Making a List, and Checking It Twice

The Property Management Checklist is an important document - not only for the management company, but for both owners and tenants. For Property Managers - the checklist establishes a baseline that can be used to settle disputes with tenants and/or owners.

For Owners - the checklist gives them assurance that their property is being maintained as expected.

For Tenants - the checklist protects them from being held responsible for damages that occurred before they moved into the property.

There are generic property checklists that cover the basics. Many states provide checklists that match up to their own unique property rules. Some counties may also have checklists that cover their local regulations. Typically, the property checklist will be organized by room - living room, kitchen, dining room, bathrooms, bedrooms, and many ‘other’ items such as the heating system, A/C unit, stairs, and the exterior/grounds. The checklist will usually have several columns comparing the condition of the rental before tenancy and at the end of tenancy. Ideally, it may also have additional columns providing space to report mid-tenancy inspection(s) as well.

Whether you are the property manager, the property owner, or the tenant you should give serious consideration to the property checklist.

Preparing for the Inspection

  • Make sure that you are present. Don’t merely accept the inspection report of someone else.
  • Bring along your own outlet tester, camera, white tennis shoes, and flashlight.
  • Don’t sign the bottom line unless you mutually agree on the condition of each item on the checklist.
  • Pictures are essential. Snap a picture of everything that you think might be an issue later.
  • Useful notes must be specific.
  • Make sure you receive a copy of the checklist - from each inspection - signed by the appropriate parties involved.

What To Look for

  1. Are there smoke alarms? Did you test them?
  2. Do all electrical outlets, switches, fans, and other electrical devices work as designed? Don’t assume. Test every outlet with your outlet tester. Do lights flicker when turned on? Is the wattage in the lights appropriate to the fixture?
  3. Is there any exposed electrical wiring? Extension cords being used where they should not be? What is the condition of the fuse box? Is there more than one 30 amp fuse - a possible fire hazard? Make sure to use your flashlight and look at these things carefully.
  4. Are there any unusual smells indicating a sewage leak, dead animals inside a wall or crawl space, gas leakage, or the smell of garbage?
  5. Is there any sign of water leakage or clogged drains inside or outside? While running water in every sink, use your flashlight to check underneath for signs of leakage and mold.
  6. Are any window panes broken or windows not properly working?
  7. Do all the doors, internal or external, close and lock properly - including garage door? Are there dead bolts on external doors?
  8. Is the weather stripping on windows and doors in good repair? Can a draft be detected around the doors or windows?
  9. Do you see any sign of insect or animal infestation? Wearing white tennis shoes will help you see if fleas are in the carpet. When was the last time an exterminator treated the house?
  10. What are the emergency exits?
  11. What is the condition of the grounds?
  12. Does the doorbell work?
  13. Are the walls, ceilings, and floors in good condition? Are there any marks, smudges, scratches, nail holes, etc? When were the carpets last cleaned? Has the house been thoroughly cleaned from top to bottom? Are the fans, baseboard, windows, and blinds clean? Be sure to pull out the stove and refrigerator and check behind and beneath them. Are there any cracks or chips in floor tiles?
  14. Are all cabinets clean? Are there stains on the shelves?
  15. Have the filters in the microwave and A/C been changed? Does the microwave also have a charcoal filter? It should be changed every six months.
  16. Do all the appliances work? Garbage disposal, stove, dishwasher, refrigerator, etc? Be sure to try them. Turn on every burner and the oven. Lift the lid. Is it clean inside?
  17. Are there signs of mold in the bathrooms, around the windows, in the kitchen, or around bathroom vents? Shake the toilet to make sure it isn’t loose. Is the floor and surrounding baseboard stained with urine? Is there a smell?
  18. Is the dryer connection what you need for your particular dryer?
  19. Are the outside gutters and dryer vents clean?
  20. Is there a water softener? Is the water ‘hard’?
  21. Does clear water come from all faucets? Is there hot water?
  22. Does the shower head, mixing valve, and drains work? Are there patches on the floor of the shower and/or tub?
  23. Is there an attic? Are there signs of insects or rodents?
  24. Is the paint on all surfaces free from deterioration? If an older home, was lead paint used? Is there asbestos in the house?
  25. Are there any indications of pet damage from previous owners? If pets are allowed, is the home pet friendly?
  26. If there is a chimney, when was it last cleaned? If a gas fireplace, does it work?
  27. Do you hear unusual noises when the water is running or the furnace fan is on?
  28. If there is a balcony or deck - is it structurally secure and have adequate guardrails?
  29. What is the condition of the yard and what are your responsibilities to maintain it?
  30. How old is the water heater? If it is more than 12 years it may begin to leak. If there is an attic A/C unit, is the pan under it and the drain clean? If not, either of these two items may leak and damage your possessions.
  31. Are all window screens in good condition?

Most of these items are noted to establish the condition of the home before you move in. Some of the items, as you may have noticed, deal with situations that might cause damage to your personal property rather than being something you might damage as a tenant.

When the property manager, property owner, and tenant are in agreement on the condition of each of these items, then the likelihood of a future conflict is greatly minimized.