So you've found your ideal rental property, talked to the owners, done the walk-through, signed the lease and paid your security deposit. While you may be congratulating yourself on finding such a gem, it's now time to cover your bases and make sure that security deposit comes back to you whenever you decide to move out. As the tenant, you have also become the active caretaker and will be considered responsible for any damage taken on by the property during your stay. Whether or not you had a full inspection done before signing the lease, it's time to do a little inspection of your own with full documentation in order to prove the starting state of your new home. If you have a property manager, you can contact them to inspect with you.
1 Establish a Baseline
The primary purpose of a move-in inspection is to establish the state of your home before you've had any chance to affect it. Every home has a few little quirks and this inspection will provide proof that any pre-existing scuffs, scrapes, paint color differences or other items a landlord might object to were there when you arrived. It's also a great chance to really get to know your new home. While you will become more familiar with the place as you live here, now is a good time to take a very close look at everything you can point a camera at.
2 Take Pictures
Remember that this inspection isn't just for your own education, it will help to serve as proof of how well you take care of the property during your stay. If your property manager does move-in inspections, they will often provide you with a comprehensive set of photos but you can always take your own set as well. Make sure your camera is set up properly so the time stamps are accurate before getting started, then snap a picture of absolutely everything, from the baseboards to the plumbing under the sinks.
3 Check the Lights and Outlets
It's easy to look around but many people forget to test their access to utilities until they're already unpacking and settling in. Flip on and off every light and ceiling fan, then test every outlet you can find with something obvious like a lamp or even an official outlet tester ($5-$20 in most hardware stores). If an outlet or light fixture is dead, make a note of it in your personal inspection report and prepare to alert your property manager.
4 Run the Plumbing
Make sure to run every faucet and flush every toilet at least once. This gives you the opportunity to test refill rate, flow strength, and how long it takes for the water heater to get going. Speaking of the water heater, by checking its filter you can get a good idea of how long it's been since it was last maintained. If you're worried about water quality you can even get your water tested for things like lead, hardness, chlorine, or other contaminants in order to know if there's something wrong with your pipes or you need a filter.
5 Report Problems Early
Should you find any real problems or concerns with your new house, pat yourself on the back for doing a properly thorough inspection and contact your property manager immediately. This will make it clear that you're not the cause of the problem and expedite necessary repairs before you finish moving in. In many cases, this can be the beginning of a strong landlord-tenant relationship as you show how much care you intend to show their property while you live there.
Being a good rental tenant involves caring about a property as much or more than the owning landlord. By performing a thorough inspection and working closely with your property managers to establish a baseline during your move-in process, you can ensure that your entire stay starts on good terms and that you don't get caught unawares by a preexisting problem later on.