Activity 2: Check-In/Check-Out Forms

(Objective 2: Learn ways to protect their property and security deposit.)

Provide participants with Handout 3: Check-In/Check-Out Rental Condition Checklist.

Suggested Introduction: Most landlords require residents to make a security deposit when they move into an rental unit. The purpose of the deposit is to provide funds to pay for any damage that occurs while the resident lives there. However, what if the landlord charges a resident for damage that was caused by a previous resident? The best way for residents to protect themselves from this is to complete a detailed inspection of the unit—with the landlord or with a witness who does not live in the rental unit—before moving in.

Wisconsin landlords are required to provide tenants with a Check-In Form when moving into a rental unit for documenting the condition of the unit when a tenant moves in. Tenants have seven days to make any notes on the Check-In Form which the landlord may have overlooked and return it to the landlord.

The primary goal of the inspection is to identify items that may end up as deductions from your security deposit if you don’t call them to the landlord’s attention before you move in. However, there are two other important functions of the check-in inspection:

  1. To make sure everything is in working order—for example, faucets, drains, electric outlets
  2. To make sure tenants know how to operate and care for equipment in the rental unit

The best time to identify problems is before you move in. As you are most likely to have the landlord’s attention at this time, take the opportunity to make sure you know how things work in the rental unit and what maintenance work you are expected to do.

When completing a Check-In Form, look for missing items, damaged items, dirty items and/or excessive wear. Use the form to write down everything found wrong with the rental unit when you move in. Be sure to list even very small “damages,” for example, the number of nail holes in each wall, dents in the kitchen floor, or chipped paint on the baseboards.

Sign and date the Check-In Form make a copy for yourself and then give the original form to the landlord. It is best to have the landlord sign and date your copy to show the original was received. If you cannot get the landlord to sign tenant’s copy, mail the form to the landlord by certified mail as described in Wis. Wis. Stat. § 704.08. (Tenant Source Book, Legal Action 2016)


Using the examples on the first page of Handout 3: Check-In/Check-Out Rental Condition Checklist show participants how to use the form to document the current condition, not just place a check mark on it. Look for:

  • Missing Items—Ice cube trays, window screens, and broiler pans are examples of items that should typically come with the rental unit, but may be missing.
  • Damaged Items—Cracked window glass, burned or cracked counter tops or bath fixtures, and holes in plaster are examples of damage.
  • Dirty Items—Ovens and stove tops may have a build-up of baked-on dirt and grease. Bathtubs may have a layer of grime on the bottom that can be hard to remove.
  • Excessive Wear—Normal wear and tear should not result in deductions from security deposits. However, there can be disputes about what normal wear is and what excessive wear is. It is a good idea to be sure you understand how the landlord defines “normal wear” and to be alert for items that seem to show excessive wear. Carpeting, vinyl flooring, and window treatments are items with which wear and tear can be an issue.

Demonstrate how to use the Rental Unit Inspection Tools or show video of them in use.

  • Pen/Paper—to document the inspection and to use for noting/dating changes or repairs
  • Camera/Video—recorder—take pictures of the inspected rooms to have on file, give a set to Landlord. Then store them until it is time to move out, take a new set of photos to show before and after.
  • Flashlight—to look in dark places, hard to see areas, behind or below. Looking for pest infestations, uncleanliness and damage.
  • Hairdryer—use to make sure all sockets work. Additionally, because hairdryers use a lot of electricity this should indicate if there are any electrical limits.
  • Lightbulbs—for use in the areas where a lightbulb should be and there isn’t one. Makes sure the light works.
  • Measuring Tape—for use in measuring for furniture, window coverings, closets, etc.

Option 1

Have small groups complete an inspection of the site where the class is being held or by using still shots of rental unit rooms. Remind them to look for missing items, damaged items, dirty items and/or excessive wear. Document their findings on Handout 3: Check-In/Check-Out Rental Condition Checklist.

Option 2

Using video of a rental unit “walk through” to inspect the rental unit. Occasionally pause the video to assist the participants. Ask them to look for the missing items, damaged items, dirty items and/or excessive wear. Document their findings on Handout 3: Check-In/Check-Out Rental Condition Checklist.


For optimum participation select closed captioning when showing videos in a classroom setting. Closed Caption Symbol

(Credit: ADVOCAP, Fond du Lac, for video location.)