What to Do Before You Move In

Record Damages Before You Move In

It is wise to take note (with the landlord or property manager present) of any defects before you move in. When it is time to move out, those originally noted damages should not be charged against your security deposit since they occurred before you moved in. Written notes and photographs are very helpful so that there is no confusion later. Take photos to document the condition of the apartment and any existing damages. It is the tenant’s right to have the condition of the dwelling in writing.

You may use the Checklist for Inspection of Rental Unit to record any damages in the apartment if you decide to move in. This list will aid you in the event that problems do arise with future repairs. The landlord is not obligated to sign your list, but you can request his or her signature and provide the landlord with a copy of your list. Make sure you date your notes.

If the rental unit is in need of repairs, it is in your best interest to establish in writing a date and time for the repairs to be completed. If the repairs are numerous and substantial do not accept the apartment.

Check with the Local Housing Inspector

This is very important. You may be in the process of renting a house that is condemned or has a
history of structural, electrical, or plumbing problems. Check with your local housing inspector before you move in to see if there are any current housing violations in the rental unit. Ask the housing inspector if there have been any complaints from former tenants against your future landlord for failing to make necessary repairs. Some municipalities require rental units to be licensed. Find out if the rental unit is licensed.

Lead Based Paint

Homes built before 1978 may have lead based paint and homes built before 1950 are more likely to have it. The only way to know for sure if there is lead based paint is to have a certified inspector test for the presence of lead. When old paint cracks and peels, it makes lead dust. Children can get lead poisoning from swallowing flakes of paint or paint dust on their hands and toys. Children can also breathe in lead dust. Even small amounts of lead can cause very serious harm to the brain and other parts of the nervous system. Lead in a child’s body can cause delayed growth and development, damage hearing and speech, and cause behavior problems and learning disabilities. There could be other sources of lead in older homes such as in the pipes or in the soil surrounding the house. The landlord is required to provide tenants with information about lead based paint in any property they are renting. An owner or landlord who fails to give proper information can be sued for triple the amount of damages. The owner may also be subject to civil and criminal penalties. Contact your municipality or city to see if your area has specific requirements regarding lead paint disclosure and remediation.

Smoke Alarms/Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Pennsylvania law requires that the landlord provide working smoke alarms in each unit. The tenant cannot waive this requirement or disconnect the smoke detectors. Your lease should state who is required to check the smoke alarms and change the batteries.

The Carbon Monoxide Alarm Standards Act requires that property owners install carbon monoxide detectors in all rental units that have fossil fuel burning heaters, appliances, fireplaces and/or attached garages. Tenants/occupants are required to replace batteries as needed and replace any device that is stolen, removed, missing or rendered inoperable during occupancy and to also notify the rental property owner or agent in writing of any deficiencies pertaining to the carbon monoxide detectors.

Checklist for Inspection of Rental Unit

Date of Inspection:
Address of Apartment:
Landlord’s Name:
Landlord’s Address:
Telephone Number:

Make sure all appliances and fixtures are in working order. Also, make notes on the presence of furniture, carpeting, and fixtures and the condition of everything in the rental property. Write down the location and number of marks, burn marks, or other damages. Take photos to document the condition of the property before you move in. Only check ‘Yes’ if you are certain an item is in good working condition or free from defects. If you are not sure, check ‘Unsure.’

Building Exterior:

Checklist Item Yes No Unsure Comments
Are the foundation and exterior walls sound and free of hazards?
Are all the exterior stairs, rails, and porches sound and free from hazards?
Are the roof, gutters, and downspouts sound and free from hazards?
Is the chimney sound and free from hazards?
Are all exterior surfaces free of peeling or chipping paint?
If the unit is a mobile home, is it properly placed and tied down?

All Rooms:

Checklist Item Yes No Unsure Comments
Are there at least two working outlets or one working outlet and one working light fixture?
Is the room free from electrical hazards?
Can all windows and doors that are accessible from the outside be locked?
Is there at least one window that opens, and are all windows in good condition with no missing or broken panes?
Are the ceiling, walls, and floors sound and free from major cracks, holes, or hazardous defects?
Are all interior surfaces free of peeling or chipping paint?
Are there working smoke alarms or detectors?


Checklist Item Yes No Unsure Comments
Is there a working toilet in the unit for exclusive private use of the tenant?
Is there a working tub or shower with hot and cold running water?
Are there windows that open or a working vent system?


Checklist Item Yes No Unsure Comments
Is there a working oven, and is there a stove (or range) with top burners that is in working condition?
Is there a refrigerator that works and maintains a temperature cold enough to keep food from spoiling?
Is there a kitchen sink that works with hot and cold running water?

Heat, Plumbing, and Electrical:

Checklist Item Yes No Unsure Comments
Is the heating equipment capable of providing adequate heat to all rooms used for living?
Is the unit free from fuel-burning space heaters or other types of unsafe heating conditions?
Does the unit have adequate ventilation?
Is hot-water heat located, equipped, and installed in a safe manner?
Is there a safe, sanitary public or private water supply?
Is the plumbing free of leaks?
Is the plumbing connected to an approved public or private disposal system, and is it free from sewer backup?
Is the electrical system free of hazards (e.g., improper wiring, seriously inadequate service, etc.)?

General Health and Safety:

Checklist Item Yes No Unsure Comments
Does the unit have at least one smoke detector or alarm in working condition on each level of the living area?
Can the unit be entered without having to go through another unit?
Is there an acceptable fire exit? Is it accessible?
Is there an acceptable fire exit? Is it accessible?
Is there an acceptable fire exit? Is it accessible?
Are the stairs and common halls free of hazards caused by loose steps, lack of handrails, poor lighting or other hazards?
Is the site and immediate neighborhood free of dangerous conditions?
Signature of Tenant:
Signature of Landlord:

NOTE: Landlord is not required to sign this checklist.

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