You can use the list of questions below to check an apartment before you move in. With some exceptions, you can use this checklist to log complaints about apartment conditions stemming from a landlord's failure to perform proper service or maintenance. Some questions cannot be answered by simple observation and may require interviewing tenants of other apartments in the building or asking the opinion of an expert knowledgeable in building problems (an architect or engineer).

  • What is the rent per month? Per week?
  • Is a security deposit required?
  • Does the lease say rent can be increased if real estate taxes are raised, if sewer or water assessments are increased, or for any other reason?
  • Do you pay extra (and how much) for such things as utilities, storage space, air-conditioning, parking space, master TV antenna connection, use of recreation areas (such as pool or tennis courts), installation of special appliances, late payment of rent, etc.?
  • If you pay for utilities, make sure you are on a separate meter so that you are only paying for your own utility use. Some landlords have required tenants to pay for utilities and the tenant learns later that a neighbor’s apartment is also hooked up to his meter.
  • Read the lease carefully. Mark any provisions that seem especially objectionable to you and try to have them removed from your lease. Also list the provisions (not included) that you would like, such as a sublet clause. Try to have these added.
  • Assess the maintenance services:
    1. Is there a residential superintendent?
    2. Are maintenance hours (for usual services) restricted?
    3. How is emergency service handled? 
    4. How is refuse disposal handled? Are facilities easily accessible? Are they well kept and clean?
  • Laundry facilities: How many washers and dryers are available, and are they in good working order? (A washer and dryer for every 10 apartments is a good ratio.)
  • Building lobby:
    1. Is it clean and adequately lit?
    2. Does it have a lock or other security provisions?
    3. Is there a doorman? If so, for how many hours a day?
    4. How are deliveries handled? 
  • Entrance and exit:
    1. Is an elevator provided? If so, is it in good working condition?
    2. Are the stairs well lit and in safe condition?
    3. Are there fire doors on stair landings?
    4. Are fire exits provided?
    5. Is there a fire alarm or other warning system?
    6. Is there a sprinkler system?
  • Hallways:
    1. Are they clean and adequately lit?
    2. Are they otherwise in good condition?
    3. Are there signs of insects, mice, or rats (such as traps, droppings, etc.) present?
  • Bathroom(s):
    1. Are the plumbing fixtures in good working order and reasonably clean?
    2. Does the hot water supply seem adequate?
    3. Are the tiles (if room is tiled) secure and water tight?
  • Kitchen:
    1. Is the sink in good working order, reasonably clean, and provided with drain stoppers?
    2. Is the stove in good working order and reasonably clean?
    3. Is the refrigerator in good working order? Does the freezer compartment have a separate door?
    4. If there is a dishwasher and/or disposal, is it in good working order?
  • Air-conditioning:
    1. Is the entire building air-conditioned?
    2. If so, who controls the thermostat?
    3. If not, are there separate units and are they functioning properly?
  • Wiring:
    1. Are there enough electrical outlets? (Two or three to a room is the minimum.)
    2. Do all the switches and outlets work?
    3. Are there enough circuits in the fuse box (or circuit-breaker panel) to handle the electrical equipment you expect to install? If you are unsure, get an expert opinion.
  • Heating:
    1. Does the heating system seem to be in good working order? Is it providing adequate heat?
    2. Who controls the thermostat?
    3. Is there a fireplace?
    4. If so, are there any signs (such as smoke stains) that it has not worked properly?
    5. When was it last inspected?
  • Windows:
    1. Are any broken?
    2. Can they be opened and closed easily?
    3. Are screens provided?
    4. Are there drafts around the window frame?
    5. Do the panes and frames fit tightly?
    6. Does the landlord arrange for the outside windows (in high-rise buildings) to be cleaned? And if so, how often?
  • Floors:
    1. Are they clean?
    2. Are they marred or gouged?
    3. Do they have any water stains indicating previous leaks?
    4. Ceilings:
    5. Are they clean?
    6. Is the plaster cracked?
    7. Is the paint peeling?
    8. Do they have any water stains indicating previous leaks?
  • Walls:
    1. Are they clean?
    2. Is the plaster cracked?
    3. Is the paint peeling?
    4. Does the paint run or smear when rubbed with a damp cloth?
  • Telephone:
    1. Are phone jacks already installed?
    2. Are they in convenient locations?
  • Television:
    1. Is TV or stereo playing forbidden at certain hours?
    2. Is an outside antenna connection provided?
    3. Is there a cable-TV connection?
    4. Is ventilation adequate?
    5. Is there an exhaust fan in the kitchen?
  • Lighting:
    1. Are there enough fixtures for adequate light?
    2. Are the fixtures in good working order?
    3. Do the windows provide adequate natural light?
  • Storage space:
    1. Is there adequate closet space?
    2. Are there enough kitchen and bathroom cabinets?
    3. Is there secure long-term storage space available in the building for your use?
  • Security:
    1. Does the entry door have a dead-bolt lock?
    2. A security chain?
    3. A through-the-door viewer?
  • Soundproofing:
    1. Do the walls seem hollow (when thumped) or solid?
    2. Can you hear neighbors above, below, or on either side of you?
    3. Outdoor play space:
    4. Is it provided?
    5. If so, are facilities well maintained?



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