Before you move your life into a new rental, you need to look over your new digs with a fine-tooth comb to make sure everything is on the up-and-up, clean and safe. Don't put off an apartment inspection.
What is an apartment inspection?
Think about renting an apartment like buying a used car. Someone has had the item in their possession before you. Whether they used it properly and are passing it on in good condition isn't always easy to tell. You'd take a used car for a test drive, ask about past accidents and repairs and eyeball every scratch, mark or dent. An apartment inspection that ensures you're getting what you expect in your next home.
An apartment inspection should take place before you sign your lease. “This can help avert or minimize disputes with your landlord in the future about the condition of the property, as well as providing you with a safer, more pleasant place to live," according to Justia.
Not only does completing an apartment inspection ensure everything gets fixed and to your liking, it also prevents your property manager from claiming any pre-existing issues are your fault or responsibility when it's time to move out. Your property manager may even have time to address the specific issues you find before you move into the apartment.
So you know what you're looking for, here's a breakdown, by room, for your apartment inspection. Focus on each section of the apartment separately to give it as close a once-over as possible. Look at issues:
- Throughout the apartment
- In the bathroom
- In the bedroom
- In the kitchen
- In the utility closet
- In the building itself
You can take our apartment inspection checklist with you too. Download it here.
Throughout the apartment
Each room will have its own items to inspect, but certain things should get examined throughout the apartment. It's best to start with these since you'll need to remember to check them out as you move from room-to-room.
Check for cracks, structural holes or evidence of water leaks, especially around windows and vents. If you find small holes from pictures and the like, note these so you property manager is aware they're pre-existing.
While looking for issues, also check out the paint job. It should feel professional, with no drips or chips along the wall. Paint color should also consistently match throughout the apartment.
Don't forget to do the same inspection on the ceilings.
2. Electrical outlets
Make sure every plug in the apartment works. Plug something small (like a nightlight) into every outlet to check that it's functioning. Make sure you don't smell anything either. Look for burns around outlets and cracks in the covers.
3. Cable hookups
Check that all cable, internet and fiber optic outlets are in good condition, not blocked and in the areas of the apartment where you need them. If the apartment has a satellite dish, check that it's secure and there are no leaks or holes around the connection to the unit.
4. Smoke detectors
Be sure smoke detectors exist in or near each bedroom, by the front door and by the kitchen. Test them to make sure they all work properly. Ask your property manager when the last time the batteries got replaced and the age of each smoke detector. Batteries should be changed every year, and the entire device should get replaced every 10 years.
Find out if fire extinguishers, carbon monoxide or radon detectors are also within the apartment, and make sure they're in working order.
Turn on all lights in all rooms to ensure everything works. Look for cracks or burn marks around light fixtures and recessed lighting. Ask your property manager to replace any burnt out bulbs before you move in, especially if the fixture is hard to reach without a ladder. That's a job for maintenance, not you.
Check to make sure the temperature reading on the thermostat feels like the temperature in the room. Examine other rooms to see if the temperature is consistent throughout the apartment.
Turn up the heat, and check vents for heated air. Then do the same for the air conditioning. If the apartment has a radiator for heat or a window unit for A/C, check those, as well.
7. Blinds and shades
Inspect each set of blinds, shades or curtains for damage or holes. Open and close blinds and shades to ensure they are in working order.
8. Windows and doors
Run your hand along the frame of each window and door to feel for leaks or drafts. Inspect any insulation for cracks or brittleness. Determine if you can see light through any cracks in a closed door, indicating poor insulation.
Open and close the windows and doors to ensure they work properly. Make sure all windows and doors lock completely and feel secure when you pull on them. You should never have an apartment window that does not lock.
Inspect all areas of the floor and carpet (including behind any furniture and in corners) for stains or holes. Get down and check for pet or other smells. Tug on some of the edges of the carpeting and floorboards to see if they come up too easily. Look around for improperly installed flooring nails that have popped up. You don't want to step on those babies in your bare feet.
10. Overall cleanliness
As you're conducting your simple and thorough visual inspection, take note of the overall cleanliness of the apartment. Look around for small brown pellets or insect eggs, evidence of roaches, other insects or rodents. You may find these in gaps in the walls, the bathtub and around plumbing and utility wires.
