Before or shortly after the tenant moves in, the landlord and the tenant should walk through the unit together and inspect it in detail for any existing damage or defects and necessary cleaning, especially noting the general condition of all appliances. A checklist should be completed at this time. If the unit is furnished, the checklist includes a general description of all of the furniture in the unit. The landlord and the tenant both sign the checklist and each party keeps a copy.
If the landlord is not available to do the walkthrough, the tenant should complete the checklist anyway and give the landlord a copy. Try to get a friend to witness the condition of the unit or take pictures, specifically of any damaged or defective item in the unit. This information can prove invaluable when trying to get a return of the security deposit. Photographs and witnesses can prove that a condition existed at the beginning of the lease term.