As your tenants’ lease comes to a close, you likely have a long to-do list before the next lease begins. On top of your to-do list, you’re probably worried about the state of your investment property. How has it fared since you last saw the property? Is there damage? What happens if I have to keep the security deposit? Should I do a move-out inspection?
While you can’t control what may have occurred to your property, you can set yourself up for a successful move-out process by conducting a pre-move-out inspection. Don’t wait for your tenants to leave to check out the property, instead spend some time before their lease ends. Investing this time before moving out will mitigate many of the most common landlord headaches.
So, how to do a pre-move-out inspection? There are a few simple do’s and don’ts to follow to make your inspection successful, leading to a better turnover process.
Do Move Out Inspection by Yourself
Often, landlords will conduct the walkthrough with the tenants, but this is not advisable. If you’re walking through the property with your tenants, you’ll likely be rushed, and your inspection will be less thorough than if you went by yourself. It can be uncomfortable to assess possible damages with lessees in tow, and you may feel pressured to be brief. Additionally, tenants can temporarily conceal damage or stains with well-placed furniture or décor that you are less likely to move if they are trailing you.
Do Spend More Time Than You Expect
When you allow yourself double the time you expect an inspection to take, you permit yourself to be extra thorough. Move the furniture, look behind the décor pieces, open the appliances, and check under the sink. Be deliberate, take your time, take photos, and bring your checklist to ensure you don’t overlook anything.
Do Properly Communicate with your Tenants
In the weeks leading up to the inspection and move-out, let them know of the date of your walkthrough, allowing them to clean up the place and repair any minor dings on their own. You should also give them a timeline on assessing, and if applicable returning, the security deposit. (Be careful to make no promises about the security deposit –– see below for more details.) This communication will help you save time and money.
Do Provide a Copy of the Move-Out Checklist to Tenants
When you provide your tenants with the move-out checklist, you empower them to fix the small dings and scratches that are repairable –– saving you time and money. If you keep some, or all, of their security deposit, they will not be surprised (and may even agree). Get a signed copy of their version of the move-out checklist, and provide them your signed copy –– this prevents any surprises or disagreements regarding the security deposit.
Do Take Pictures or Videos
Take photos of any damages, and consider taking a video narrating the nature of the issue and the date. This way, the tenants can’t contend that it happened after they moved out. Also, save any text or emails showing conversations of potential or existing problems that occurred during the lease period.
Don’t Forget to Document the Charges
Writing a detailed inspection report (and exchanging copies with your tenants). Remember to save receipts for items purchased and labor to substantiate any retained security deposit. This bit of upfront paperwork may save you a headache in the long run, and protect your wallet.
Don’t Prematurely Tell Tenants They’ll Get Their Full Deposit Back
The conversation surrounding a security deposit can feel awkward. When tenants ask about returning the security deposit, landlords often say something like, “You’ll get it back in 30-days.” The tenant assumes they’ll get the entire deposit back, and when you enter the property, you realize they caused quite a bit of damage. Now an already awkward conversation has become complicated. Instead, communicate upfront on your timeline and assessment of the property to avoid this sticky situation.
Don’t Expect Perfection
There is a difference between normal wear and tear of living in a property and true damage that warrants a ding on their security deposit. Normal wear and tear include slight wear on carpets, minor scratches on the flooring, and the like. Meanwhile, a crack in tile or cigarette burns are damaged and not normal.
By setting expectations with your tenants before move-out, conducting a walkthrough of the property with your checklist in hand on your own, and reasonable expectations, you’ll find the move-out process far more successful and less stressful.