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Moving Into a New Apartment? Take Photos of These 5 Things Right Away

When you rent an apartment, you pay a security deposit to cover any damage to the place that happens while you're living there. When the lease is up, you'll get it back, as long as there's no damage. The question is, how do you prove there's no damage? It's not as simple as you might think.


When you’re moving into a new apartment, it can be tempting to immediately unpack your stuff and set about making things cozy. Start off with these decorating tricks that will make your home look more expensive.

But stop right there.

More than likely, along with your first month’s rent, you’ve handed over a security deposit to your landlord. The purpose of that deposit is to cover any damage to the apartment that happens during your lease. If there’s no damage, you should get your deposit back when you move out. Sounds simple enough, except the fact is that disputes over security deposits are the most common disagreement between landlords and tenants. One reason for this is that during the lease, it’s easy to lose track of whether this hole in the wall or that crack in the window pane were there when you moved in, according to a spokesperson at Trulia, an online source of real estate listings and information, which is why they recommend that as soon you move in, you take the time to create a photographic record of the condition of the apartment—every last nook and cranny of it.

Before you can get to every last nook and cranny, you’ll need to make sure that neither the prior tenant nor the landlord has left anything behind. “Make sure the place is empty before you begin moving in,” advises New York real estate agent, Donna Gordon, because that nightstand or that poster on the wall might be concealing damage, even inadvertently. By the way—if you’re moving to a new city entirely, check out these tips on how to adjust well to find happiness in your new home.

Once you’ve confirmed that nothing’s been left behind, take a walk through the unit with your landlord. Make sure to record things such as the condition of appliances or the fresh paint on your bathroom walls. Your photos should depict the overall space (entire rooms) as well as the tiny details (get close-ups of any existing damage). If possible, record your walk-through on video. However you choose to record it, email the resulting file(s) to your landlord that very same day so that you both have a digital and time-stamped record, advises Trulia’s spokesperson.

In your walk-through, focus on the following features:

Rick's Photography/shutterstock

Nail holes

Chances are, previous tenants have hung photos, mirrors, shelves, and the like. Sometimes the resulting nail holes go unnoticed by the landlord until it’s your turn to exit the lease, at which point, it’s your security deposit that may be in jeopardy.

l i g h t p o e t/shutterstock

Carpets and flooring

Floors and carpets get scuffed up through normal wear, but you don’t want to be responsible for random stains and damage that weren’t yours to begin with.


Soap scum

Although this is technically not permanent damage, it’s a pain to clean, it will only get worse, and if your landlord didn’t notice it before, by the time your lease is up, he or she might. So, get a record of it, even if you think you have every intention to scrub it away.



Take a photo of your windows, both open and closed, because sometimes damage can be lurking on a screen behind a window. Or if the window won’t open, you can keep a record of that too. Open and close the blinds as well because if they happen to be custom, they can account for hundreds of dollars of your security deposit if it turns out they weren’t working and you’re the one left holding the bag.

Sergei Krasii/shutterstock

Inside fridge and other large appliances

Both the refrigerator and the oven can be large sources of contention since any damage could be on the inside as easily as it could be on the outside. So get in there and click away. With regard to the dishwasher and pilot lights, video can be especially helpful if either one is making strange noises at the time of your move-in.



Don’t get so caught up in keeping a record of the interior that you forget to take a photo of the outside of the door. And if you’re renting a house, as opposed to an apartment, document the condition of the exterior walls, the yard, and the planting beds.

Valentin Agapov/shutterstock

The attic and/or basement

These spaces are easy to overlook. Get a record of their condition if your rental comes with either.

When it’s time for you to vacate the premises, be sure to return your rental to the same condition it was in on move-in day (apart from reasonable wear and tear, if that is mentioned in your lease). These tips apply to vacation rentals as well.

Lauren Cahn
Lauren has covered knowledge, history, the British royal family, true crime and riddles for Reader's Digest since 2017. Having honed her research and writing skills as an attorney in the 1990s, she became one of HuffPost's first bloggers in the early 2000s, graduated to reporting hyperlocal news in the 2010s and has been researching and writing news and features for a wide variety of publications ever since. Aside from Reader's Digest, her work has appeared in Mashed, Tasting Table, Eat This, Not That!, Grown and Flown, MSN, Yahoo, AOL, Insider, Business Insider and many others.