5 Key Appliance and Plumbing Issues to Check Before Renting

Before you commit to a lease, you need to check a bunch of things to make sure you won’t have any serious issues after you move in. Some of the most important things to check before renting are appliances, particularly those that use water. Their condition will tell you if you’re likely to have unplanned expenses — and may even influence whether you move in at all.

1. Water Heater

One of the most important things to check before renting an apartment is the water heater. Not only will it be uncomfortable if you lack enough hot water to shower, there’s always the risk that a worn-out water heater could start to leak.

Image result for water heater in apartment

How to Check Its Condition

The first thing to do is check that the water heater is heating water effectively. Turn on the hot water in all the faucets, including the shower. Check how long it takes for the water to run hot as well as whether the water reaches (and maintains) a decent temperature.

You should also consider the color of the water. Discoloration or sediment suggests that the water heater needs flushing clean. If the landlord has failed to keep up with regular maintenance, the heater may break while you’re renting. Worse, if it’s a gas water heater, it could be dangerous.

One last thing to do is a visual inspection of the heater itself. Ideally, you want to find that it’s a tankless water heater, as these models are more efficient — you’ll spend less money on energy bills, never run out of heated water, and receive hot water instantly. It will also last longer and when it does come to the end of its life, there will be no huge leak like with a tank water heater.

How to Calculate Its Age

It’s easy to determine the exact age of a water heater. Just find the rating plate, which has all the important information about the device. Often, it includes the date of manufacture.

If the rating plate doesn’t specify the manufacture date, you can figure out the age of the water heater by looking at its serial number. Many brands use the first four digits of the serial number to represent the month and year (sometimes it’s the year followed by the month) that the heater was made. In other cases, the serial number will specify the week of the year rather than the month.

If you’re unsure what the serial number means, search online to see what system the brand uses. This will be necessary if the brand uses letters to represent different months and years.

Next, you need to know how long you can expect the water heater to last. On average, a gas tank water heater lasts between 8 and 12 years, whereas an electric tank water lasts from 10 to 15 years. Tankless water heaters last longer: often 20 years or more. If you know the model of the water heater, a quick online search will tell you its specific lifespan.

2. Washing Machine

The most common problem with washing machines is a blockage in the outlet hose. This is repairable, but it does require a professional.

white washer and dryer

Other issues to look out for are:

  • A blocked inlet hose, which will mean the washing machine is unable to fill with water.
  • A drum that doesn’t turn.
  • Damaged fabrics.
  • A bad smell on washed clothing.
  • The machine stops before it finishes the cycle.
  • An error code that appears while the machine is running.

How to Check Its Condition

You can reveal any problems you’re likely to have with the washing machine, perhaps like a blocked drain, by doing a load of laundry. It’s important to stick around while the washing machine is working to listen for any unusual noises, which could indicate issues like a loose belt or motor problems. You will also be able to see if the machine is filling, draining, and running correctly, check the controls, and ensure the machine does not shake too much.

How to Calculate Its Age

Almost all the above are fixable, but the washing machine could break down entirely if it’s too old. Washing machines usually last for about 11 years. You can calculate age by looking at the serial number and using the same system as for a water heater.

3. Dishwasher

If the previous tenants were less than meticulous about cleaning and maintaining the dishwasher, you may find that the appliance has some performance problems. For instance, it may leave remnants of food on dishes, not drain properly, overfill with water, leak, make too much noise, or even not turn on at all. Checking the different parts and then running the dishwasher for a cycle will alert you to any issues.

white ceramic plate on black dishwasher

How to Check Its Condition

Some issues stem from the filter. Remove the basket at the bottom of the dishwasher and check if the filter is clogged with debris. Simply cleaning the filter with warm, soapy water could solve the problem.

Before putting everything back, move on to the spray system, which is also at the bottom of the appliance. Like the filter, the spray system can become clogged with bits of food. This means it’s unable to rotate and water cannot circulate. Cleaning the spray system is usually sufficient to fix the problem. However, if it’s damaged, it will need replacing.

Another part that impacts the spray system is the silverware basket. If even a single knife is slipping out during the cycle, the spray system may be unable to spin properly. Buying a new silverware basket is usually inexpensive and will make a huge difference.

Finally, check the seal on the door. Any cracks and splits will lead to a lower performance. Luckily, the door seal is also easy to replace on your own.

How to Calculate Its Age

Like several of the other things to check before renting, you can find out the age of the dishwasher by looking at its serial number. Most dishwashers last between 7 and 12 years. Those older than this may not have much life left. However, if you’re a small household, you may be able to manage washing dishes by hand in the case the dishwasher does fail. This will save you repair and replacement costs — unless, of course, the lease specifies that the landlord will replace the dishwasher.

4. Toilets

There are two main issues you may have with a toilet. First is that it leaks — either in the toilet bowl or around the base. Second is that it takes a long time to refill after flushing.

How to Check Its Condition

Checking the condition of toilets in an apartment is simple: just flush them and see how long they take to refill. Then, flush them a second time to see how long you have to wait between flushes. Finally, make sure that, once they’re finished filling, you don’t see any water running in the bowl — this is a sign of a leak.

How to Calculate Its Age

If your apartment is less than 40 years old, the toilets are likely the same age as the building. You can quickly check their age by lifting the lid on the tank and looking for a date. Most manufacturers stamp a date into the soft clay, which leaves a permanent mark.

5. Basic Plumbing

The last on the list of things to check before renting an apartment is the plumbing. All the above rely on the basic plumbing to be in good condition. Plus, as the plumbing system runs throughout the apartment, it could have a major impact if it’s suffering from any damage or faults. For instance, a pipe could burst, your dishes and clothing may come out of the wash unclean, or the water may be unsuitable for drinking.

How to Check Its Condition

One way to check the plumbing of an apartment is to make sure the water is flowing as it should. Turn on the faucets and shower at the same time to see if water pressure is sufficient. Make sure to keep the water running for several minutes, as it’s possible that the pressure may drop after some time.

You also need to look for signs of leaks. Even something small like a dripping faucet wastes a large amount of water and increases your utility bills. More urgent matters include leaky pipes, such as under sinks. This can cause water damage that you may be liable for. One last way to identify leaks is by the smell in the kitchen and bathroom. If you notice a damp odor, there may be invisible leaks.

How to Calculate Its Age

Determine the age of the apartment’s plumbing by the material:

  • Galvanized pipes typically last from 30 to 40 years. When they’re reaching the end of their life, you’ll see rust marks and calcification on places like the elbow.
  • Cast iron pipes have a similar lifespan: 30 to 40 years. When they’re older than this, they tend to suffer blockages. You can check if this is the case by filling the kitchen sink and seeing how long it takes to drain.
  • Copper water supply pipes are newer than the other two types, meaning they are more likely to be in good condition. However, unpleasant odors, low water pressure, and noise from the pipes when you turn on the faucet all indicate that the pipes need replacing.

It’s essential to know what things to check before renting your first place and how to assess that appliances are working properly. This will give you a better idea of when replacements may be necessary and how much they’re likely to cost you. As a result, you’ll be able to better estimate how you’ll spend in the long run, beyond rent.