Oh those glorious college rental inspections that turned into just married apartment inspections turned rental house inspections. They stink.
In college our apartment manager inspected our apartment once a month. Each roommate was given rotating tasks by apartment management and then inspected. If you failed, you were charged. It was a white glove inspection. After first moving in I couldn't understand why my roommates would take the night off and stay up late the night before an inspection. But after failing my first inspection I learned why.
The next month I lived there I would notice flyers that came around your apartment door from different cleaning services "guaranteeing you pass or your money back." I was busy working 12 hour shifts at the hospital so I called one company for the next month's inspection--and failed again. Didn't get my money back either. They would never call me back.
I decided to go with a more reputable company the next month and I failed again! And there were so many clauses in their contract that I realized I wouldn't be getting my money back from them either.
I then learned after my first three months that the easy way is never the best way. I also learned and never failed a rental inspection again.
I never failed when we lived in our apartment, our condo or the rental house I had shortly before purchasing the home I am in now. It wasn't going to happen.
Here are some tips and tricks I learned along the way:
THE RENTAL INSPECTION AND MOVE OUT INSPECTION STARTS WHEN YOU MOVE IN
When you move into a new rental, you are usually asked to do a walk through and mark anything broken, cracked or dirty. White glove this. Walk through and mark EVERYTHING you see that might be out of place. I'm talking floor to ceiling inspection. Checking the ceiling for cracks or discoloration, check the walls for dents, discoloration, cracks or leftover nail holes. Check the baseboards, lights, windows, carpet and flooring. Make sure you turn on and off the water, fill up the tubs a little and make sure they drain and fill properly and check all of your appliances from the water heater to the furnace and AC. In short, make sure that everything is properly working. It's also important to take pictures and save them in a file along with your move in inspection report.
IF IT'S BROKEN...CONTINUE TO MAKE IT A PROBLEM AND KEEP NOTES!!!
I've been a landlord before and it can be a pain. It can also be great and you meet some of the most amazing people. My favorite renter was a woman who rented our condo from us after we moved into our first house. The entire second bedroom of the condo was devoted to her yorkie dog! The closet was full of clothes and she even had her own bed! My little girl loved to go over when we had to fix something to pick out an outfit.
But it is ANNOYING when they call you over every little thing. And it is frustrating when a renter may refuse to pay rent because something little isn't fixed right now like yesterday before they called and told you about it. So I'm saying right now don't bug them about every little thing.
BUT...big things like the water heater not heating properly...yeah. I would live with it in my rental house but I would make sure to put in a maintenance note every few months letting them know the water heater still wasn't heating properly and we were still getting two minutes of hot water before we got three more minutes of lukewarm water before it went cold and we had to wait 45 minutes before we had enough water that the next person could shower. Maintenance would come and put bandaids on it so it worked better for a little bit, but never really fixed the root of the problem for the three years I was there. When we moved out they tried flushing the water heater and saying some of the sediment in our water heater was my fault. Because I had kept a long standing log of the complaints and requests alongside the original move in note with the complaint, along with pictures of the water heater and how old it was (it literally was being held together with duck tape in some areas) they knew they didn't have a case and backed down. Also make sure that if your rental agency has you log maintenance requests, etc through their portal, take periodic screenshots of the maintenance requests and the outcome and save it in your move in folder. Unfortunately I've seen where maintenance requests and notes to managers "disappear."
PLAN ON SPENDING MONEY WHEN YOU MOVE OUT
There are some fantastic products that I use that I absolutely love. They are great for hiding knicks, marks and everything in between. You will NEED to plan on spending some money to make your place look nice when you move out. I have so many roommates that refused to and it showed! You can't just take a rag to everything and hope it passes. You've lived in your place and it ages. If you want your $2000 deposit back, it's worth the $100 in cleaning products, right? Below are a list of some of our favorites we've enjoyed using throughout the years and where you can find them.
- White Sharpie Marker: Most apartments are white walls and this Sharpie Mean Streak does a fantastic job of covering those small knicks on door jams from moving furniture in and out of a room or wear and tear on the edges of doors.
