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I am in the market to rent a home, and am looking to compile a list of things to check both before and after taking possession. Before to make sure the house is in a condition I am aware of, like checking all the toilets flush and the lights work, no visible mold, and things I should be aware of to get in writing. After to make sure I keep myself from getting in trouble, like changing the locks and...well that's all I can think of for after.

I've found a couple pages online that mention things to do with leases but not so much with inspecting houses, and there are obviously different things to pay attention to with rentals than with buying a house.

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Protect yourself from a rental house? Frisk it for any weapons it might have concealed. :) –  Doresoom Jun 3 '11 at 14:36

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You can find home inspection checklists online (e.g. http://www.clta.titlewizard.com/learning_center/documents/HomeInspectionCklist.pdf), but these are written for home buyers.

As a renter, I wouldn't accept a lease that holds you responsible for damage that you didn't create, and I also wouldn't accept a lease that doesn't exclude normal wear and tear. In this market, there's no reason to deal with anyone that expects you to deal with these things. If a toilet isn't working or the wiring is bad, it's the landlord's responsibility to fix.

The things I would lookout for are the obvious: are there spots in the carpeting or damage to the walls from the last tenant that haven't been repaired. It is a good idea to make sure the appliances and utilities are all in good running condition, but more because that indicates how well the landlord maintains the property and gives you some idea of how much they will take care of things once you are renting. Know your responsibilities with the landscaping in advance. In my neighborhood, the rentals are typically the ones with small jungles growing in the backyard.

If you're paying for the utilities, look for energy saving devices, including an electronic thermostat that can adjust on a schedule when you're at work. For water, low flow toilets and shower heads will save you money.

For safety, look for deadbolts on the doors and locks on the windows (and check the crime stats for the neighborhood). Make sure there are smoke detectors in the bedrooms and GFCI outlets near any source of water.

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The lease I have from a prospective house (and indeed, the lease that nearly all houses in the Las Vegas area are using) says that the Tenant shall be responsible for all broken glass, regardless of cause. I have found that generally homeowners insurance encourages policy holders to not file a claim for "small losses" such as broken glass. Is Tenant covering all glass breakage common? –  Bryson Jun 3 '11 at 3:36
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Negotiate. If the market is as bad as they say it is, someone will be willing to change the "regardless of cause" part. You also want renters insurance for your items, homeowners insurance is for the landlord. –  BMitch Jun 3 '11 at 4:44
    
CO detectors may also be a requirement in rentals (they are where I live). –  Niall C. Jun 3 '11 at 5:17
    
@Bryson, I have never seen such a clause in California or Massachusetts. –  Vebjorn Ljosa Jun 3 '11 at 11:12

Document, document, document.

Take photos and make a list of anything wrong with the apartment when you move in so you can't be blamed for it when you move out.

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That's what we did when we used to rent an apartment - we took pictures before we moved in, burned them to a CD and stuck it in a kitchen cabinet, and forgot about it until we moved out, and there it was. –  Jared Harley Jun 7 '11 at 8:05

Renter's Insurance.

Just about every major company provides it (including State Farm, All State, Progressive, GEICO, etc). It's worth it.

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Thank you, I had forgotten about this. Even though USAA tries to sell it to me every time I call. –  Bryson Jun 28 '11 at 17:46

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