Renting a new place? Save yourself a headache by checking off the items on this list before moving in.

Once you’ve found the place you want to call home, it’s easy to get carried away and jump on it immediately to secure it. After all, it’s not always easy to find a good place to rent that meets your criteria, is in a safe neighborhood, and close to amenities or public transport.

Nonetheless, it’s essential to have a thorough inspection of the place before signing on the dotted line. A careful review of the property allows you to go in with your eyes wide open, and avoid a lot of headaches later on—not to mention saving your security deposit! Take plenty of photographs and write everything down. Without proof, it could turn into an unfortunate case of he-said-she-said.

Here are the most critical things to check when renting a new house or apartment.

 

1. Floors, Walls, and Carpets

This is probably the first thing you’ll notice when you walk in. Be sure to understand the difference between normal wear and tear vs. actual damage or permanent stains.

Normal wear and tear includes things like:

  • Fading carpet as a result of sunlight exposure
  • A couple of scrapes or dings here and there in a wooden floor

However, damage will be more noticeable: cracked floor tiles, a large hole in the wall, or distinct stains on the carpets.

Whereas normal wear and tear can be ok, any existing damage should be noted and documented so you aren’t blamed for it during move-out. Take plenty of photos for your own reference, and make sure to mention it to the landlord as well.

2. Windows, Lights, and Light Switches

You may want to conduct the inspection during the day, so you can see how much natural light the place gets. Beyond that, remember to turn on all the light switches to make sure they’re all working. If any light bulbs are burned out, note that as well. Open all the windows to make sure that they are operating correctly and that the glass isn’t cracked or broken. If they’re covered by screens, check those for holes or rips.

 

3. Thermostat and HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) System

Since HVAC systems control the basic level of comfort inside the property, you should be able to tell if it’s working well or not the second you step inside. For instance, if the ambient temperature doesn’t feel in sync with what the thermostat reads, then you might need to ask the landlord if it’s functioning well. If it feels overly humid, there may not be enough ventilation—which can cause mold and mildew.

 

4. Smoke Detectors + Carbon Monoxide Detectors

It is the responsibility of the owner or manager of the building to provide a functioning smoke detector on all floors. In some cities, landlords are required to install one in the basement and bedrooms as well. You may need to climb up onto a ladder to check if it’s working (most units have the instructions for testing printed on the outside), but it’s worth it! If you suspect a malfunction, make sure to ask the landlord to check it.

While not always required, carbon monoxide detectors are also worth checking if there is one. If not, you may want to consider buying your own. Carbon monoxide poisoning is real and life-threatening.

(Check out this Reddit post of a guy who thought his landlord was stalking him, only to have a helpful commenter discover he was suffering from CO poisoning instead.)

 

5. Bathroom and Kitchen Plumbing

Bathrooms and kitchens are critical areas of the home with lots of plumbing, so make sure you test everything. Flush the toilets to make sure everything drains and refills properly. Turn on all the faucets and taps at the same time to check the water pressure. Make sure there is hot water everywhere it’s supposed to be. Beyond the plumbing, check underneath all the sinks for leaks and mold.

6. Appliances

If the apartment includes appliances, examine them. Depending on where you live, your landlord may include a fridge, freezer, washing machine + dryer, stove, oven, microwave, dishwasher, etc. Make sure they’re all in working order, and check your lease to confirm that the landlord has agreed to repair any appliance that breaks down.

If appliances aren’t included in the lease, take measurements of the space so you can purchase ones that fit. Take note of the supply lines—for example, is it a gas or electric stove?

 

7. Pesky Pests

Don’t be deceived by how clean and inviting the house looks. It’s better to find out if the place you’re about to move into has a pest problem before you actually move in. 

Here are a few revealing signs you can look for:

Use your nose: Mice and cockroaches, especially when they’ve been in the place for a while, leave smelly traces behind. If you can detect a musty or oily smell, you might be dealing with a roach infestation.

Peek inside closed cabinets: Cockroaches or rodents may call those cabinets “home.” You should also look for any traps or bait stations left in the place. If you find any, bring it up.

Look for visible traces: Spotting insect or rodent droppings leaves little room for speculation. Other signs, like wood shavings, can give away a population of carpenter ants. (This might also suggest substantial structural damage.)

 

8. Decorating

Without a doubt, adding a personal touch to a new apartment makes you feel more at home. However, speak with your landlord to make sure you share a common understanding of the word “decorate.”  Whereas some landlords might be happy to let you paint the walls or install shelves, others won’t allow changes as minor as putting up a picture.

(Need some ideas for non-permanent bedroom decor? Check out 10 Easy Ways to Upgrade Your Bedroom on the Cheap.)

Above all else, make sure to document everything and get it in writing. If something doesn’t work, it doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker—but at least you know what you’re getting yourself into.

 

Happy hunting!

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