There are lots of things you should consider before renting an apartment, house, townhouse, or other rental property. You might focus on the location of the rental, such as which neighborhood it’s in and which amenities are close (like grocery shopping, parks, and public transportation), but it’s also important to ensure the rental unit itself is exactly what you’re expecting.

Typically, the landlord of a rental property will show prospective tenants the unit that they want to rent before they sign the lease, and often, part of that process involves going documenting the condition of the rental unit using a move-in rental inspection report. This will help you and your potential new landlord make note of any repairs that are needed, damages that were there from previous tenants, and so on before you move in.

If a rental inspection report is not used, then the landlord might not remember what damages existed in the suite before you moved in, which could result in the landlord charging you for damages you didn’t cause and possibly withholding part of your security deposit after you move out to pay for repairs.

 This post goes through some of the things you should be aware of when you and your potential new landlord are filling out a Residential Rental Inspection Report while walking through a rental unit.

1. Check the Floors, Walls, and Carpets for Damages or Stains

When you first enter a residential rental property, the first things you generally notice are the floors, walls, and carpets. While it’s normal for the walls to have a few small holes from the previous tenant’s pictures or art (provided the landlord didn’t repaint or fix the walls after the previous tenant moved out), or the hardwood floors to have a few small scuffs, you want to make sure that more obvious damage (like large holes in the walls or noticeable stains on the carpets) are recorded in the inspection report (usually the landlord will take pictures) to indicate that those damages were the fault of the previous tenant. In addition, you may want to take your own pictures of the damages for your records.

2. Check the Windows, Lights, and Light Switches to Ensure they Work

If you’re viewing the rental unit during the day and there is a good amount of natural light, you might not think of turning on the lights in every room to ensure they work, but you should try to remember to do so. If the light switches don’t seem to work or bulbs need to be replaced in light fixtures, it’s also a good time to check with the landlord to see if you would be responsible for replacing them.

3. Check the Thermostat and HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) System

The thermostat in a rental unit should show a temperature that makes sense with what you feel the temperature should be, so if it’s noticeably cold in an apartment you want to rent, for instance, and the thermostat display shows that it is room temperature, it would be a good idea to ask your landlord if the HVAC is working as it should.

4. Check if Safety Equipment, such as Smoke detectors, are in Working Order

If there is an emergency while you’re living at a rental property, you want to be confident that the safety equipment, like smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, are working properly so that you can be alerted to the danger. If you notice that a smoke detector is not lit up (as in the light or lights on the device are not on), you should request that the landlord makes sure these devices are working before you move in.

5. Check the Bathroom to Make Sure the Toilet and Faucets Work

When you’re doing a walkthrough of a rental suite with the landlord, you might not think about flushing the toilet or turning on the taps in the bathroom, especially if there is nothing visually wrong with them (such as cracks on the toilet or a missing handle on the faucet) but it might be a good idea to check them just to make sure the plumbing is working as it should.

6. Check the Refrigerator, Stove, and Sink in the Kitchen

Just like with the toilet and sink in the bathroom, you might not think about turning on the oven and checking the temperature of the fridge in the kitchen to make sure these appliances are working. The fridge, stove, oven, and sink in the kitchen are all things where looks can be deceiving: just because there’s no physical damage that you can see, doesn’t mean that everything’s in working order.

7. Check for Pests

You don’t want to move into a new apartment and find out that there’s a problem with pests like bedbugs or cockroaches, so it’s important to make sure that you’re vigilant in looking for indications of pests during the walkthrough of the rental property. For instance, when cockroaches are a problem, people generally set sticky traps, so if you see those around the premises, you should definitely question why they are there.

Renting Residential Property as a Tenant

Before you decide to rent a residential property, be sure that you are not just focusing on what’s around the property and your access to things like public transportation, parks, and schools, but also what’s inside the rental property. It’s no fun to move into a new place only to discover that there are a number of little things wrong with the space that you now have to pester your new landlord to fix. You can easily avoid responsibility for most issues in your rental by simply bringing them up when you and your landlord do the move-in walkthrough.

Posted by Lisa Hoffart

Lisa is an experienced writer interested in technology and law. She's been writing for LawDepot since 2017.