Congratulations! You found a rental and are ready to make it your home. Before you sign your lease agreement and snap that selfie to share this great news with your friends, make certain that you’ve participated in a rental inspection.

What is a rental inspection and why is it important to do before you sign your lease?

  • It’s an opportunity for you to review the condition of your rental before move in.
  • It’s a chance for you to begin building a relationship with the owner, property manager, or on-site team.
  • It’s a moment for you to ask clarifying questions and to build alignment around expectations.

Let’s break this down.

Review the Condition of Your Rental, Before You Sign Your Lease

Search Google for “rental inspection checklist” and 8 million results are returned. 

Each varies in subtle ways. However, they typically include spaces within the home, further subdivided by elements specific to each of these locations, a column to denote the condition prior to move in, and then a column reserved for when you will eventually move out. 

Some lists are more high level, others quite granular. Here are some of the features of the home that might be included.

Building a Relationship with Your Landlord, Before You Sign Your Lease

Being a tenant involves much more that simply receiving your keys, moving in, paying your rent each month, and at some point, moving out. Think of it more as forging a partnership with the person who owns or manages your home.

Key to any relationship is communication. Communication is fostered through transparency, which builds trust.

There will come a time when you will need the support of the landlord or property management team. Something will stop working. Another thing will break. Or, you might like to make some enhancements to your apartment for which you’ll need approval.

As you walk your new home during the rental inspection, be mindful that this time together can either fortify confidence in the home owner that they’ve selected the best tenant, or it can erode it.

Here are some tips for presenting your best self:

  • Be an attentive listener. Make eye contact and engage with the person that is guiding you.
  • Jot things down on a notepad, or a digital device, to capture what is most important.
  • Remain present. Show how important this is to you by not getting distracted by your phone. Your body language matters.
  • Demonstrate your understanding of this partnership by balancing questions regarding expectations or statements highlighting the owner/manager and your perceived role in making this living arrangement a success.

And that brings us to — questions.

Ask Questions, Before You Sign Your Lease

The saying goes, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” That brilliant nugget was uttered by Steven Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

After covering the basics on a rental checklist, and then presenting your best self by listening, taking notes, and paying attention to your non-verbal communication — the next step is to ensure you understand what is expected of you as a tenant. 

We surveyed property managers and these are the top 7 questions they wish every tenant asked in their quest to understand, and therefore — be understood.

  1. How do I properly care for these home amenities? Kitchen appliances, the bathtub, blinds, HVAC filter. Is there anything I missed that requires special attention?
  2. What types of situations constitute as emergency maintenance orders and how do I reach out to get assistance?
  3. Where do I dispose of my trash? Are there any best practices that I can adopt to make certain I keep my unit and the building clean?
  4. Do you have any rules or expectations about pets that I need to know?
  5. Are there any community rules that I should be aware of?
  6. When considering some of the best tenants you’ve ever had, what are the top 5 things I can do to make it on that list?
  7. Is there anything that you’d like to ask me?

After all of the above, go for it. Sign your lease!

Congratulations on finding home.

Looking to rent an apartment, house, townhome, or condo? Check out Dwellsy.com — Find a Rental and Make It Home.

Need more renter tips? Here’s a whole bunch.