For furnished apartments, extend your cleanliness and damage checks to all furniture.
In the bathroom
Bathrooms are sneaky places when it comes to problems. With pipes hidden inside cabinets, you might not notice a leak. Tile cracks or issues with grout can be small when you move in, but quickly get worse. Out of all the rooms in an apartment, this one deserves a very close inspection. Don't forget to check everything.
Flush the toilet and make sure it works. The bowl should refill properly and quickly, and it should stop running in sufficient time. Lift up the lid on the back of the toilet to make sure nothing is damaged or broken. Sniff for bad odors, and look for cracks and nicks, especially where the toilet meets the floor. Check that the seat is sturdy, as well (how you choose to do that is up to you).
Turn on all faucets, and check water pressure. See how long it takes the hot water to heat up and the cold water to get cold. Be sure there are no drips or leaks both from the faucet and the plumbing underneath. Even small drips over time can balloon your water bill. Look for cracks both in the bowl and the pipes.
Turn on the water, and see if the temperature heats up in sufficient time. If you feel comfortable leaving it on, let the water run to determine how long before you lose hot water.
Check that the water pressure meets your personal needs, and there's no excessive dripping after you turn it off. Make sure the water looks clear and clean and drains properly. Examine the tiles and grout for mold and chips.
If you have a bathtub, stand in it and jump (safely) around a bit. If you feel any give, it could be a sign of damaged flooring or mold underneath. Pull gently on the soap dish to make sure it's secure, especially if you tend to put your foot up on it to balance for cleaning or shaving. Make sure water runs properly out of the tub faucet and the drain closes for when you want to take an actual bath.
Look under the sink to check that the storage area is clean and dry and nothing is blocking access. Check for signs of rodents or insects.
Medicine cabinets should open and close easily, and shelves should seem secure and clean. Test the sturdiness of the shelves of any built-ins, as well.
16. The rest of the bathroom
Examine the floor and tiles for damage or mold. Look carefully in corners. Assure yourself any hardware attached to the walls is secure. While you're checking the toilet paper holder, also make sure you can reach it from the toilet.
In the bedroom
You may not realize it, but you'll spend the most time in your apartment in your bedroom. Yes, you'll usually be asleep, but that doesn't mean you should ignore it during your apartment inspection. In particular, don't forget to check the spaces that seem most unlikely to have a problem, like the closet.
We already mentioned windows, but it's doubly important in the bedroom. Run your hand along every edge of the window to check for space for leaks. In the bedroom, poor insulation can mean a very cold night. Check the locks on the windows to affirm you'll get a safe night's sleep.
Take a close look at the floor to ensure there's no damage, and check all built-ins for sturdiness. If you have permanent hanging rods, tug on them slightly to make sure there's no give.
Closets are dark and favorite hiding places for rodents and roaches. Use a flashlight if necessary but look around for rodent and insect droppings. Also, be sure the door, or doors, open and close easily.
In a furnished apartment, check every part of the bed for damage, cracks, loose bolts and evidence of bedbugs. Bedbugs aren't very discreet, so if you see any dark staining on the mattress or bed frame, there's a good chance there was an infestation at some point.
20. Ceiling fan
If you're fortunate enough to have a ceiling fan in the bedroom, turn it on and off and try all the speeds. Does it rattle or wobble when it's on high? If so, make sure it's fixed before you're nocturnally impaled.
Inspect the floor or carpet around where the bed would go, and make sure there aren't carpet dents or floor damage from a previous bed. The bedroom is where pets like to sleep and do other things they shouldn't do, so get your nose down to the floor and smell around for any pet odors.
In the kitchen
There are a lot of moving parts in the kitchen. For an apartment dweller, it's where most of the functional appliances are located. In addition to making sure they all work, don't forget to inspect the rest of the space.
22. Oven and stove
Turn on the stove to make sure it heats up as quickly as expected. Open and close the oven door a few times to ensure a good seal. On an electric stove, turn on every burner to make sure they all work and the heating elements all get hot. You can test this by dropping a splash of water from your hand onto each burner.
For gas burners, check that each burner lights without too much effort or releasing a lot of gas. Run the drop of water test, too. Make sure all burners go out and get cold when you switch them off, and you don't keep smelling gas. Lift the hood and check the trays.
