Inspecting a Property

The DC Housing Regulations state that apartments and their furnishings must be "in a clean, safe and sanitary condition."

It's important, therefore, that you ask a prospective landlord permission to inspect an apartment before you sign a lease, pay rent or make a security deposit.

It is smart to walk through the property with the owner or building manager before you move in. Make notes about anything that requires repair. Have the owner or manager sign the list and make sure you both have a copy. This serves two purposes. The landlord is made aware of any necessary repairs and the list also documents damage that existed when you moved in, so you can't be held liable when it comes time to move out.

Some things to keep in mind when you perform this inspection:

  • Check all walls and ceilings to make sure that they are free of peeling paint, wide cracks, and holes.
  • Check all windows to make sure that they are in good working order and not broken. Windows should be capable of being easily opened and held in open or closed position by window hardware.
  • If the housing unit does not have central air conditioning, ensure windows have secure screens.
  • Check all doors to make sure that they are in good condition. The exterior door, when closed, shall fit reasonably well within its frame and shall be equipped with a lock.
  • Check the floors to make sure that they are structurally sound, reasonably level and free of holes, wide cracks, and loose, splintered, protruding, or rotting floor boards.
  • Check the steps in the common areas, within the rental unit, and steps located on the exterior of the property. Stairways, steps, and porches shall be firm, and sufficiently smooth so as to be readily cleaned and provide a safe passageway, free of tripping hazards.
  • Check all electrical outlets to make sure that they are covered with plates and work properly.
  • Check the plumbing facilities to make sure that they do not leak and are clean and sanitary. Also check the hot and cold water supply in both the kitchen and bathrooms.
  • Check the toilet facilities to make sure that they work properly.
  • Check all appliances to make sure that they are clean and in good working order.
  • Check around baseboards to make sure there are no openings for rodents or vermin.