Reasons to Keep Record of Rental Property Condition

Why to Do It, When to Do It and How to Do It

Group of male college roommates reviewing move-in checklist of rental property's condition with landlord of rental property

Cultura Exclusive / Sofie Delauw / Getty Images

Property damage is an issue that often causes conflict between landlords and tenants. Keeping detailed records is important for landlords because having proof of the condition of the rental property can help quickly resolve these issues. Learn four great reasons to document the state of your rental.

Four Reasons to Keep Record of Rental Property Condition

To Monitor Damage Done to the Unit 

If you keep detailed records of the condition the rental property was in before a tenant moves into the unit, you will be able to pinpoint what damage was existing and what damage occurred while the tenant lived in the unit. Damage is anything in excess of normal wear and tear to the property. While large issues, such as a huge hole in the wall, maybe easy to spot, other problems, such as deep scrapes in the hardwood floor, could leave you second-guessing yourself if you do not have the proper proof that they were not there previously.

To Determine if Any Alterations Have Been Made

In addition to looking for damage, documenting the unit’s condition can allow you to determine if any unauthorized alterations have been made to the unit. This could include changing the paint color, changing the flooring or even attempting to divide one room into two.

As Proof Against Health and Safety Complaints

Having a record of the rental’s condition when a tenant moves in can help you if they complain about a health or safety issue. For example, a tenant may move into the unit, but a week later complain to the city that there is a mold problem in the bathroom. If you have pictures from a week prior, showing that the unit was in pristine condition, the mold complaint will not hold up.

To Serve as Proof That Tenant Agreed to Condition of the Property

Doing an inspection of the condition of the property prior to a tenant’s move-in and having a tenant sign the checklist, will serve as evidence if there is a security deposit dispute when the tenant is moving out. If you are going to make deductions from a tenant’s security deposit because they broke the bathroom vanity, but the tenant tries to claim it was like that when they moved in, the documentation will serve as proof that the vanity was in great condition upon move-in. You can pull up the pictures you took, as well as the checklist the tenant signed.

Two Ways to Record Rental Property Condition

A two-step process is the best way to document the condition of the rental property. You should do a manual checklist for each room and you should take pictures of each room.

  1. Rental Checklist- You will want to prepare a checklist and document the condition of each interior room, as well as any exterior space that may be associated with the apartment, such as the front or back door.
    1. You will first want to give the space a general rating, such as:
      1. Poor,
      2. Good
      3. Excellent.
    2. You will then want to look at each section of the room. ​​In a bathroom, for example, this could include:
      1. Floors
      2. Walls
      3. Ceilings
      4. Doors
      5. Vanity
      6. Mirror,
      7. Toilet
      8. Tub
      9. Fixtures
      10. Lights
      11. Windows.
    3. You can get more detailed about the condition, noting any
      1. Scratches
      2. Dents
      3. Holes
      4. Other Damage.
  2. Pictures-In addition to writing down the condition of the property, you will also want to take pictures. The more detailed, the better. For example, taking one picture of the bathroom is OK, but taking individual pictures of the shower, toilet, vanity, floors, and walls is even better because it will show much more detail.

When to Document the Rental Unit Condition

Tenant Move-in

The condition of the property should be documented right before the tenant moves into the property. The unit should be empty and should not yet have any of the tenant’s belongings inside. If you allow a tenant to move their belongings in before you walk-through to document the condition, you will never know if an item, such as a front door, was damaged due to the tenant moving in.

Tenant Move Out

You should once again document the condition of the rental unit when the tenant is moving out to determine if any damage has been done to the unit. It is best to wait until all of their belongings are out of the unit.

What Areas of Rental Unit to Keep Record Of

You should document all areas of the property that make up the tenant’s physical residence, as well as any common areas the tenant may have access to, such as a backyard, front porch or laundry room. Obviously, it will be harder to prove if a tenant damaged areas outside of their residence, but having the condition documented will not hurt in case there is an incident.

Areas to Document

    • Living Room
    • Dining Room
    • Kitchen
    • Bedrooms
    • Bathrooms
    • Basement


    • Appliances
    • Toilet
    • Vanity
    • Shower
    • Mirror
    • Faucets
    • Fixtures
    • Handles
    • Outlet Covers

Points of Egress

    • Front Door
    • Back Door
    • Interior Doors
    • Windows


    • Floors
    • Walls
    • Ceilings

Who Should Document the Rental Unit Condition?

The landlord, or someone you trust, such as a property manager, should perform this inspection. You can decide if you will perform the inspection by yourself or if you will have the tenant present when performing this inspection.

Either way, you should always have the tenant sign and date the checklist, consenting to the condition of the property or disagreeing with any items and listing why they do not agree with that item. The tenant also has the ability to perform his or her own move-in inspection and can take pictures for their own records.