When you take possession of a new apartment, your landlord will likely give you an apartment inventory checklist to fill out and return to the apartment management office within a specified period of time. Here’s how to do it correctly.
Begin Your Apartment Inventory Checklist Immediately Upon Moving In
You’ve got tons of boxes to unload and unpack, so it’s tempting to jump right in and begin doing so right away, leaving your apartment inventory checklist to sit on the kitchen counter or in a drawer and telling yourself you’ll “get around to it” later.
Nothing could be a bigger mistake. Before you unpack a single box — and preferably before you bring a single belonging into your new apartment — read through the entire inventory checklist, making a mental note of all the items for which your landlord has asked you to document condition.
Next, locate a pen and begin documenting right away, before your belongings clutter your new apartment and possibly mask or hide the apartment’s flaws or furnishings that are in less than perfect condition.
Allot yourself a minimum of one hour to complete the inventory for a typical one-bedroom, unfurnished apartment; longer if your apartment has multiple bedrooms, is furnished or includes an outside area like a balcony, patio or yard that you will be responsible for maintaining.
Be Extremely Specific on Your Apartment Inventory Checklist
There are two reasons to fill out your apartment inventory checklist in an extremely detailed manner: First, your landlord will use the inventory sheet to discover items in your apartment that need to be repaired or replaced but may have gone unnoticed during the apartment turnover process.
Second, when you move out of the apartment your landlord will assess any damages or dirtiness beyond normal wear and tear in the apartment. If any are found, he or she will withhold money from your security deposit to cover the costs of repair, replacement or cleaning. Any damages that weren’t documented by you as pre-existing at the time you moved in may become your responsibility.
So, if you want the dripping bathroom faucet to be fixed, you must document that it drips. If you don’t want to be financially responsible for the stain on the hallway carpet, the scratched kitchen counter, the dent in the refrigerator door or the sagging closet shelf, you must-must-must document them.
Don’t be afraid to use the back of the checklist or additional paper in order to completely document the existing damages in your apartment. If you feel that you are being overly nitpicky when filling out your apartment inventory checklist, you’re probably doing it right.
For example, if your bathroom floor tile is cracked, don’t just write “broken.” Write “two small floor tile cracks in front of toilet, one large crack alongside tub near bathroom door.”
Take Photographs to Supplement Your Apartment Inventory Checklist
It never hurts to have proof of the existing damages in your apartment, and photographs can provide that proof. You don’t necessarily have to present the photos to your landlord when you turn in your apartment inventory checklist, although you may want to note at the bottom of the inventory sheet that “photos are available.”
Develop your photos with a printer or photo processor that date-stamps them, or upload them to the Internet at a website that shows the uploaded date. If neither service is available to you, you may want to mail or e-mail yourself copies of the photos and, if using the U.S. Postal Service, leave the envelope unopened when it arrives to you. If a dispute arises after you move out of your apartment because your landlord charges you for damages you didn’t cause, you can open the envelope in front of the landlord and a third-party witness.
Don’t Immediately Turn in Your Apartment Inventory Checklist
Most landlords will give you five to 10 days to complete and submit your inventory checklist. While you want to make sure you meet the deadline, don’t feel pressured to turn the checklist in immediately upon filling it out. As you finish moving your belongings into your new apartment and spend your first few days living in it, you are likely to notice damages and signs of wear and tear that you at first missed.
You may not notice, for example, that the bathtub is slow to drain until you take your first shower in your new apartment. Or you may not realize that the right rear burner on your stove top doesn’t work until you try to make your first grilled cheese on it.
Make a Copy of Your Apartment Inventory Checklist
The last thing you should do before turning in your apartment inventory checklist is make a photocopy for yourself. If you do not have access to a copy machine or have a scanner and printer, you can usually find a photocopy machine available for public use for a minimal charge at your local post office or library.
Keep your copy of your apartment inventory checklist with your most important personal papers, so you will know exactly where it is when you move out of your apartment and, if necessary, so you will be able to access it if a dispute arises between you and your landlord about pre-existing damages.
Author Experience in Rental Property Management