and efficiently. As with the toilets, check for any signs of mold. When you turn the shower off, listen for any residual water drips, and wait to see how long it keeps dripping. If it keeps on dripping, that can affect your utility bill over time.

Sink

Turn on all of the sink faucets and check for water pressure and temperature. Also, take note of how long it takes for the temperature to adjust. Don't forget to take a look at the plumbing underneath, any cracks, mold, or other damage should be pointed out.

Cabinets

Most bathrooms come with cabinets, and you should check that they open and close properly, as well as for any paint chipping or cracks. Look inside the cabinets and keep an eye out for any holes, mold, or damage.

7. Kitchen

Refrigerator and Dishwasher

Even if the fridge looks good externally, open it up. Does the stripping properly seal and unseal? How about any lighting in the fridge? Does it turn on and off as you open and close the door? Put your hand inside of the refrigerator, and then switch over to the freezer. Make sure that there's an appropriate temperature difference between these two sections. 

Take a look at the trays and shelves in the fridge, are they in good condition? Is anything broken, bent, or flimsy? Are any parts of the fridge's interior cracked? If your fridge has an ice cube maker, take a look at the ice it produces. Does it look right? Does it smell normal? And most importantly, does it work?

Make sure you open up the dishwasher as well if you have one. Make sure it's working, and there is no damage inside.

Oven and Stove

If you have a stove with gas burners, check all of them and make sure that they work. Make sure there is no excessive gas smell. Be sure to check the trays as well for build-up, this is an easily missed detail even for the most experienced cleaners.

If the kitchen has an electric stove, turn each burner to see if they all work. You can test if they're heating up to temperature by letting one drop of water fall on the burner, which will react to heat by sizzling.

Cabinets and Drawers

The cabinets and drawers where we keep our food in our apartment is also where critters and unwelcome pests are most likely to invade. Thoroughly checking all of the kitchen cabinets and drawers for any animal droppings, holes, or cracks will give you a head's up of what's going on in the kitchen. 

Also, take a look around for any water damage or cracks. Don't forget to note any damage to the cabinet doors, whether it be a paint chip or a broken hinge.

Final Thoughts

Though this apartment inspection checklist may seem tedious, you'll be thanking yourself for going when move-out day comes around. Not only have you taken the right steps to ensure that all facets of the apartment are in good order, but it’s one of the surefire ways to get your security deposit refunded when moving out. 

Communicate with your landlord about any new structural/functional issues, and keep the apartment clean. Whenever a tenant moves out, it's imperative to notify your landlord beforehand. Clean the entire rental and leave it in perfect condition. If you'd like to make it easy for your landlord to refund your security deposit, give them your new address so they can easily send the check your way. 

If you are still searching for the perfect home, find it on Apartment List.

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