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LAW Home > Legal Topics > Housing > Landlord-Tenant > Finding a Place and Moving In

Moving in


Moving in marks the real beginning of your relationship with your landlord. This is the moment at which you first occupy your rental unit. This is a good time to make sure the apartment or house is safe and in good condition and, if it is not, to make an agreement with the landlord to make any necessary repairs.

The condition of the apartment when you move in is also important when you move out. Some landlords try to blame tenants for damages that were there when the tenant moved in. This will allow the landlord to keep all or part of your security deposit if he can show that you damaged the apartment. There are steps you can take to get the landlord to repair anything that is broken when you move in and to keep the landlord from blaming you for the damage later on.

Inspect the property

Before you move in, make sure that the apartment has received a certificate of occupancy (C.O.) from the town housing inspector. Not all towns have laws requiring a certificate of occupancy. Call your town inspector to find out if the town has such a law. Also, check the following:

  • Bathroom: Check the water pressure and hot water, and look for leaks. Make sure that the toilet works. Check for loose tiles on the walls and floor, and look for bugs or signs of bugs.

  • Kitchen: Check the water pressure, leaks, hot and cold water, stove, and refrigerator, if any; look for roaches and other bugs.

  • Bedrooms and sleeping rooms: Check the walls, floors, and furnishings (if the apartment or home is being rented with furniture already in it) for bedbugs or evidence of bedbugs.

  • Ceiling and walls: Check the ceiling and walls for water leak stains, dampness, mold, loose plaster, holes, or cracks.

  • Windows: Check the locks, screens, glass, and frames.

  • Floors: Look for rotten wood, loose tiles, splinters, water stains, and cigarette burns.

  • Electricity: Make sure that the light switches and fixtures work. Take a lamp and try all of the outlets, and look for hanging or open wires. It is sometimes not possible to check the working condition of electrical switches and outlets because the power may have been shut off in the apartment.

  • Heat: Turn on the heating system and make sure that it works properly, even if you rent in the summer.

  • Basement: Look for rat holes, dirt, trash, leaks, loose wires, broken windows, crumbling walls, mold, roaches and termites.

  • Smoke detectors: Check for installation and make sure they work properly.

  • Doors: Check for deadbolt locks and peepholes on the entrance door.

  • Paint: Look in all rooms to make sure paint is fresh; check for dangerous, chipping lead paint.

After you have checked each of these items, make a list of what is broken or in poor condition. If you found signs of roaches, bedbugs, rats, mice, mold, or other bugs or animals, be sure to put these items in your list. Ask the landlord or superintendent to sign the list. If they refuse, get one of your friends or neighbors to sign and date it. Be sure to keep a copy of the signed list. It is a very good idea to take pictures too. You can also talk to other tenants who already live there. For example, if you are renting in the summer, they can tell you if there’s enough heat in the winter.

Get promises to repair or correct any problems in writing

Ask the landlord to make all necessary repairs or correct any bug, mold or rodent problems immediately. However, you should not accept the landlord’s spoken promise. It is very important to get the landlord to write out what he or she promises to fix and when. Any promises made by the landlord that are not in writing, with the date and the landlord’s signature, are difficult to enforce. If you try to enforce a spoken promise, it will be your word against the landlord’s. A written agreement also protects you later on if the landlord tries to say that you were the one who caused the damage.

If you cannot get the landlord to sign a written agreement or statement, then you should send your list of defective conditions in a letter to the landlord. Explain in the letter that you expect that the landlord will make the repairs. Send the letter by certified mail, return receipt requested. Keep a copy of the letter and the return receipt for use later. If you can, take pictures of the defective conditions and hold on to them.

You will need these documents should the landlord seek to wrongfully evict you or keep your security deposit.