Before you move in, you should conduct a walk-through of your apartment with the landlord or his representative present. During this walk-through, you should note and take pictures, if appropriate, of all problem areas you discover. The items on this list are all things that should be taken care of by the landlord, with no cost to you.
1. Door locks, latches and intercom —Lock and latches need to work smoothly with and without the key. If they don’t, request that they be lubed or replaced, since you don’t want to come home some night and be locked out of your own place. The front door lock should always be replaced to protect you against unauthorized access to the apartment by previous tenants who may have kept a key. In an apartment building, also make sure the outside entry door closes securely and the intercom system works.
Peephole— Check that the peephole in the apartment door has not been painted over. This is a surprisingly common problem. Ask it to be cleared.
2. Ceilings—Check every ceiling for water spots, particularly in bathrooms. Water spots mean that something is leaking, and anything leaking is a bad thing. If you find water spots, notify the landlord immediately.
3. Closet doors and patio door sliders—They need to work smoothly and glide easily. If they don’t, ask for an adjustment now, or plan on a headache later. Also, make sure to check the patio door locking mechanism. This needs to work flawlessly and hold securely.
4. Windows, screens and security gates—All windows should slide with little effort, and all screens should be in place and not have any holes. If the windows have security gates, make sure they can be opened easily from the inside, in case of fire or another emergency. If they are locked, get the key.
5. Floors—If carpeted, look for stains. Stains become your responsibility if not pointed out right away, and if you don’t say anything now and document with pictures, you’ll pay for it later. If you are lucky to have wooden floors, note and document stains, chips and scratches.
6. Faucets and Drains—Check faucets for dripping, but more importantly, check beneath the sinks for drain pipe leakage. You’ll know if it has been leaking right away as there will be discoloration on the pipes, major water stains on the inside surface, and quite possibly a build up of mold.
7. Kitchen appliances—Make sure that the stove, oven, microwave and refrigerator turn on and are all in a good working order.
8. Heating and Air Conditioning—No matter what time of year it is, turn on the heat, and you will hear creaking coming from the baseboard heaters as the metal expands. Check in all rooms to make sure the heaters are warming up. Do the same with the air conditioning. Turn it on high and make sure you feel cool air coming out of the vents. Note: This applies to houses and condos.
Apartment building typically turn off the heat completely in the late spring and start again in the fall, so you cannot test heat in the summer. Likewise, you may not be able to test air conditioning in the winter.
9. Walls—Check the walls for marks and holes. Be diligent about this, and write down and photograph any blemish that you see. Most apartments will charge the renter to repair or paint over holes or marks in the walls when they leave, so you want to be thorough and point out anything that you see.
10. Outlets and breakers—Check every outlet to make sure it works, by plugging a small electrical appliance like a hairdryer or a fan into each one. Make sure you know where the breaker box is, and check to see if they are all turned on.
Note: Over the course of your rental agreement, lightbulbs will become your responsibility. If need be, ALWAYS replace the bulbs with the same type or wattage that was originally in the socket.
Taking the time to do these basic checks before you move in, can save a lot of time, hassle, and your security deposit.
We thank Dale Y the Maintenance Guy from LaCrosse, Wisconsin for contributing to these tips.