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9 Things Tenants Should Check Before Renting a Property

Last Updated: October 11, 2023

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Before renting a property, inspect the condition of floors, walls, ceilings, doors, windows, plumbing, HVAC, appliances, lights, and smoke detectors to identify potential issues and ensure a safe, comfortable living environment.

Many renters know that finding the right place to live can be a struggle. It usually means spending hours scouring listings online, setting up multiple viewings, and commuting to meet property managers and landlords.
In addition, acquiring a desirable rental property can be competitive. In some American cities, you must act fast and apply for a rental within moments of seeing it even to be considered. In 2022, an average of 14 renters competed for a vacant apartment, according to RentCafe.
Besides the hassle of setting up viewings and competing against other applicants, it’s tough making sure you check for all the right things when examining a rental property. Often, property managers and landlords give brief tours, and it’s easy to miss imperfections and more alarming problems.
Whether viewing an apartment or doing an official walkthrough and inspection before signing a lease, here are nine things you should check before renting a property.

Floors, walls, and ceilings

When viewing a rental property, pay close attention to the condition of the floors, walls, and ceilings. Besides determining whether or not a rental property is up to your standard of living, damage to these areas may indicate that the landlord has neglected their responsibilities.
First, check the flooring for any signs of damage, such as cracks or stains, and ensure it’s level and stable. Look for any signs of moisture or water damage, as this can indicate a more significant problem, such as leaks in the roof.
Also, pay attention to the types of flooring, as certain materials are more durable than others. For example, tiled floors are more resistant to water damage than hardwood floors. Living in a place with durable materials will protect your interests as a renter because you’re less likely to cause accidental damage and lose your security deposit.
Next, inspect the walls for any cracks or holes. It’s quite normal for the walls to have a few small holes from a previous tenant. However, cracks in the walls could point to structural issues and be a sign to stay away.
Also, don’t forget to look up at the ceiling for any signs of leaks, stains, or cracks. This is particularly important in areas such as the kitchen or bathroom, where water damage may be more common.

Doors and windows

Doors and windows can be a potential weak point for burglars or intruders. By inspecting doors and windows, you can better ensure they are secure, lockable, and in good condition, minimizing the risk of break-ins.
If you like a rental property but find an issue with a door or window, the landlord or property manager may be able to fix it. Voice your concern and see what they say. How they respond might indicate whether you should rent from them.
Besides security concerns, inspecting doors and windows can reveal issues with insulation and drafts, which can impact the property's energy efficiency and drive up utility costs. Feel for drafts and check that a rental’s doors and windows are adequately sealed.

HVAC system

When viewing a rental unit, examine the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system with the landlord. Doing so is particularly important if the rental property is located somewhere with extreme weather conditions, including both extreme heat and cold.
Generally, you must live in a property for a while to determine whether its HVAC system works properly. Therefore, inspecting an HVAC system during a viewing or walkthrough is tricky. That said, you can try turning up the heat, listening for the furnace to turn on, and feeling the vents for warmth.
Also, you can ask the landlord if any regular maintenance or repair work has been done on the HVAC system or if any filters have been recently changed. Their answer may give you insight into whether it’s a place worth renting.


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, such as cracks in the toilet or a missing handle on the faucet. However, if there’s a chance that you will rent a place, you want to make sure that the plumbing is working as it should.
Turn on the faucets in the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry rooms. Check the water pressure and turn the temperature up and down to see how quickly the faucets respond. As stated above, it’s not a bad idea to flush the toilets to ensure they are in proper working order too.

