Filling Out the Move In Inspection Form
January 18, 2021 6:04 PM   Subscribe

We are moving into a rental house. How detailed/nit-picky do we actually need to be on the move in inspection form and in photographic documentation? Any tips & tricks? Anything that's commonly overlooked?

The place is not "new" and has been lived in before us, and it seemed like there was some messy paint work (e.g., paint on the wood doors) and some ill-fitting doors installed. How detailed do we actually need to be? Do I need to say that there's paint on the hallway closet door, and that the door knob is a bit old? Do I need to go on a hunt for holes in the walls and closets?

We are in California if it matters, and our property manager is with a real estate agency on behalf of the landlord/owner of the house. We are not fully moved in, so it'd be toughish to say, check if all the power outlets actually work as an example.

I'd love to hear *real life* examples of things you wish you had documented. I am trying to balance between thoroughness and over-paranoia, as this seems to be a thing you can sink a ton of time into! I am OK with not getting ALL of the security deposit back, but obviously would like to protect myself as is reasonable.
posted by ellerhodes to Work & Money (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Things that are worn. So e.g. shitty paint, that is not something caused by wear / time. But something in the process of becoming broken - they might want to say "you broke it" so worth noting "on the verge of breaking". Holes in walls, worn out carpets or lino, non functioning amenities is what I would be focused on.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:29 PM on January 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

I've been dinged for not cleaning UNDER the stove and all of the window tracks, so be very thorough. You might ask and see if they have a move in list so you don't miss something. Larger agencies/complexes have provided this as a matter of course so it doesn't hurt to ask.
posted by fiercekitten at 7:02 PM on January 18, 2021

Ah never mind I see you have a list. Treat it like you're renting a car and don't want to be responsible for every ding the previous drivers have done.
posted by fiercekitten at 7:04 PM on January 18, 2021

Best answer: In my experience, worn or damaged carpet was one of the biggest things landlords would try to blame on consumers. The states I lived in had laws that a certain amount of damage was normal wear and tear and that the landlords would have to eat the cost of periodically replacing it, so if they could make a case that the consumer had gone above and beyond normal damage and shift the bill to them, they would. Document any rough spots, bleach stains, etc.

Ovens and kitchens in general are another area that previous tenants often skimp on cleaning and landlords sometimes pass the bill on. Make sure the stove and oven is generally in good shape and pull it out (and check the hood) for gross buildup.

Do I need to go on a hunt for holes in the walls and closets?

That really depends on the owner and the management company. Taking 15-20 minutes now to do a video walkthrough of the place with you narrating any problems visible (saved to a major cloud provider that will demonstrate when the video was made) may pay big dividends when you move out. Just being able to say, "that's odd, I'm pretty sure the video I made when I moved in will show that was existing when I moved it," can be a tremendous help.

On the other hand, the last time I rented, I left the place a moderate mess due to circumstances beyond my control figuring that I was trading my (small) security deposit for not spending a couple days cleaning and they still returned the whole thing.

Do I need to say that there's paint on the hallway closet door, and that the door knob is a bit old?

First, think in terms of damage vs. wear. Things like a bad paint job are damage in that someone messed up - document that they exist before you moved in. A lousy door knob is just worn out - it's something to get taken care of but the odds of them claiming in a court of law that you somehow caused it to wear out are slim.

Second, if they provide a list of standard costs for "fixing" things, document the high dollar value things. I had a landlord that charged something like $5 for replacing a burnt out light bulb, so I made particularly sure all the lights were working (and documented) when I left. Things like broken windows can be expensive to replace - one place I lived tried to dock me for a BB/pellet hole in the outer window that was there when I moved in.

P.S. Getting a UV light and checking the place out at night may reveal what hasn't been cleaned of some things you really want to be cleaned.
posted by Candleman at 7:20 PM on January 18, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: If time is your issue, I suggest you reconsider and document everything. Pictures don't cost much or anything. Noting damage or wear and tear is well worth it. Look at it as your time versus how much you will get back. If it takes you an hour to do the form and you end up getting back your entire deposit, your time was paid at the rate of your deposit per hour. On the other hand, if you are already factoring the loss of deposit as a sunk cost on the apartment, take some pictures and forget about it.
posted by AugustWest at 7:25 PM on January 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Definitely mention the paint on the floor. Look for missing things like stove knobs or racks. Mention if the shower drains slowly. If the wall is full of nail holes, maybe mention it. I'd also take a quick full series of photos -- shouldn't take you long and might catch something that you forget to mention.
posted by slidell at 11:23 PM on January 18, 2021

These days, you have digital photos. Take LOTS. (This last move, I literally took a few hundred - for a 786 sq ft, 2br apartment.) I've never regretted having photos, just never having enough.
posted by stormyteal at 11:25 PM on January 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

Go for as much detail as you have and the resources to capture. Anecdote: when I moved into my last rental, the landlady basically pointed at things and said, for example 'there's lots of cutlery'. When moving out, she brought a detailed list of every single thing she thought was in the house, which we had to work through item by item, from teaspoons up. The problem was that this list was comically out of date even for when we moved in. Thankfully a call to the agents cleared it up in our case. So document everything that's damaged or missing and in insides of every drawer and cupboard, if homewares are provided.
posted by dowcrag at 5:04 AM on January 19, 2021

My ex and I moved into a rental with overgrown planting beds and no blinds. On move out, they accused us of stealing the blinds and neglecting the beds, which were both exactly as they had been. Fortunately, my ex photographed EVERYTHING before we moved in, and we made notes about what the landlord said at that time. This saved us $1,000 at move out time.

Yes, some landlords are saints, but a lot are scum, preying on the vulnerable at a stressful time. Take photos of EVERYTHING. It doesn't cost anything but a few minutes of time.
posted by maxwelton at 12:34 PM on January 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

I personally would recommend taking a video walkthru, WITH the owner/agent present, you pointing out and verbally stating any items that don't look brand new, and observe their present condition, before you move ANY of your stuff in, almost as if you're doing a court deposition. "Today is (date). I am at (address), doing a move-in video log, with (A) and (B). Point at something, observe its condition, original color, etc verbally, and ask if the agent agrees. Any spots on the floor or carpet, etc. Do the windows move. Do the doors close securely. Where's the circuit breaker, etc. One continuous take. Preferably with a GoPro type cam, but a phone would do, but you may want to go airplane mode as not to be interrupted. This is just CYA.
posted by kschang at 12:55 PM on January 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

One other thing I've seen is trying to blame HVAC problems on tenants for failing to clean the coils or something similar. If there's any indication that they might try the same thing on you, request information on the last time the HVAC was professionally serviced and what the status of it was at that time.
posted by Candleman at 1:57 PM on January 19, 2021

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