After searching for what felt like years, talking to multiple landlords, and finally snagging an apartment for rent in Boston, MA, you’ll no doubt be eager to get all of your stuff into your new place. But there’s one thing you can do (before you start unpacking) that will pay off big time on that faraway day in the future when you’ll be moving your stuff out of this shiny new apartment and into another home — perform a rental inspection walk-through with your landlord or property manager. Trust us: When that time comes, you’ll want to take your full security deposit with you.
That’s why Trulia created a free, printable apartment rental inspection checklist, where you can mark down everything that’s working (or not working) in your apartment. Download the PDF here to get started. With your apartment checklist in hand (and photos of each issue), you’ll be able to prove existing damage wasn’t caused by you — and hopefully avoid being on the hook for the previous tenant’s wear and tear when you’re ready to move on.
Moving into a new rental works up quite an appetite — you’ll need a working kitchen. Everything from the oven to the refrigerator and kitchen cabinets should be tested and noted on your rental inspection checklist. If the appliances are brand-new, be sure to take note — but if they are older, it’s worth taking the time to determine whether they function properly. If the unit has a gas stove, try the sniff test to detect any odors before lighting the pilot; report suspected leaks immediately! If the unit has an electric stove, turn all the burners to “high” and note whether they turn cherry-red or not.
You’ll also want to take pictures of any water stains in cabinets and on the counters. While your landlord may not pay for damage like this, it’s important to be able to show that the marks were there before your time so you don’t get charged for them later.
No hot water? No big deal — until move-in day is over and you’re ready to take a hot shower and relax. Double-check the water temperature in the shower and ensure the pressure is adequate (low pressure could point to leaks). You’ll also want to check for leaking under the sink by running the water briefly and checking the pipes for moisture. Look for signs of past leaks — moldy or damp cabinets are an obvious sign of past leakage. Take pictures of any damages in the cabinets, sink area, and tiles.
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While having a few outlets that don’t work may seem like an easy problem to fix (just use the other outlets!), it could point to a more serious problem. Bring an outlet tester or night light to test every outlet in your unit during your rental inspection, and check that the device plates are tight to the walls and mounted straight. Lastly, check that all light bulbs are working and the cable TV and network jacks are in good condition! Bonus points: Bring a GFCI outlet tester to see if the outlets are grounded. (They cost around $10 at hardware stores.) That way, you won’t have to worry about a power surge knocking out your laptop during a Netflix binge.
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The heating and cooling elements are appliances you’ll really want to work properly. Test the heat and A/C by turning each on for five minutes and checking the vents to see if hot or cold air blows out. If the vents are visibly coated in dust or dirt, be sure to address this with your landlord — it’s a fire hazard and can prevent the heating and cooling system from functioning properly. And if you’re lucky enough to have an in-unit fireplace, make sure that’s working too — unless your landlord specified that it’s nonfunctional. Ask your landlord for the date of the most recent chimney cleaning and note it on your rental inspection checklist.
As with the kitchen and bathroom cabinets and tiles, inspect the floors and walls throughout the house and note if they are clean and stain-free — or if they are damaged in any way. Take pictures of any stains or scratches you find and note any loose floorboards, molding, or trim in your rental inspection checklist.
Doors and windows must seal and open and close smoothly to keep the weather (and pests) out of your apartment. But they should also lock, and every key from your landlord should work properly. If you live in a ground-floor unit, check to see if there are window stops installed to prevent break-ins. Note any problems and document them with pictures.
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Ready to get started? Download Trulia’s Apartment Rental Inspection Checklist here.