33 Things to Look Out For During an Apartment Inspection

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.

Insist on an inspection

Before you move in, you should engage in a full apartment inspection. The last thing you want is to be all moved in and then find something wrong, unsafe or in need of correcting.

Not only does completing an apartment inspection ensure everything is fixed and to your liking, it will also prevent your landlord from claiming anything was your fault or responsibility later on.

In the best case scenario, you’ll complete an apartment inspection during the short window after you agree to rent the apartment and before you sign the lease on the dotted line. But even if you’re unable to do it during this time frame, make sure you give the apartment a full once-over before you move in. Also give your new landlord time to address the issues and make repairs or updates if necessary.

So you know what you’re looking for, here’s a handy-dandy apartment inspection checklist to refer to as you inspect your new home.

Throughout the apartment

apartment interior

1. Walls

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 the landlord knows they were pre-existing.

Be sure the paint job is professional (no drips or chips) and that the paint color matches consistently throughout. Don’t forget to do the same inspection of the ceilings as well.

2. Electrical outlets

Make sure every plug in the apartment works. Plug something small (like a nightlight) into every outlet to check and be sure you don’t smell anything. Look for burns around outlets and cracks in the covers.

3. Cable hookups

Make sure 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.

Find out if fire extinguishers, carbon monoxide or radon detectors exist and be sure they are in working order as well.

5. Lighting

Turn on all lights in all rooms to ensure they all work. Look for cracks or burn marks around light fixtures and recessed lighting.

6. Thermostat

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 the heat way up 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 outside of each window and door to feel for leaks or drafts. Inspect the 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 by pulling on them. You should never have an apartment window that does not lock.

9. Flooring

Inspect all areas of the floor and carpet (including behind 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 because you don’t want to step on those babies in your bare feet.

10. Overall cleanliness

Just do a simple and thorough visual inspection to assure everything is to your liking. Look around for small brown pellets or insect eggs, evidence of roaches or insect and rodent droppings, especially in gaps in the walls, in the bathtub and around plumbing and utility wires.

For furnished apartments, extend your cleanliness and damage checks to all furniture.

In the bathroom

apartment bathroom

11. Toilet

Flush the toilet and make sure it works. The bowl should refill properly and quickly and it should stop running in sufficient time. Then do the flushing again to see how long it takes to reset. Smell for bad odors, look for cracks and nicks and check that the seat is sturdy (how you choose to do that is up to you).

12. Sink

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.

13. Shower

Turn on the water and see if the temperature heats up in sufficient time. If you feel comfortable leaving it, let the water run to determine how long before you lose hot water.

Check that the water pressure meets your personal needs, and there is no excessive dripping after you turn it off. Make sure the water looks clear and clean. Examine the tiles and grout for mold and chips.

14. Tub

When running the shower to check pressure and temp, inspect the tub to assure the water drains in a reasonable amount of time. Stand in the tub and jump (safely) around a bit. If you feel the tub has any give, that could be a sign of damaged flooring or mold underneath. Pull gently on the soap dish to make sure it is secure, especially if you tend to put your foot up on it to balance for cleaning and shaving.

15. Storage

Look under the sink and be sure the storage area is clean and dry and nothing is blocking easy access. Check for signs of rodents or insects.

Be sure the medicine cabinet opens and closes easily and shelves are secure and clean. Test the sturdiness of the shelves of any built-ins as well.

16. Other thoughts

Examine the floor and tiles for damage or mold. Assure the toilet paper holder is secure on the wall (and in reach of the toilet!).

In the bedroom


17. Windows

We already mentioned windows, but it’s doubly important in the bedroom. Run your hand along every edge of the window to check for leaks. In the bedroom, poor insulation can mean a very cold night. Check the locks on the windows to assure a safe night’s sleep.

18. Closet

Assure there’s no damage to the floor. Check all built-ins for sturdiness. If you have permanent hanging rods, tug on them slightly to make sure they do not give.

Closets are dark which is where mice and roaches like to be. Look around for rodent and insect droppings. Be sure the door or doors open and close easily.

19. Bed

In a furnished apartment, check every part of the bed for damage, cracks, loose bolts and evidence of bedbugs.

20. Ceiling fan

If you’re fortunate enough to have a ceiling fan in the bedroom, turn it on and off and try all speeds. Does it rattle or wobble at the highest speed? It’s going to need fixing before you’re nocturnally impaled.

21. Floors

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

apartment kitchen

22. Oven and stove

Turn on the stove to make sure it heats up as quickly as expected. Open and close the 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 with a drop of water.

For gas burners, check that each burner lights without too much effort or releasing a lot of gas. Run the drop of water test. 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.

23. Sink

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 if you wish. Check for odors afterwards. Look around the base of the sink and underneath for water damage or cracks.

24. Refrigerator

Check all of the stripping around the doors to make sure of a proper seal. Loose or dry sealing must be fixed. Open and close the doors. Feel inside the fridge and freezer to make sure they seem they are at the right temperature. 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. Other miscellaneous kitchen appliances

If you have a built-in microwave, check that the door closes and it operates correctly. You can try heating something up. Check the dishwasher for leakage and odd odors. Turn it on and wait for the water to run and then turn it off. Check all recessed lighting works properly and that there’s no damage to the floor, especially under and around the refrigerator.

In the utility closet

laundry closet

27. Laundry

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. Start up each appliance to see that they work. Watch for water stains and mold.

28. Heating and air

Find the closet or area that contains the 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 be sure it looks normal.

29. Fuse box

Open up the fuse box and see if everything looks okay. You don’t have to trip every fuse, but see if there are any missing or damaged switches.

In the hallway and outside

Apartment exterior

30. Exterior doors

Recheck all the locks to exterior doors, to hallways or the 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 and nothing is blocking it and it is not painted over. This is an overlooked part of the security inspection.

31. Exterior windows

Same with windows. 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. Et cetera

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 if before you need it. Wherever your mailbox is, make sure you can get into it, your key works, and – if free-standing – it’s not in danger of falling off or over.

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Michael HochmanMichael is a Philadelphia-based writer with a variety of interests, including music, TV, politics, travel, and sports (Fly Eagles Fly!). His background includes a decade as a programming executive in network television, six years as a marketing executive at a technology company, and time at two magazines and two advertising agencies. He also sits on the board of a non-profit law firm that assists veterans with disabilities. Michael is a proud Syracuse grad (Newhouse) who has lived in Kansas, Chicago, Saratoga and beyond.

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