12 Areas You Need to Inspect in an Apartment Before You Sign a Lease
Inspecting an Apartment Before Signing a Lease

Moving into a new apartment can be an exciting endeavor, especially when you are on your own for the first time. With all the time it takes to research, tour and apply for the perfect apartment, you may be ready to sign that lease and move in as quickly as possible. However, rushing into an apartment without inspecting it can lead to a variety of issues.
Before signing a lease, you should always be aware of the true condition of your apartment. As soon as you move in, you may be held accountable for any damage that you discover even if it was not caused by you. Doing a thorough inspection of your unit may take a little time, but it will help you avoid common pitfalls while also increasing the likelihood of receiving your full security deposit back. Find the top areas you need to inspect in your apartment below.

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1. Plumbing fixtures

Arguably, one of the most frequently-used features of an apartment is the plumbing system. It is crucial to check the handles or knobs in the kitchen sink, bathroom sink, shower and toilet. If your apartment has in-unit laundry, be sure to check the water hook-ups for these appliances as well. Any signs of leaks should be noted. Also check for loose handles or peeling caulk or sealant around each fixture.

2. Water

As you are inspecting the plumbing fixtures, turn each knob or handle in order to test the water pressure and the clarity of the water. Poor water pressure may be a sign of plumbing issues. At the very least, low pressure can be an annoyance when trying to take a shower or wash the dishes. Be sure to flush the toilet and check for hot and cold water in each fixture.

3. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC)

Many older apartment buildings will utilize window air conditioners, while newer buildings tend to feature central air instead. Run the air conditioner unit or adjust the settings on the thermostat so you can see how effective the system is and whether it delivers the temperature control you need. In older apartments, you will oftentimes find baseboard heaters or radiators. Adjust the settings on the unit in each room to ensure they all work.

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4. Electrical components

Apartments have a variety of electrical fixtures that you will want to inspect. This step in the inspection process can take longer than others, but it is crucial not to skip it. First, check every light switch in the apartment as well as the intercom system, which is used to let guests enter the building in some complexes. Second, test each outlet. You may want to bring a small electronic device with a plug in order to complete this step. Third, inspect the wiring around each light fixture.

5. Appliances

In addition to appliances such as the air conditioner, you will want to check the stove, refrigerator and dishwasher in your unit. If there is a microwave or a garbage disposal, inspect these items as well. On the stove, briefly turn on the burners to ensure that each one gets hot. Look inside of the refrigerator and freezer to check for damage to the drawers and shelves. Make sure the temperature controls work and that the unit is cold enough.

6. Cabinets and drawers

If there are handles or pulls on your cabinets, make sure each fixture is securely attached and free from damage. Open all of the drawers and cupboards, looking for hinges or runners that need repair. Each component should open smoothly without scraping or creaking.

7. Windows and blinds

Open and close all of the windows in the apartment. Each window should have a latch that allows you to lock it. Blinds should open smoothly without snagging. Finally, check to see that there is no mold or signs of water damage around the frames of the windows. Stains or mildew could indicate poor insulation or even structural damage.

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8. Safety features

Overlooking items such as the smoke detector, carbon monoxide alarm and door locks is a mistake. At the very least, ensure that smoke detectors have in indicator light on. Every apartment should have at least one detector. Large apartments may need more than one device in order to meet safety standards. Lastly, do not forget to review the overall security of the building. The apartment complex should have a secure lobby, side entrances and garage doors.

9. Doors and door frames

Your front door as well as the doors to each room should open and close smoothly. Watch out for doors that do not hand straight in the frames. Doorways, especially the front entry, will oftentimes have scrapes and dents. In particular, look for damage where the latch or deadbolt may have scraped the frame. Do not forget to check closet doors as well. Each door should open easily and close fully without buckling.

10. Signs of pests

Rodents, roaches, bedbugs, ants and other insects can easily get into an apartment. Watch out for odors and droppings. Even when kept at bay with pest control devices, signs of mice and insects should be a red flag.

11. General cleanliness

If you tour an apartment while the current residents are still residing there, you will want to watch out for a lack of cleanliness. An unkempt living environment can lead to unwanted odors and even a pest control problem. Even if you tour a vacant apartment, you will get a sense for these issues by looking in corners, under shelves and inside cabinets for signs of untidiness.

12. Aesthetic details

Note any damage to the floors, walls, baseboards and ceiling when doing an apartment walk-through. Minor aesthetic damage is normal, and it rarely points towards structural damage or safety issues. It is common to find signs of existing damage such as scrapes and stains. All of these issues should be listed prior to move in so that your landlord is aware of the existing condition. Normal wear and tear is usually not held against you even if you do cause minimal damage while living in your unit. However, you do not want to be held accountable for the previous tenant’s damage, no matter how minor.

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