Don’t forget this important step after signing your apartment lease


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Don’t lose your security deposit

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If you’ve ever rented a property and lost some or all of your security deposit, or even ended up owing money, due to normal wear and tear or pre-existing damage, you know how bad it can be. frustrating. Avoid making that mistake again (or not at all if you’re a first-time tenant) by documenting all of the apartment’s imperfections before you even move in.

Before signing your lease or immediately after, complete a rental inspection checklist. When you’re ready to move, you can use this checklist and the corresponding photos you took before signing to speak with a landlord who may be trying to keep some or all of your security deposit.

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What is a rental inspection checklist?

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A rental inspection checklist is exactly what it sounds like: a checklist to guide tenants through conducting a thorough property inspection. Rental inspection checklists, such as this one available for immediate download at HUD.gov— are divided into several categories, including the different rooms in the unit, utilities, and exterior features. During a guided tour of your new apartment or condominiumyou can use the checklist to help you look for any signs of damage, wear, or other issues.

Why is a rental inspection checklist important?

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Completing a rental checklist can help protect your security deposit and ensure it is not unfairly withheld by your landlord. We’ve all heard stories or had direct experience of landlords claiming tenants are responsible for damages that were present before they even moved in. If you have the checklist and accompanying photos to back you up, you’ll be more successful in dealing with a landlord making misrepresentations.

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Bring a few items to our guided tour.

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Before signing the lease for a new apartment, you should take a property tour with the landlord or property management company. Make sure you are prepared for this visit with a copy of your rental inspection checklist. You’ll also want to have a fully charged smartphone or camera to add time stamps to every photo you take to document the condition of the property.

Bring a flashlight to help check darker areas, such as closets or under sinks. A pen and notebook can also be useful if you are thinking of questions or want to write down notes. Add a tape measure to your list in case you need to record distances or measure furniture.

Use your entire rental inspection checklist.

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Use the Rent Inspection Checklist as a guide to help you assess each part of the property. Many checklists available are broken down by room and include a list of items to check in each space. For example, in the kitchen, some of the items listed will include the stove/hob, microwave, refrigerator, cabinet doors, flooring, and sink/plumbing. You can mark the status of each item in the list.

Provide additional documentation for anything that appears to be damaged, broken, or out of date. This documentation should include time-stamped photographs or videos and written notes describing the condition in more detail.

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What to look for when inspecting

rental inspection checklist examining window damage.

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It’s easy to overlook areas of the apartment during an inspection. Be sure to do a thorough inspection to make sure you have documentation of anything your landlord might use to hold your security deposit. Some key things to inspect include:

  • Security: Check important safety features such as smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and secure doors.
  • Plumbing: Evaluate plumbing fixtures, check water pressure and look for any signs of water damage.
  • Electric: Test each electrical outlet using a hair dryer or cell phone charger and phone. Check that all switches are working and identify any potential electrical hazards such as exposed wiring.
  • Doors and windows: Check that all doors and windows work properly. Look for faulty handles, squeaky windows, missing screens or drafty areas.
  • Appliances: Check each device to make sure it works. Check that the refrigerator and freezer are cold enough and that the doors are closed properly. Turn on the oven, stove, dishwasher, washer, and dryer to assess functionality.
  • General condition of the apartment: Look for and document any signs of wear or damage, including peeling paint, stained carpeting, broken blinds, or cracked tiles.
  • Unit exterior: If your rental includes outdoor spaces, be sure to inspect them closely as well. You can also take note of any common areas and document any safety or cleanliness risks.

Communicate damages and other concerns to the owner.

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After completing your checklist, make a copy to share with your landlord. Include photographs that support your claims of damaged or broken items. If you want to request repairs or upgrades, now would be a good time to do so. Be sure to keep a copy of the checklist and pictures in a safe place where you can access them before you move.

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What could happen if you skip the rental inspection checklist?

angry landlord and tenant rental inspection checklist

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Completing a rental inspection checklist is as important as making sure you have Tenant insurance. Both help protect you. If you do not complete a rental inventory and do not have photos to document broken or damaged items, you will have no recourse against a landlord who claims that you are responsible for such damage. Without proof to back up your claims, any fight you put up to keep your rental deposit is unlikely to succeed.

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