Apartment Inspections: 10 Things to Check

An Art Deco apartment building in New York City
An Art Deco apartment building in New York City
Barry Winiker/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Whether you're moving into a new apartment or ending your current lease and checking out of one, you need to make a thoroughly documented inspection of the entire unit. We know you're eager to get unpacked and start decorating the new place, but this is really important.

Here's why: When you move into a new place and things aren't in proper order, your landlord is responsible for fixing them. If the landlord isn't aware of these problems when you move in, they could take the price of repairs out of your security deposit when you move out. In fact, it's probably best to get the landlord to fix these issues before you even sign your lease.

Most apartments will have a similar checklist for when you move out. Once again, you could find yourself financially responsible for any necessary repairs, so it's best to get them taken care of before the moving truck arrives.

We'll take a look at 10 essential items that you need to inspect before renting -- or leaving -- your apartment.

10
Floors
Make sure the floors are in good shape before you move in.
Make sure the floors are in good shape before you move in.
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The floor is often the first thing you notice in an apartment. When moving in, make sure the carpets are cleaned and without snags or tears. Be certain that the carpeting is everywhere and no pieces are missing. The carpets should not be stained and should not smell bad, either.

For kitchens and bathrooms, check to see that the floors have been mopped and swept. Tiles should not be missing, scraped, scuffed or popping out.

When you're moving out, make sure the floors and carpets are clean and undamaged. Run the vacuum or steam clean if you have to. You may also want to invest in some stain remover.

9
Walls

Check every wall carefully before you move in. First and foremost, the paint should not be chipped and it should be consistent throughout the apartment. Make sure there are no stains on the walls. Also, make sure the paint isn't comprised of poisonous materials. If your walls are wood-paneled, be sure that there aren't any loose or rotten boards.

Look for holes where posters or pictures once decorated the walls. When you're moving out, you'll have to fill in the holes that you've added. You can use caulk or spackle to fill in the holes. Check the baseboards to see if they are damaged as well.

8
Windows
Remember to inspect the windows, too.
Remember to inspect the windows, too.
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When inspecting the windows, make sure you can actually open them. You face a huge safety hazard if the windows do not open properly. Every room should have at least one window that can open.

Make sure the windows aren't leaky and that the glass isn't chipped or broken. You don't want any missing panes of glass, either. The windows should operate normally and lock from the inside. In addition, they should all have screens and the glass should be clean and free of mold and mildew.

Check the blinds as well. They should work properly and not be broken in any way. Also, make sure they aren't dirty or stained.

7
Electricity

Flick all of the light switches in your apartment. Do they work? Make sure none of them appear damaged or have loose wires hanging out. Each switch should have a faceplate as well.

If the lights don't go on, check the bulbs. Usually, you're responsible for changing those in your apartment if they're burned out. Obviously, the lights shouldn't flicker or throw sparks either. Also, you'll want to plug a small appliance (or an electricity tester) into each of your outlets to make sure that they all work.

Open up the fuse box if your unit has one. It shouldn't seem damaged or look like it has switches missing. If the fuse box has more than one 30-amp fuse, the box may be overloaded, which could present a fire hazard.

6
HVAC
Does the thermostat work?
Does the thermostat work?
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Now it's time to check out your apartment's heating and air conditioning unit, also called an HVAC unit.

Make sure that the thermostat works and gives an accurate representation of the temperature in the apartment. Also, the unit should be able to blow both hot and cold air. Check to make sure that is does. Check to see if there are any loose wires or hoses sticking out of the unit itself. It should not be leaking water either.

Also, make sure the filters have been replaced recently and are not clogged or dirty. The previous tenants may not have put them in at all, so it's going to be your job to put new ones in. Change them out every few months -- if they're dirty, they can cause the HVAC to run inefficiently and drive up your energy bill.

5
Fire Safety

Smoke detectors are vitally important to your safety when living in an apartment. Even if you're extremely safe when it comes to fire, your neighbors might not be. Fire can spread quickly through roofs and other shared areas at the complex, so a smoke detector is often your best bet for protecting yourself.

You should have a smoke alarm in (or at least in the hallway near) every bedroom. The kitchen should have one as well. When you move in, make sure all of your smoke alarms are working properly. Test them out to see if they make noise. It's also not a bad idea to put fresh batteries in them. Be sure and test them every month after moving in, too.

