Documenting Condition of Rental Property- The Basics

What to Do Before and After Tenant Move-In

Picture of Documenting Rental Property Condition
••• Documenting Rental Property Condition. Cultura Exclusive/Sofie Delauw/Getty Images

As part of the lease agreement that the tenant signs, they are agreeing to leave the rental property in the same condition, except for normal wear and tear, as it was in when they first moved in. To help resolve disputes in the future, landlords should document the state the rental property is in before tenant move in and after tenant move out. Here are five basic questions about the process.

4 Reasons to Document Rental Property Condition

There are several reasons why it is in your best interest to fully document the condition of your rental property prior to a tenant’s move in:

  • To Document Any Damage Done to the Unit- Documenting the rental unit’s condition prior to tenant move-in will allow you to determine if any damage has been done to the unit upon move-out. While large issues, such as a huge hole in the wall, may be 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. This could include changing the paint color, changing the flooring or even attempting to divide one room into two.


  • To Avoid Health and Safety Issues- Having proof as to the rental’s condition when a tenant moves in can help you in the event that 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 this 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 Document Rental Property Condition

    There are two ways you should document the condition of the rental property. You should do a manual checklist of each room and you should take pictures of each room.

    • 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 door. In a bathroom, for example, this could include floors, walls, ceilings, doors, vanity, mirror, toilet, tub, fixtures, lights and windows. You should note any scratches, dents, holes or other damage. You should also document the condition in general, such as poor, good or excellent.​​

    • 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

    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. 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.

    What Areas of Rental Unit to Document

    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 is always a good thing.

    Areas to Document Include:

    • Living Room
    • Dining Room
    • Kitchen
    • Appliances
    • Bedrooms
    • Bathrooms
    • Toilet
    • Vanity
    • Shower
    • Mirror
    • Faucets
    • Front Door
    • Back Door
    • Interior Doors
    • Windows
    • Floors
    • Walls
    • Ceilings
    • Fixtures
    • Handles
    • Outlet Covers

    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 dissenting to 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.