If you decide to rent a particular dwelling, both you and the landlord should examine the unit and note the condition of all items within the premise (e.g., cracked windows, torn furniture, chipped walls). Each item should be noted as to whether it is in good condition, specific damage, or if it is missing (e.g. living room south wall stained, stairwell carpet worn and frayed).
The legal basis for withholding all or a portion of a security deposit is the cost of repairs necessary to return the premise to the same condition as when you moved in. So, if you and the landlord do not agree on the condition of an item, it should clearly state in writing that the condition is in dispute (a photo or an independent professional assessment of the item is then essential if it become the basis for withholding all or a portion of your security deposit).
Once the checklist is complete, both you and the landlord MUST sign and date it. Each responsible party to the lease (you, the landlord, and every other person signing your lease) should retain a copy.
Advantages of a checklist:
- You can't be held responsible for damages that existed before you moved in.
- The landlord is obligated to return your security deposit (if any) as long as the unit is in the same condition as when you had first moved
Disadvantages of a checklist:
- The landlord has a legal document stating the condition of the housing unit when you moved in and can bill you for damages incurred while you occupied the dwelling. Of course, you should pay for damages to other people's property.