Preferably, the unit should have a carbon monoxide detector installed -- and there should be a working fire extinguisher somewhere in the apartment, too. Don't forget about that!

4
Bathrooms

Go into the bathroom and turn on the shower. First of all, does the water flow, and does it get hot and cold? Does the water look less than clear in any way? Look at the walls of the shower to see if there are any missing or damaged tiles or if mold is present.

Check out the toilets. Are they clean, and do they flush properly? Do they run when they aren't in use? Make sure the toilet doesn't leak onto the surrounding floor, too.

Take a look at the sinks. Check to see if the faucets run hot and cold here as well, and that water drains properly. Note any damage to the faucets or the porcelain. Also, be sure to check the cabinet under the sink to note any leaky water, mold or strange smells.

3
Bedrooms and Doors

Now let's take a look at all the doors in the apartment. All of them should shut tightly and fit properly in the frame. There shouldn't be any problems with the doorknobs or any locks. Check to see if any paint is missing or mismatched as well. Also, make sure that you have two sets of keys to the apartment -- the front door should have a normal lock as well as a deadbolt you can secure from within.

In the bedrooms, check out all the closets and make sure the shelves aren't loose. If you haven't checked any of the above items in the bedrooms, now's the time to do so.

2
Kitchen
Don't forget to inspect the entire kitchen area.
Don't forget to inspect the entire kitchen area.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Most apartments have a kitchen of some sort, and there's a lot to look for here. First, check out the stove. Most stoves and ovens are electric (rather than gas) in apartment complexes. Do all of the switches work, and do all of the burners get hot when you turn them on? Do you see any frayed wiring around the oven? And if you do happen to have a unit with a gas stove, does it ignite properly? Is there a smell of natural gas when it's put to use? If you have a gas stove, definitely invest in a carbon monoxide detector.

Also, take a good look at the refrigerator. Is it cold? Is there any mold in there? Is it clean, and did the last tenant throw out all of the remaining food?

This is also the time to check for any mold or mildew that might be in the kitchen, especially inside cabinets. You should also look for animal droppings that indicate a pest problem.

1
Pests

Now let's get to the gross part of apartment inspections -- it's time to check around for insect and rodent droppings. It may be a bit unsettling, but it's necessary. Don't you want to know about any pest problems before you move in?

First of all, search around the apartment in areas where pests are known to enter or gather. You will probably want to get a flashlight for this. Look at gaps or cracks in walls and ceilings, near the tub and plumbing, around utility wires, behind the stove and in the cabinets. Do you see anything that looks like small brown pellets or insect eggs? Have you found any roaches or mice running around?

If you've found any of these things, it's time for some pest control. You should ask your apartment manager to remedy the problem, but you may end up having to do it yourself. Be sure to identify just what kind of pest issues your new apartment faces -- treatment for rats or mice is wildly different from treatment for roaches, ants and other insects.

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Author's Note: Apartment Inspections 10 Things to Check

I've moved into a lot of apartments, so I've had to do these checks many times over. It may seem tedious but you have to do it. Just remember: Most apartment managers are happy to take your security deposit money if you aren't meticulous about what damage existed before you moved in.

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Sources

  • Do My Own Pest Control. "Apartment Pest Control for Tenants." Domyownpestcontrol.com. (July 31, 2012) http://www.domyownpestcontrol.com/how-to-get-rid-of-pests-in-apartments-apartment-pest-control-a-392.html
  • Immihelp. "Apartment Rental -- Inspection Tips Prior to Moving In." Immihelp.com. (July 31, 2012) http://www.immihelp.com/newcomer/apartment-rental-pre-move-in-inspection-tips.html
  • MSN Real Estate. "Renters' inspection checklist." Realestate.msn.com. (July 31, 2012) http://realestate.msn.com/renters-inspection-checklist?page=2
  • Seattle Fire Department. "Apartment Fire Safety." Seattle.gov. (July 31, 2012) http://www.seattle.gov/fire/pubed/brochures/apartment.pdf
  • Shoshone County Housing. "Apartment Inspection Checklist." Shoshonecountyhousing.com. (July 31, 2012) http://www.shoshonecountyhousing.com/images/Apartment_Inspection_Checklist.pdf