If you fail to document the initial condition of your apartment before moving in, or don't get your landlord to acknowledge existing damages, you could be billed for these damages when you move out. Here is how to stay on top of things when moving into your new unit.
Before you decide to rent, carefully inspect the rental unit with the landlord or the landlord's agent. Make sure that the unit has been maintained well. Use this inventory checklist as an inspection guide. When you inspect the rental unit, look for the following problems:
Cracks or holes in the floor, walls, or ceiling.
Signs of leaking water or water damage in the floor, walls, or ceiling.
Signs of rust in water from the taps.
Leaks in bathroom or kitchen fixtures.
Lack of hot water.
Inadequate lighting or insufficient electrical outlets.
Inadequate heating or air conditioning.
Inadequate ventilation or offensive odors.
Defects in electrical wiring and fixtures.
Damaged furnishings (if it's a furnished unit).
Signs of insects, vermin, or rodents.
Accumulated dirt and debris.
Inadequate trash and garbage receptacles.
Chipping paint in older buildings.
Also, look at the exterior of the building and any common areas, such as hallways and courtyards. Does the building appear to be well-maintained? Are the common areas clean and well-kept?
The quality of rental units can vary greatly. You should understand the unit's good points and shortcomings, and consider them all when deciding whether to rent, and whether the rental price is reasonable.
Ask the landlord who will be responsible for paying for utilities (gas, electric, water, and trash collection). You will probably be responsible for some, and possibly all of them. Try to find out how much the previous tenant paid for utilities. This will help you be certain that you can afford the total amount of the rent and utilities each month. With increasing energy costs, it's important to consider whether the rental unit and its appliances are energy efficient.
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If the rental unit is a house or duplex with a yard, ask the landlord who will be responsible for taking care of the yard. If this falls to you, ask whether the landlord will supply necessary equipment, such as a lawn mower and a hose.
During this initial walk-through of the rental unit, you will have the chance to see how your potential landlord reacts to your concerns about it. At the same time, the landlord will learn how you handle potential problems. You may not be able to reach an agreement on every point, or you may not be able to agree on anything. Nonetheless, how you get along will help both of you decide whether you will become a tenant.
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If you find problems like the ones listed above, discuss them with the landlord. If the problems are ones that the law requires the landlord to repair, find out when the landlord intends to make the repairs. If you agree to rent the unit, it's a good idea to get these promises in writing, including the date by which the repairs will be completed.
If the landlord isn't required by law to make the repairs, you should still write down a description of any problems if you are going to rent the property. It's a good idea to ask the landlord to sign and date the written description. Also, take photographs or a video of the problems. Your signed, written description and photographs or video will document that the problems were there when you moved in, and can help avoid disagreement later about your responsibility for the problems.
Finally, it's a good idea to walk or drive around the neighborhood during the day and again in the evening. Ask neighbors how they like living in the area. If the rental unit is in an apartment complex, ask some of the tenants how they get along with the landlord and the other tenants. If you are concerned about safety, ask neighbors and tenants if there have been any problems, and whether they think that the area is safe.
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The CSU, Chico Housing and Food Service Office will not be liable for any special or consequential damages which may result from the use of, or the inability to use, the materials in this service. The University Housing and Food Service Office does not inspect, recommend, or guarantee off-campus housing advertised with this service. Complaints regarding unethical or inappropriate business practices or incidents of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, disability, disabled veteran, Vietnam era veteran and medical condition by any landlord, property manager or property owner should be reported to the University Housing and Food Service Office, CSU, Chico, Chico, CA 95929-0707, or call (530) 898-6325.