Rental Report: Apartment Walk-Through Checklist

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

In the competitive DC area rental market, finding the perfect place can be challenging.

Before renters sign on the dotted line, they need to make sure there aren’t any hidden disasters on the horizon. This is especially true when renting a condo or house from an independent landlord. So what should renters look for when doing an initial walk through? And what should they do when they see a problem?

Here’s a list of top things to watch out for when walking through a potential rental:

  1. Paint – Check the paint throughout the house. Look for cracks, chips, holes, etc. Pay special attention to areas around windows and doors where there could be water damage.
  2. Appliances – Turn everything on and make sure it is in working order. Also, make sure everything is clean and without damage. This means opening things up and looking inside.  Don’t be afraid to pull out the refrigerator to check for any unwanted pests underneath.
  3. Doors and Windows – Open all the doors and windows. Make sure they open and close properly. Also inspect around the door and window frames. Look for mold, rotted wood, and places where pests can enter the home. These things are signs of much bigger problems. Be sure the windows have screens that are clean and in good condition. Check that all the window and door locks work properly.
  4. Flooring – Is the carpet clean and in good condition? Are there spots that look like something is lurking underneath? What about tile, vinyl, or wood floors? Look for scratches, cracks, holes, or loose pieces. Does everything match or does it look like something was replaced? If flooring doesn’t match up it begs the questions, what happened here? Was it a minor accident that required the floor to be replaced, or was there a leak or flood that caused damage?
  5. Plumbing – Run all the sinks, flush all the toilets and check the showers. Look under the sinks for signs of leaking. Maybe it isn’t leaking now, but check for water spots and mold. Check that the shower heads are clean, have good pressure, and don’t leak once the water is turned off. Check the hot water.
  6. HVAC – Be sure to check for clean air filters. Turn on the furnace and the AC. Make sure both kick on and check the vents to be sure there is good flow.

While some renters may feel uncomfortable doing all these checks on an initial walkthrough, it could potentially save a lot of headaches during their lease term. It is better to ask the questions up front, and make an informed decision. Not every landlord is going to be forthcoming with issues, but at least it shows due diligence.

It can also help when it comes to making an offer. If a renter really likes the place, but there are a few issues to be resolved, it is smart include those issues as a condition before signing the lease. It shows the landlord that the renter is interested in taking care of the property.

If it appears the repairs are bigger than some new paint and a professional cleaning, talk it over with the landlord. Maybe he or she will do some of the work while you are in the unit and offer a reduced rent. Just be sure to set a deadline for the work to be completed. Landlords are usually flexible and willing to do repairs in exchange for good renters. If the landlord isn’t willing to work with the renter up front, it might be a sign to walk away from the deal.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

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