An inspection is a formal process wherein property owners or commercial professionals investigate and evaluate the condition of a property. Inspections are meant to be safeguards against unruly tenants destroying a property owner's investment and are mutually decided in the initial agreement or lease between a property owner and a tenant.
Inspections most commonly take place at move in and move out, as well as annually or semi-annually throughout your time living in the apartment.
Luckily, inspections don't typically take place by surprise. In fact, most states require at least 24 hours notice for a property owner to enter a rented apartment. Some other states don't have specified requirements or require a vaguely specific "reasonable notice" be given, so you should check your local laws for specifics.
However, there are some exceptions that state law may allow for, depending on where you live. Some instances where property owners may not need to provide any formal advance notice prior to an inspection are:
Inspections mainly happen for two reasons: to inspect an apartment before or after a tenant moves in and to ensure the condition is being kept during a lease term.
When moving into an apartment, an inspection gives you and the property owner or manager the opportunity to formally note the condition of the apartment prior to your move in so that you can't be held liable in the future for damages you did not cause.
When moving out of an apartment, an inspection is when the property owner will attempt to reclaim funds for any damages caused by you during the duration of your lease, so you should leave it as close to the same condition as when you first rented it as you can.
Inspections that take place during your lease are usually very simple and are nothing to worry about. Property owners are usually checking for general cleanliness and safety. Many apartment communities use semi-annual inspections as an opportunity to conduct routine maintenance like replacing your air filter or smoke alarm batteries.