- Doors These should be solid and equipped with deadbolts. Locks should have been changed since the last tenant.
- Windows All windows should lock from the inside and be equipped with screens or bars.
- Security Note if a good security system is installed, and find out who is responsible for service.
- Walls Is the paint fresh, or are there stains or torn wallpaper? If painting is needed, request that the landlord do so or give you a discount on rent in exchange for your doing it.
- Floors Note any gouges in wood flooring, cracks in tile, or stains on carpet.
- Ceilings Note any cracks, sagging or water stains.
- Closets/cupboards There should be no mold or sign of pest infestation.
- Pipes Check under sinks and behind toilets to ensure there are no leaks.
- Toilets Flush each toilet to see how much water they use and if they are noisy.
- Faucets Check sink, tub and shower faucets for drips. Leaks can run up your water bill fast.
- Bath Showers, tub surrounds, etc should be checked for missing tiles or grout. Cracks in the sink or counter should be noted as well.
- Hot water The hot water heater should be well maintained and set to a safe hot water temperature.
- Switches Find out what switches control what lights and plug outlets.
- Outlets Look for blackened outlets or ones marred by screws being forced in the ground. Insist on their replacement.
- Breakers Ask to be shown the breaker box and request a diagram showing what switch controls what in the house.
- Detectors Check to see if smoke and carbon monoxide monitors are provided and in working order.
- Fire extinguishers These should be tagged as inspected by the proper authorities – fire extinguishers can lose efficiency after time.
- Escape plan Make sure windows that would be needed to escape in case of fire are not painted shut. Upper levels should have fire escape access.
- Dishwasher If possible, run the dishwasher through a short cycle during your walk-through.
- Washing machine Also run the washing machine through a rinse and spin cycle.
- Dryer Make sure the element gets hot and that it spins freely.
- Stove Check each burner, the oven coil and the broiler. The stove should not be direct wired to the wall.
- Refrigerator/freezer The fridge should be clean and cold. Test by freezing some ice cubes.
- Air conditioning/heating These should both be tested no matter what the season. Ask who is responsible for replacing filters.
- Roof Note any damage or missing shingles.
- Yard If landscaping is in disrepair, find out what you are expected to be responsible for.
- Fencing Any damaged or weak fencing should be duly noted.
- Garage If there is an electric garage door, make sure you get a remote door opener.
A rental walk-through is a no-brainer when it comes to signing a lease to take possession of a house or apartment. If you hope to get your deposit back, you have to be able to show that you have done no damage to the premises during your stay. Your landlord should give you a checklist so you can note anything that is damaged, missing or not working properly, but if they don’t (or even if they do) double check to be sure you aren’t going to be stuck paying for something that was already broken when you moved in.
Whether you have an individual landlord or are renting from a property management company, you need to protect yourself. Even the smallest imperfection could come back to haunt you alter if it isn’t noted as existing prior to your move in date. It is best to conduct a walk through with the owner or property manager present – if they are unavailable, get it in writing that you have a week to turn in your checklist, and insist on having it signed by them and a copy provided to you as soon as possible.
You should also take pictures of the entire house, in and out – making note of any problem areas so you can prove undisputedly that they were trouble when you moved in, not something caused by you.
Covering all the bases is the best way to ensure that you get your security deposit back, whether you are renting a house or an apartment.
Once you have obtained a signed copy of your annotated checklist from the landlord, put it, your notes and the pictures you took (if you have a digital camera, you can transfer the pictures to a disc) in a manila envelope and store it in a safe place so you will be easily able to find it when you are ready to move out. Then you can insist on a walkthrough of the property with the owner or manager again and arrange to have your deposit refunded to you.