Before You Move In
Inspect your new apartment to document any pre-existing problems. Ideally you and the landlord should walk through the rental unit before moving in any of your belongings. Ask a friend to accompany you — four eyes are better than two. Many apartment complexes have pre-printed inspection forms to record any damage or problems you may see. If not, get a pad of paper or notebook to record your findings. At the end of the inspection you and the landlord should sign and date the form. You keep the original and give a copy to the landlord for their records. Get it in writing on your contract if the landlord tells you something will be fixed. Videotaping or taking pictures during your walk through will provide a visual supplement to your written notes. (Failure to perform a move in inspection may cause problems with refunding your security deposit).
What to look for:
- Inspect all the walls and ceilings: make a note of any dents, holes or cracks in the plaster; scuff marks that don’t rub off; and tears, bubbles or peeling wallpaper.
- Check for signs of water damage on walls, ceilings, baseboards, and in closets.
- Inspect all the floors: make a note of stains or discoloration in carpets; tears in linoleum; cracked or chipped tiles; and dents, scuffs or stains on hardwood floors.
- Inspect all trim (including moldings, door and window sills and door and window frames) for stains, cracks, leaks or other problems.
- Inspect all electrical outlets and lights to make sure they are functioning; pay close attention to any 2- or 3-way light switches and dimmers.
- In the bathroom(s): make sure all faucets (hot and cold) work without leaking; inspect for chips or scratches in fixtures and tile; inspect walls around the tub for ‘sponginess’; and check countertops for dents, scratches, or stains.
- In the kitchen: make sure all faucets (hot and cold) work without leaking; inspect for chips or scratches in fixtures and tile; inspect countertops for dents, scratches, or stains; and make sure all appliances work and are clean.
- Make sure all exterior doors and windows work, seal properly, and have functioning locks; be especially alert to evidence of water infiltration.
- If you have a deck, balcony or patio, inspect it for chipped flagstone, warped or cracked boards, or problems with exterior siding.
- If you have a storage area, make sure it is cleaned out and that the locks are secure.
- Check all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
- If your landlord gave you an apartment inspection sheet, complete it noting all problems, no matter how small; if the landlord didn’t give you an inspection sheet, write a formal letter noting the problems you found.
- Request that your landlord repair any problems you want taken care of as soon as possible.
Your unit should be clean when you move in. If it is not clean, ask the landlord to have it cleaned or make an adjustment in your first month’s rent to offset the cost of cleaning it (make sure to get this in writing).
Getting Repairs Made
The most common problem for tenants is getting the landlord to fulfill his or her responsibility to make necessary repairs on the premises. If you are living with several people, identify one individual as the spokesperson for the group. When there are problems, have your spokesperson immediately contact the landlord and follow-up in writing if necessary. Do not be afraid to keep calling if the problem is not resolved.
Be a Good Neighbor
Be part of a community that cares about the area in which you live and have consideration for the people who live there – Be a good neighbor.
- Introduce yourself and get to know your neighbors.
- Put your trash where it belongs – in the trashcan.
- If you are living in a house, maintain the lawn and trim hedges.
- If you have pets, clean up after them. Also, be aware of your pet’s effect on others.
- Park your car in the designated area, and inform guests where they are to park.
- Inform neighbors when you are having people over and keep the volume down.
When you’re outside make sure to smile and wave at your other neighbors. Start a conversation. These small actions make good neighbors and neighborhoods.
Just as you inspected your apartment for damages before you moved in, management will inspect it for damages when you move out. The condition of your apartment after you leave it will often determine how much of your security deposit is returned. Being organized and taking your time can make all the difference. Follow these suggestions to help make your move out inspection easier.
- Give written notice of your intent to vacate (usually 30 days before you plan to leave, but check your lease for accuracy), even if you plan to leave when your lease expires.
- Obtain a copy of the move out cleaning instructions.
- Schedule an appointment for both you and the landlord to inspect the empty, cleaned apartment.
- Clean the apartment in accordance with the manager’s move out cleaning instructions. If none are available, follow these suggestions:
- Move all of your belongings out of the apartment before starting.
- Make a final run through, checking all closets, cabinets, appliances, and your storage area for forgotten belongings.
- Clean sinks, tubs, toilets, and countertops in the kitchen and bathroom(s).
- Clean all kitchen appliances, including the oven.
- Make a last run to the dumpster – don’t leave trash behind for your landlord to remove.
- Check your balcony, patio, or deck for forgotten plant pots, barbecue tools, etc.
- Make sure all light fixtures have working bulbs.
- Make sure all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors work.
- If you painted any walls, you might want to seriously consider re-painting them the original color (your landlord may charge you for re-painting if s/he must do it after you leave).
- Sweep or vacuum all tile, linoleum, or hard wood floors (your landlord may require you to clean them).
- Vacuum all carpeted floors (your landlord may require you to shampoo them).
- Complete your Move-out Inventory Form and walk through the empty, cleaned apartment. Compare the condition of the apartment with the Move-in Inventory to ascertain that you are responsible for any damage found.
- Write down the damage for which you are responsible or any additional cleaning which the landlord wants you to perform.
- If you and the landlord agree on the damage and cleaning items, both of you should sign the list, and indicate which items you will be permitted to clean or repair before turning the premises back over to the landlord.
- Provide the landlord with a forwarding address to mail your security deposit.
- Turn in all keys to the apartment and mailbox.