An inspection is a written record of the condition of the property and its contents (refrigerator, oven, furnishings) at the beginning of the tenancy or rental period. Most states have laws that require landlords to inspect the premises before renting to ensure they are in good condition and habitable.

Landlord's Prelease Inspection

Before the tenant moves in, a landlord should:

  • Check that all appliances and fixtures are in good working order
  • Exterminate to eliminate problems with rodents or insects
  • Thoroughly clean the rooms, paying particular attention to the bathroom(s) and kitchen
  • Pepaint walls to clean and freshen the property
  • Clean carpets
  • Rekey all locks

Tenant's Prelease Inspection

Typically, at the time you sign a lease, the landlord or property manager will walk through the premises with you so you can see the condition of the property. If you discover any problems, tell the landlord right away and make sure it is noted on the lease. For example, the landlord may not have opened a closet door during his prelease inspection and failed to discover it was off the hinges. If you try to open the closet door during your inspection and find out it is broken, you must inform the landlord immediately. If you do not, he might believe you are responsible for the damage and charge you for repairs after you move in.

As you examine the premises with the landlord, he may be checking off items on a form. Typically, he is noting which items are in the apartment and their condition. Again, if you believe something is not in good condition, speak up so it can be noted on the inspection form.

Check the inspection form for accuracy; it will be matched against another inspection form the landlord completes when you move out. The items usually covered in the form are:

  • The decorative condition of the interior-carpets, curtains, fixtures and fittings, walls and blinds
  • The condition of the furniture (if the premises are to be rented "furnished")
  • The condition of floor, ceilings and doors
  • The condition of appliances
  • The condition of gardens or decks

TIP: Do more than just walk through your new apartment. It is important that you inspect some of the following items carefully:

  • Refrigerator. Make sure the doors open. Open all the bins; check to see if all the racks are there; ask if the ice maker is working.6
  • Oven or range. Turn on all the burners; open the oven door to see that it opens properly; check for oven racks and cleanliness (if it is spotless you will have to leave it in that condition when you move out).
  • Lighting fixtures. Turn on all lights, including dimmers and porch lights.
  • Faucets. Turn on the faucets; check the water pressure; make sure fixtures are in good condition.
  • Doors and closets. Open every door and check for problems with doorknobs, latches and locks.
  • Carpeting. Look closely for any spots or stains, and point them out.
  • Tiling. Point out broken or chipped tiles

The property manager says the apartment I plan to rent is not available for inspection before I sign the lease and move in. I have looked at the model apartment. Is this an adequate inspection?

No. The model apartment is not the apartment you are renting. Once you sign the lease, you are obligated to pay rent on an apartment you have not seen or inspected. Without an inspection, any problems that arise after you move in could be attributed to you rather than the previous residents. Tell the property manager you want to rent but will only sign the lease if the two of you can inspect the apartment first.

The property manager and I inspected my apartment but she says she does not have time to let me walk through the entire complex and inspect the outside. Should I sign the lease anyway?

No. You should be able to walk through the entire property and inspect all areas to which residents have access. For example, you want to make sure the weight room that is advertised is a working weight room in good condition. Other common areas to inspect include tennis courts, pools, party rooms, mailbox area, parking areas and dumpsters. If the outside of the complex is not well maintained, it is a good bet that your apartment will also be kept in poor repair.

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