Lights and electricity

If you’re viewing a rental unit with ample natural light during the day, you may not think of turning on the lights in every room to ensure they work. That said, try to remember to test the lights in each room. If a light doesn’t appear to work or bulbs need to be replaced in fixtures, a viewing or walkthrough is a good time to ensure the landlord will fix it.
Besides checking lights, inspecting a property’s electrical outlets is not a bad idea. First, check that outlets appear to be safely installed. They should feel solid in the wall and not loose enough to wiggle around in the wall. In addition, it’s frustrating to find out that an outlet doesn’t work after moving in. If an outlet has an indicator light, check that the light is green, showing that the outlet is providing power properly.
A faulty outlet is easy to miss during a viewing or move-in inspection. So, if you move into a rental property and discover that an outlet is not working, send your landlord or property manager a Notice of Repair so they can fix it.


A well-functioning kitchen is essential for everyday living. A stove that doesn't heat properly, a refrigerator that doesn't keep food cold enough, or a dishwasher that doesn't clean dishes effectively causes inconvenience and frustration.
So, ensure the appliances are clean and working well during a viewing or walkthrough as a potential tenant. Doing so can help you identify any issues that may need to be addressed before moving in or even applying.
Of course, you won’t be able to fully test out the kitchen and prepare a meal while looking at a rental property, but you should be allowed to at least turn on the appliances. For example, turn the oven on and make sure it’s heating up. Or, if a fridge has an internal thermometer, check that it’s at or below 40F (4C).
Also, don’t be afraid to ask about the age and maintenance history of the appliances too. Ensuring that they are well-maintained and working allows you to avoid future headaches and minimize the chance of constantly requesting repairs.

Smoke detectors

If there is one thing that you check for when viewing an apartment, it’s smoke detectors. They’re typically located on the ceiling or high up on the wall and should be visible from all areas.
When viewing a rental, check for an appropriate amount of smoke detectors. According to the National Fire Protection Association, smoke alarms should be installed inside every sleeping room in addition to outside each sleeping area and on every level of a home.
Then, look for a slow-blinking light on the detectors to make sure they at least have power. If you are completing a move-in inspection and want to ensure the detectors are working properly, you should even ask to test them by pressing the test button.
If detectors are missing or not functioning correctly, alert the landlord or property manager before signing a lease agreement.

Signs of pests

No tenant wants to move into their new place and find out that it’s infested with mice, rats, bedbugs, house flies, fleas, or any other pest. So, when viewing or walking through a rental property as a potential tenant, it's important to watch for any signs of pests.
Some things are impossible to miss. Suppose you hear scratching or rustling in the walls or floors. These are clear indications of a pest issue. However, some clues may not be as obvious.
Look for stains or holes in walls or floors that could indicate the presence of rodents or insects. Pay attention to any odors, particularly in areas like the kitchen or bathroom, where pests may be attracted to food or moisture. Check cabinets for things like sticky traps, as they may indicate that the rental has a pest issue.
Also, don't be afraid to ask the landlord or property manager about their pest control policies or any past infestations they've had to deal with.


Parking situations vary significantly between different rental properties. To ensure you have convenient and safe parking for your vehicle(s), check out the parking situation when viewing an apartment. If you don’t, it can lead to frustration and inconvenience down the road.
Suppose you are viewing an apartment for you and a roommate and require two underground parking spaces. You or your roommate should confirm that the unit has two parking spots to avoid ending up with a single parking space.
Besides checking out the number of parking spaces, also consider their sizes. You want to make sure that a parking space has enough clearance and room for your vehicle.
If you are viewing a property with a ground-level or underground garage, you can also ask to check that the garage door and opener work properly.

Do your due diligence

Besides helping you decide whether you want to apply as a tenant, meticulously inspecting a rental property will help you and your potential landlord identify pre-existing damage so you don’t lose your security deposit upon moving out.
As a tenant, you have to protect yourself and prioritize your interests to make sure you are entering into a safe, stable rental arrangement.
In addition to checking a rental property’s features during a viewing or walkthrough, you must also do your due diligence to ensure you fully understand your rights and responsibilities. Review the lease agreement thoroughly, ask questions about any unclear terms or conditions, and research the landlord or property management company.
By doing your due diligence, you can make an informed decision about whether a rental property is a good fit.