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Apartment Inspecting Before Signing the Lease

You found an apartment rental online that looks great and seems to be located in a nice neighbourhood. Before you can even think about committing to a lease or signing an application, you need to make sure that everything in the apartment is up-to-par and functioning properly.

To help in your decision, we listed several aspects of the unit that need to be checked before signing a lease:

Inside the Apartment
Outside the Apartment
5 Mistakes to Avoid When Renting

Checking Inside the Apartment

Some apartment buildings will show you a model apartment unit, but it is very important to see the exact apartment you’ll be renting. Often, it will not be as nice or well-kept as the model. When you inspect the unit, look carefully:

  • Do the appliances work; make sure the oven works and the burners heat evenly; check the refrigerator; turn on the dishwasher; check the garbage disposal; test the heating and air conditioning units.

  • Check the taps for hot water and water pressure; flush the toilet; make sure the drains aren’t clogged; inspect the sinks and bathtub for cracks or leaks; check for water damage - rust in the sinks, mould on pipes and leaky faucets are all signs of poor plumbing.

  • Open all of the cabinets and drawers in the kitchen and bathroom; look for signs of insects or rodents.

  • If this is a furnished apartment, make sure the furniture is in reasonable condition; inquire if the furniture belongs to the landlord or the previous tenant; look carefully at the carpet.

  • Locate three-pronged electrical outlets in every room, and make sure there are enough outlets for all your appliances; find out where the fuse box and the central water is located.

  • Check the windows to ensure they open and close properly; Check if there is proper ventilation; if the apartment is located at street level, make sure the windows come with functional locks.

  • Find out how the apartment is heated; is heat included in the rent or does the tenant pay for it; locate the thermostat; check the radiators or heating ducts; is the apartment unit well-insulated?

    Check out our Online Resources for Tenants for contact information of the local utilities. They can also provide the exact heating costs of the unit over the last 12 months.

  • Ensure the locks on the entrance door of the building and on the apartment door work properly; check for signs of a break-in; have the the locks on the door changed when you move in (this is usually at the tenant's expense).

As you are doing your inspection, make a list of anything that is damaged or that needs repair. Present this list to the landlord and keep a copy for yourself. If the landlord promises to fix the items, get the promise in writing.

Checking Outside the Apartment

Look over the grounds of the building:

  • Are the stairs, outside walls, roof, walkways around it in good shape; locate the fire exits - how would you get out of the building in case of fire; make sure the emergency exits are not blocked or used as storage space; make sure there are smoke detectors in the hallway.

  • Check out the laundry room – if there isn’t one, find out where the closet laundromat is; check out the storage area - is there enough space; find out who has access to this area, and what kind of lock is on the door.

  • Find out if there problems in the neighbourhood with vandalism, burglaries, muggings or other crimes; are the grounds of the building well lit;

A successful apartment search starts with finding the listings of apartments that interest you. However, do not sign the lease before visiting the dwelling first. The price and description in the listing are not guarantees of the quality of the accommodations. Not doing an inspection is a renting mistake that could end up costing you more than just financially.