The Ultimate Tenant Rental Move-in Checklist
March 24, 2023
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As exciting as moving into a new place can be, it’s important to make sure you take care of certain things before you settle in.
The rental move-in checklist is one of those key items.
This is a written checklist you should work through with your landlord as you check out the condition of every room in the property.
In the same way you should carefully read lease agreement terms, you need to take the move-in checklist seriously.
It’s a great way to ensure you’ll get your security deposit back if you maintain the condition of the property to a reasonable degree.
But what exactly should be included on the move-in checklist?
We’re glad you asked.
There are a number of elements that need to be present on the checklist for renters moving in. There will differ, though, based on who you are and the type of dwelling you’re about to occupy. For instance, certain things a college student should look for may not correlate directly with what a family of three should keep an eye out for.
Overall, though, the checklist is something you may need to refer back to when you’re moving out. So, no matter who you are, it’s important.
Here are the major elements that every checklist should have:
- Inspection items listed room by room
- Column for the condition of feature when you move in
- Column for the condition of feature when you move out
- Columns that track of the costs of repairs when you move out
- Additional fields to help add personalization as you and your landlord inspect each room
- Fields with your forwarding address to allow the landlord to follow up and ask questions, if needed
- Signature lines for a couple of tenants (you and whoever else may be necessary)
- For larger properties that may need extra columns for additional bedrooms or bathrooms, you will need to bring a few extra copies of the template. This ensures that the condition of the entire rental property checklist is completely inspected, and nothing is left unchecked.
As you cover the checklist with your landlord, ask questions about the property, its features, your landlord’s expectations and anything else you feel is relevant. Questions about how to report maintenance issues or what you can expect if an appliance isn’t working are good examples of things you should ask.
A good landlord will also use this opportunity to clarify your responsibilities. These responsibilities can be things like changing the batteries in the carbon monoxide detectors, keeping areas of the rental unit clean, or explaining how to use different appliances in the rental.
It’s in both parties’ best interest to use this form and look at the entire rental property together. This form helps you agree on the condition of things in real time. It also helps minimize the risk of disputes when the time comes for you to move out. By working through the list together, both parties know about everything on the property, and have a record of their joint inspection. To add another layer of protection, both parties should sign the form after the tenant move-in inspection is complete.
Determine the Difference Between Normal Wear and Tear and Damages
An ultimate checklist wouldn’t be an ultimate checklist without this critical caveat. Tenants and landlords need to differentiate between normal wear and tear and actual damage. This is extremely important because it could cause a lot of trouble between the landlord and the tenant down the road if things aren’t clear upfront.
All properties experience normal wear and tear. The carpet gets a little dirtier over time. Floors accumulate small scratches. The walls have small marks. You get the point. Carpets, stairs, blinds, bathroom tiles and appliances are all examples of things that will suffer from normal wear and tear. As a tenant, though, it’s important to understand that damage beyond normal wear and tear will probably affect you and your security deposit.
Landlords and tenants must operate based on landlord-tenant laws in the relevant location to ensure that everything is in compliance with the law.
Document All Issues
As we mentioned earlier, it’s critical to document all of the issues with the property during the inspection. Everything needs to be in writing or accompanied by physical evidence. This means taking pictures or videos of any issue you see with the property before and after you move out.
The notes, pictures and videos can be used in court to dispute claims made against you or if your landlord tries to keep your security deposit or evict you.
Follow the Law
Lastly, it is extremely important to make sure that throughout everything that you do with the tenant, you are following all the laws. This means following all of the state’s laws as well as the local laws.
If the laws are not followed closely, the whole process can end in a hefty lawsuit. This conclusion is obviously not favorable for any of the parties and should be avoided at all costs. One of the best ways to achieve this is by having documentation of all your state’s landlord-tenant laws.
A well-made rental move-in checklist helps keep everyone honest. As a tenant, you have a greater sense of security because you’re clear on your landlord’s expectations and the condition you need to keep things in.
Check out our tenant renting guide for other helpful tips!