8 Things to Look for When Doing a Walkthrough

You feel like the stars have aligned: your current lease is almost up, you’ve got a little more cash in your pocket to spend on rent, and you just found out that a unit in your dream complex has opened up. But jumping into your next lease without doing a thorough walkthrough of the apartment or rental home you’d be living in for the next year could make you one unhappy renter. Finding out beforehand that something is broken or just a deal breaker will save you a lease term’s worth of grief. Check these things off your list as you go through your potential home and you’ll be sure you know exactly what you’re getting.

  1. Safe locks

    Even if an apartment is ideal in every other way, if the locks are broken or missing, you’d better get it in writing that they’ll be fixed by move-in or find yourself another place. Many states such as California, Texas, and Iowa, require rental residences to have deadbolts on the front door, and it’s just not safe to go without even if it isn’t illegal. During your walkthrough, test all the locks to see if they’re loose and if you can secure them properly. This includes locks on the windows, which many people forget about until after they’ve moved in and may have a harder time getting them replaced.

  2. Sealed windows

    While you’re checking those window locks, feel around the seals for a draft. If you’re feeling air coming through around the edges, this will have an effect on your wallet. Small leaks can add a big chunk to your electricity bill, especially during the hot summer months and freezing winters. Some experts even say a single poorly sealed window can cause you to lose the same amount of heat as a 3-inch hole in the wall. If you find poor sealing around your windows, you can ask the landlord to fix it, or just move on to the next apartment.

  3. Water damage

    Any signs of water damage are signs that this is not the rental for you. Take a look at the ceilings and walls for water spots because these could be red flags that there are serious troubles ahead. If there’s a leak in a neighboring apartment and it causes puddles and flooding in your apartment, you could be stuck with the bill for the repairs if your renter’s insurance doesn’t cover water damage. Even if a landlord assures you that the leak that caused water marks on the wall or ceiling has been fixed, there could still be mold, mildew, or rot problems that haven’t been addressed and that you won’t want to deal with.

  4. Working appliances

    You may not need a state-of-the-art kitchen or laundry room, but you at least need appliances that work. Check the oven to make sure it is free of grease and turn on all the burners to make sure they heat up quickly. Your fridge should be plugged in and cold during your walkthrough. If there’s a washer and dryer, look inside and around them to make sure they’ve been maintained; otherwise, do a similar inspection in your laundry room. These are expensive items to replace, so it’s better to find out they’re broken now than have a landlord who won’t pay for new ones later.

  1. Plumbing leaks

    Take a look under any sinks in the rental unit and in the shower to make sure there aren’t any plumbing leaks that will end up costing you when your water bill comes in. Look for any water on the outside of pipes. Be aware of any dripping faucets. Check the shower heads for excess water. These are all things that should be fixed by the landlord before any tenant moves in. You can even check for leaks in the toilet if you bring food coloring with you and drop some in the tank; if any finds its way into the bowl, a simple part in the tank may need replacing.

  2. Water temperature and pressure

    While some of the other things on this list can be repaired by the landlord before you move in, water pressure and temperature are pretty much set. If hot showers and high pressure are important to you at all, the walkthrough is the time to check them out. Turn on the shower and feel the pressure with your hand. Then try turning on a sink to see whether it changes. Check to see how long it takes for the water to get hot and whether it stays hot if you leave it on through the rest of your walkthrough. You should also take a look at the water heater and ask if it’s shared with any other units.

  3. Smoke detectors and fire extinguishers

    Not only are smoke detectors and fire extinguishers an important part of the fire safety you learned in elementary school, they’re often required by law. Many states, including Washington and New Hampshire, require every apartment to have a smoke detector installed and fire extinguishers near every unit, and for good reason. According to the Delaware State Fire Marshal, more than 65% of fatal fires happen in homes without smoke detectors. That’s not a statistic you want to be a part of, so make sure there’s at least one in the unit you’re looking at. Check the nearest fire extinguisher to see when it was last serviced.

  4. Signs of rodents or insects

    Having a roommate can be great, but not the uninvited four-, six-, or eight-legged kind! The walkthrough is your one chance to make sure there’s not an existing rodent or insect problem, so use it wisely. If this is a big concern for you, bring a flashlight to check dark corners. Look in cabinets and closets for any rodent or insect droppings or insect remains. Check out wood and any other material for chew marks, since rats and mice gnaw on things almost continuously. If anything seems like a warning sign to you, you’d be better off letting this apartment go than waking up to a mouse scurrying over your foot.

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