- Comet and Bleach: A housekeeper for one of my friends taught me this amazing trick for bleaching out porcelain tubs and tile. Make a paste with the consistency of cake batter with comet and bleach and spread evenly over the sink, tub, toilet or toilet bowl or other surface with a scrub sponge. Turn on the vent, close the door and allow mixture to sit for one hour to overnight. Rinse, repeat in any areas that need additional bleaching. (This is pretty harsh on your surfaces so use occasionally)
- Stained wood oil: This is a miracle and works great for getting rid of any knicks or scratches on wood. It also makes your cabinets look amazing when management walks through. We love Old English. I love taking before and after pictures. It looks amazing!
- Shoe Polish: I love using black shoe polish on my black iron railings. It makes them look amazing again.
- Touch Up Paint: This is a MUST! Always make sure you get some touch up paint from your apartment manager or from stored paint cans. You'll need these to touch up areas that have gotten knicked from furniture or over covered nail holes in the walls.
- Spackle: Spackle is perfect for filling holes left by picture frames, etc.
- Drywall kit: If you've got any small holes in your drywall, a drywall kit will save you a TON of money in comparison to the fees management will charge you.
- Stove Protectors: These are LIFESAVERS! Make sure you are using stove protectors inside your oven or over your gas range. It will save you a TON of money in the long run and make cleaning so much easier. We all LOVE cleaning the fridge, oven and toilets right?
- Drip Pans: Almost every rental has always had an electric stove with those annoying drip pans that you can soak in CLR all you want and they NEVER GET CLEAN. We just buy new drip pans before we move out and put them in so they look brand new. My grandmother used to wrap her drip pans in tin foil but sometimes they got kind of discolored. So I always just buy new ones when I move out. So worth the $10 for a set.
- CLR: Place some CLR in a ziploc bag and then tie around your shower nozzle or sink nozzle with a rubberband. Allow to soak one hour to overnight. This is great for cleaning hard water deposits.
- Carpet Cleaner: I am DONE with professional carpet cleaning. If you have pets or kids you know when you move out it's important to clean the carpets or you probably won't pass inspection. But I have gone through so many companies and spent so much money on pet stain removal and everything else and it was usually the one area I didn't pass. this one is my favorite---it's expensive but I've rented it out to neighbors and more than made up the cost for the carpet cleaner. And I can spend more time and effort on the areas that need it and it won't cost me a ton of money like the carpet cleaners do. And the carpets come out looking amazing.
- YouTube & Google: YouTube and Google can be great resources for fixing any problems you may have and walking you through it. My carpet was so cheap at my last house that some wore off over time in one area in a one inch square. YouTube and Google saved me a HUGE fee for carpet by helping me fix the blemish.
- Mini Steamer & Ozone Machine: Mini steamers are lifesavers when it comes to cleaning out sliding glass door tracks, window tracks and seals, and tile grout. If you have pets or lingering odors, renting and then running an ozone machine in the empty house can help to remove those so your management company isn't bombarded by pet or other odors when they walk in. We were able to rent both of these for relatively inexpensive. If you know someone that owns a car dealership or car detail shop you might be able to borrow them from them.
CEILING TO FLOOR ONE AREA AT A TIME
I always start with the ceiling--making sure it's clean, cobwebs swept, etc. Then I start on one wall, washing it checking for any fixes that need to be made, etc. I move from wall to wall in the room washing doors, door handles, and using my cleaning tools to fix any blemishes, etc.
TAKE PICTURES WHEN YOU LEAVE
I made sure that I went through and took pictures time and date stamped of every single room and it's clean condition when I left. It actually looked way better than the condition I had gotten it in. I uploaded all the pictures into a file just in case there were any issues.
BE THERE FOR THE INSPECTION BUT IF YOU CAN'T...
My rental company was a little snaky when it came to doing the final move out inspection. I called several times to schedule it and they were awful about getting back to me then scheduled it on the one day that I said I couldn't do it. To top it off they said they would come out between 8am and 4pm. Really?? I was furious and told them i had scheduled this a MONTH in advance and gave several dates as requested and suddenly the ONLY day they weren't busy was the one day that I was. I knew their tricks so the pictures saved me. We went back and forth on a few things after their inspection but having my move in inspection sheet, pictures of the move in condition, notes I'd made with maintenance and with the office and photos of the condition of the home time and date stamped on move out saved me. I got my security deposit back and kept my rental inspection record!
If you have any other tricks that have helped you during a rental inspection, please let us know in the comments below!