Turn on the water and check the pressure. Make sure the hot gets hot and the cold gets cold. Turn on the garbage disposal (with water on) for at least 15 seconds and listen to see if the sound is smooth and consistent. Try disposing something, like ice, if you wish. Check for odors afterward. Look around the base of the sink and underneath for water damage or cracks.
Check all the stripping around the doors to make sure there's a proper seal. Loose or dry sealing must get fixed. Open and close the doors. Feel inside the fridge and freezer to make sure they seem cold enough. See if all the lights turn on (sadly, you won't be able to see if they turn off). Look for missing or cracked trays and shelves. Test the ice maker not only for proper operation but that the ice cubes smell and taste right.
25. Cabinets, counters and drawers
Open and close every door and drawer to see if they're loose or squeak and if they're flush on their hinges. Inspect every cabinet and drawer for animal droppings. Look around for cracks and signs of water damage.
26. Miscellaneous kitchen appliances
If luxury living is your style, you may have a few extra appliances. Don't leave them out of your inspection.
- For built-in microwaves, check that the door closes all the way and it operates correctly
- Make sure the dishwasher doesn't have any leaks or odd odors. Turn it on and wait for the water to run before turning it off.
- Check that all recessed lighting works properly
- Look in tough-to-reach places for floor damage, especially under and around the refrigerator
In the utility closet
Don't forget about your utility closet. If it's locked, insist your property manager open it up for you to inspect. Anything goes wrong in there, you'll have major issues with your apartment, so look closely.
27. Heating and air-conditioning
Inspect your hot water heater and the HVAC unit. With the furnace or air on, put your hand over the vent to check the air pressure and temperature. See if there's water pooling in the hot water heater tray. Inspect all hoses, and look around for water damage or leaks. Take out the HVAC filter, and note if it needs replacing. It will look gray if it's dirty, white if it's clean.
28. Fuse box
Open up the fuse box, and see if everything looks okay. Fuses should all be on with nothing tripped. Each fuse should also have a clear identification should you need to flip something while you're living in the apartment.
You don't have to trip every fuse, but see if there are any missing or damaged switches.
If you have in-unit laundry, inspect the washer and dryer. Check that all the hoses and exhausts are attached and working. Look for blockages, and check that the lint trap in the dryer is in good condition. Start each appliance to see that they work. Watch for water stains and mold, and check for any odd smells.
In the building itself
Now that you've taken your time checking everything out on the inside of your apartment, give yourself the opportunity to inspect what's on the outside. Even if it's not technically part of your apartment, you want everything around it in good condition.
30. Exterior doors
Recheck all the locks on exterior doors whether they open into hallways or outside. Check for air leakage and if there is any, get it fixed, or expect a big electricity bill.
Be sure you can properly use the peephole, that it's not painted over, and nothing is blocking it. This is an overlooked part of the security inspection, so don't forget about it.
31. Exterior windows
Windows get a second check, too. Recheck the outdoor ones for air leakage. Triple check they all lock properly, especially if you're on the first floor. Look for cracks or loose panes. Check all the windows for properly-installed screens, and assure there's no damage or holes or you're going to have a buggy summer.
32. Porches, decks and walkways
No matter what kind of exterior elements you have (if you're fortunate enough to have one), check all wood and concrete for cracks and water damage. Feel around any gates, fences, posts or handrails for stability and safety. Look around for branches or tree limbs that are in danger of falling on your property (or on you).
33. The rest of the outside
Test that all exterior lights are in working order, whether outside on a post, attached to the building or in the hallway. If there's a security system, make sure you know how it works and test it before you need it. Wherever your mailbox is located, make sure you can get into it, the key works and — if freestanding — it's not in danger of falling off or over.
A proper apartment inspection makes a difference
While it may feel tedious, a careful apartment inspection is good for everyone. It ensures you're getting the apartment you expect, headache-free from immediate issues. Not only that, it means your property manager is getting a tenant who takes the care and maintenance of their home seriously. It's a win-win even if it doesn't feel like it at the time.
This is why, before you sign a lease or move in, grab your apartment inspection checklist, and set aside a block of time to closely examine your new home.