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Everyone has heard of at least one horror story from a friend or family member who rented a home and were cheated out of their security deposit because things were not properly documented when they moved in.

Many landlords often leave it up to the tenant to fill out a form in order to document the condition of the property. However, most tenants are at a huge disadvantage because they really do not know what to look for.

Here at the top five things to keep an eye out for to help prevent this from happening to you:


Cleaning services is one of the most common things that a tenant is charged for when moving out of a property. Its important to have a keen eye for detail. Look for things like soap scum in bath tubs, water stains on faucets, hair or inside sinks and drawers. Places that are often overlooked would be on top of the refrigerator or behind and inside the nooks and crannies of appliances.

poorly cleaned bathroom

Water Damage

This could be a big one especially if a leak were to occur resulting in extensive damage later on. Look for signs of water damage, whether it’s a current leak in progress or something that was previously repaired. Things like warped wood underneath sinks, yellow stains in the ceiling, or swollen baseboards near toilets and showers. While it may not seem to be a problem now, a landlord could accuse you of not reporting a water leak if another leak were to occur in that same location which resulted in further damage or mold.

Stains in Flooring

Another common charge is stains in flooring. This can include carpet, vinyl/linoleum, tile grout, hard wood, etc. When moving into a home, it is easy to assume that the landlord will expect there to be stains in the carpet as that comes with the territory, but its important for tenants to look out for their interest and document these types of deficiencies. Many condition reports do not give you enough space to properly document stains in flooring. Taking pictures or drawing a diagram on a separate piece of paper are great ways to document these items and be sure to give a copy to the landlord while referencing to it on the original report.

Tidy Landscaping

If there is a yard, be sure to not if there are overgrown plants, trash in the yard, weeds, and possible wet areas which could be a possible water leak. The last thing you would want to happen is to be charged to clean up someone else’s mess when you move out. This is another area where pictures can come in handy. If there is an irrigation system, be sure to test this before turning in the report to make sure all plants are getting water. You don’t want to get caught having to replace dead plants a month later because there was a problem with the irrigation system that was not reported to the landlord.

Obvious Marks on Walls

Documenting damage to walls can be tricky. You don’t want to overdo it by noting every single patch or small nail hole, but you also want to look out for things like medium to large dents, peeling wall paper, and other obvious marks. Be sure to review the lease to see if it states the property was freshly or recently painted. If it does state that, be sure to note if there are visible wear marks and the room that they are located in to identify the areas that may not have been painted.

Air Filters and Vents

Air filters are big. If they are not changed regularly, it can result in damage to the heating and cooling system, which is something a tenant does not want to be held responsible for. Be sure to take a flashlight and check the air filter and look at vents as well as the area surrounding the vents look for signs of dust or dirt coming out of the vents. Note these items on the report in order to establish the possibility that the filters were not properly changed by the previous tenant. This could end up saving you hundreds or thousands of dollars in repair costs.


Top 5 Things to Look for When Moving Into a New Place - by