Whether you’re a new landlord or a seasoned pro, every time a tenant leaves presents an opportunity to conduct an inspection of your property before a new tenant moves in. Use this Rental Checklist to help you with each transition. The more you prepare ahead, the more attractive your property appeals to prospective tenants.

1. GFI Outlets

Using a rental checklist is useful for both landlords and tenants. Have safety standards and municipal and state statutes changed? A quick phone call to city hall could save you headaches later on. Ask about changes in building codes and safety laws regarding rental properties. For example, GFI outlets are required in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms and outside. Older units don’t have these outlets. If an older non-GFI outlet overheats and starts a fire, insurance might not cover the damage.  Converting all the outlets would be more expensive than installing a GFI breaker in the main panel.

2. Smoke Detectors

Again, check with your local city hall about local and state regulations that may specify where smoke detectors need to be placed and be sure they are all working properly.  Check the smoke alarms by pushing the test button on each one to see if the alarm sounds. A chirping noise indicates a weak battery that needs to be changed.

3. Carbon Monoxide Detectors

As of March 2018, 27 states require carbon monoxide detectors in residential units through statute, and another 11 states require them through the state building code. You can avoid having to keep track of both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors by installing combination units.

4. Paint Safety

Any unit built before 1978 may contain lead-based paint.  This common ingredient in interior paint contains toxic metal that if ingested by children can cause developmental and neurological problems. To test painted walls and woodwork for lead you can either hire an independent contractor who specializes in lead-paint testing and removal, or purchase a kit to conduct the test yourself. They’re available in hardware stores and big box stores like Home Depot and not difficult to administer. If you get a negative reading, you’re ok to continue with the renting process. If you get a positive result, you’ll need to find a contractor to remediate the problem. According to federal law, you must disclose the presence of lead paint to your renters.

5. Pest & Rodent Infestation

Rodents and cockroaches can spread disease. No matter how many times you may treat your property, with move-outs and move –ins, these pests tend to appear given the upheaval in the unit, the creation of more dirt and trash, and the condition of the packing boxes. Movers may leave take- out containers and soda bottles that attract unwelcome critters to your property. While it may be nice to blame the tenant, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to get rid of pests. The best way to avoid the problem is to be as proactive as possible.  So either hire an exterminator or pest control company, or look into doing this yourself.

6. Appliance Check

Now is a good time to check all the appliances. You don’t want a new tenant to move in and then have do repairs. Taking a little time to do a few simple things can save you time, aggravation and money in the long run. Use an oven thermometer to verify that the oven is heating properly. Clean the stove vent of grease.  Make sure the water heater pilot flame is steady and blue. If the unit has a washer/dryer, do a load of wash to be sure there are no leaks. Clean the lint from the dryer. 

7. Plumbing Check

Look for leaks near all the pipes and faucets, in the tub and shower.  Search for any mold in the bathroom, laundry room, and closets. Often a thorough cleaning can eradicate surface mold.  If the dry wall is affected, you may need to call in a mold specialist. If there’s an air- conditioning unit, check and replace the filters and be sure both heat and air are working well.

The RentCheck app provides a guided walkthrough of a move-in and move-out inspection organized by room.

8. Stair Safety

Minimize the risk of falls by keeping the stairs and walkways in good condition.  Replace rotted wood on wooden staircases and fix cracks on concrete ones before they widen and turn into hazards. Painting stairs and walkways with a non-slip coating is a good way to guard against loss of traction in wet weather.

9. Outdoor Railings

If your rental has a deck or balcony, the railings need to be at least 36-42 inches high, depending on whether the local governing authority relies on the International Residential Code or the International Building Code. The railings must be able to withstand a minimum shear force, which is also specified by code. Check the railings on your decks and balconies every year. Tighten loose fasteners and replace rotting wood.

10. Door Locks

Re-keying door locks or changing them with every turnover eliminates the circulation of spare keys. You don’t want to be sued because your tenant claims a break-in or burglary occurred thanks to an old lockset. Discourage renters from duplicating keys and keep a log of the keys you hand out. A switchover in tenants may be a good time to consider changing to electronic locks.  If you have an alarm system, be sure it’s in working order.

Your unit is ready to be rented! Now that you’ve checked and inspected, you can download the RentCheck App to document the property’s condition prior to the next tenant moving in.