The Ultimate Rental Walkthrough Checklist

Creating a checklist helps property owners and tenants know what to look for when conducting rental walkthroughs. Here's everything you need to know about rental walkthrough checklists.

By
Vivian Tejada
|
Last Updated
December 28, 2023
The Ultimate Rental Walkthrough Checklist

Taking the time to create a rental walk-through checklist may seem like an unnecessary step in the rental process, but the truth is, it’s a pivotal part of the rental process for both the property owner and prospective tenant.

The purpose of a rental walkthrough is to check for property damage beyond normal wear and tear. To ensure the property owner and prospective tenant are entering into a fair rental agreement, both parties should have a clear understanding of a rental unit’s condition. 

In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about rental walkthroughs, including why they're important, when to conduct one, and how to prepare. We’ll also include tips to keep in mind when conducting rental walkthroughs, as well as specific red flags to look for in certain areas of the home. 

Why are rental walkthroughs necessary?

Although property owners tend to take the lead during rental walkthroughs, they’re just as beneficial to prospective tenants.

Documenting an apartment’s existing condition allows rental owners to hold future tenants accountable for damage that may take place during their tenancy. It also reduces the likelihood of disputes when returning a tenant's security deposit at the end of their stay. 

From a tenant’s perspective, a pre-move-in walkthrough allows them to evaluate the cleanliness and functionality of a unit in person, which provides the tenant with an opportunity to request certain improvements if needed.

If the property manager is unwilling or unable to make the requested home improvements before a tenant’s move-in date, the tenant may be able to negotiate a discounted rent. As a result, renters should be just as invested in rental walkthroughs as property owners.  

When to conduct a rental walkthrough

A rental walkthrough should be conducted right before a new tenant moves in and immediately after they move out. The closer you can schedule a walkthrough to these dates, the better.

It’s also important to compare your move-out checklist with your move-in checklist, as this provides you with a clear understanding of how well a tenant took care of your property.

How to prepare for a rental walkthrough

The property owner and prospective tenant should conduct at least the first rental walkthrough together so that both parties can make sure they're on the same page on the property's condition from the start. Tenants don’t want to be charged for maintenance issues they didn’t cause, while property owners don’t want to fight tenants on whether or not they have the right to keep their security deposit.

When doing the first walkthrough, having a walk-through rental checklist in hand allows you to easily assess the state of the property. Include a place for both the property owner’s and tenant’s signature on the physical copy of the checklist. Once a landlord walkthrough checklist is created and a time for the inspection is scheduled, the property owner and prospective tenant are ready to conduct a walkthrough of the property. 

Tips for conducting a rental walkthrough

For personal protection and liability purposes, both the tenant and the owner should take pictures and videos of as much as they can during a rental walkthrough, especially questionable areas. Ideally, both parties will have a copy of their own checklist so that they can do all of the following:

Verify safety 

The safety of a rental unit is one of the most important aspects of a walkthrough. Property owners and tenants should check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, as well as all locks on doors and windows. Nothing should be wobbly or struggle to remain closed. Any safety issues should be addressed before the tenant moves in.

Test appliances

Home appliances, such as refrigerators, dishwashers, microwaves, washers, and dryers, should be functioning properly. They don’t need to be brand new, but they do need to be in good condition and be free of electrical issues. Signs of damage may require repair or replacement. 

Test plumbing 

Another maintenance issue you want to get ahead of is faulty plumbing. Not only are plumbing issues a major inconvenience to tenants, but they're often expensive for owners to repair. The sooner you can identify plumbing issues in your unit, the better. Check for water damage and leaks during your property walkthrough, paying close attention to sinks, toilets, and anything connected to a water source. 

Go through every room

If you’ve already conducted several property walkthroughs, you may feel tempted to skip a few rooms. However, holes in the wall, broken light fixtures, and faulty outlets aren’t always obvious from a quick glance.

Enter each room and verify that everything is functioning properly for peace of mind. Upon move-out, property managers should be especially vigilant in looking out for impromptu renovations tenants might have made during their stay — they may have installed wallpaper or moved furniture to hide property damage.

Open cabinets, doors, and windows

Lastly, it's important to make sure all windows, doors, and cabinets open and close properly. Signs of damage aren’t always clear, especially if the damage is located on the inside of the cabinets or along door hinges. 

What to include in a rental walkthrough checklist

Every rental walkthrough checklist is different, depending on the kind of property being evaluated and the rental owner’s priorities. However, there are a few items every move-in inspection should include:

  • Unusual odors
  • HVAC system inefficiencies
  • Flickering lights
  • Broken outlets
  • Doors and windows that don’t close properly
  • Water damage on ceilings and floors
  • Carpet stains, lifted wood, broken tiles
  • Wall discoloration
  • Pest infestations

You should check for these signs throughout your rental. However, certain rooms require extra attention due to frequent use or due to their potential for water damage. Here’s what you need to watch out for in the bathroom and kitchen during a move out inspection:

Bathroom

  • Dripping faucets 
  • Low water pressure 
  • Hot water temperature
  • Slow drainage 
  • Cracked tiles 
  • Dislodged bathtubs, showers, sinks, toilets
  • Signs of mold

Kitchen

  • Slow-to-start appliances
  • Dishwasher functionality
  • Refrigerator cooling ability
  • Garbage disposal efficiency
  • Oven and stovetop heating ability

The bottom line on rental walkthrough checklists

Rental walkthrough checklists are crucial tools for property owners and prospective tenants. A thorough and well-structured rental walkthrough checklist lays the foundation for a fair rental agreement and ensures transparency about the property's condition. By conducting walkthroughs before and after a tenant's stay, both parties can get on the same page regarding property maintenance and reduce the chance of security deposit disputes. 

Taking pictures of potential problem areas, testing appliances, and signing off on a completed checklist are some of the ways you can secure a successful rental property walkthrough. Pay close attention to bathrooms, kitchens, and any other areas on your property where water flows in and out. These areas tend to be more susceptible to water damage. With knowledge and preparation, you can assess your rental with confidence.

Vivian Tejada

Vivian is a freelance real estate writer based in Brooklyn, NYC providing SEO blogging services to real estate companies. Her work focuses on educating first-time real estate investors on investment strategy and explaining proptech tools to new customers.

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