Move-out inspections are an important part of property management. It is an opportunity for the landlord to do a walk through of the rental property at the time that the tenant is vacating the premises. It’s a chance to identify any illegal alterations and assess damage beyond regular wear and tear.

If problems are discovered the tenant may be liable for them and the landlord has a chance to recover the cost of repairs. In most cases a portion of the security deposit is used to cover these costs. It’s important that the landlord makes no comments as to the return of the security deposit until the inspection has been conducted and any deductions have been determined.

Move-out inspections are a valuable tool for landlords. Sadly not all landlords conduct them and if they do it’s not always done properly. If you’re not utilizing move-out inspections the right way you may find yourself with unexpected expenses.

Why You Should Do A Move-Out Inspection

A landlord should never skimp on the move-out inspection. Make the most of this opportunity to preview the condition of the property and get an early estimate of repair costs. It’s also a great opportunity to get an idea of the time it will take to get the property ready for the next tenant.

In some states the move-out inspection is a legal requirement. Always check local laws to make sure you are compliant. Landlords who don’t obey local laws can end up with serious and expensive legal problems and if you ever need help with a difficult tenant it will be harder to get the law on your side if your own operations don’t comply with the rules.

A move-out inspection can help landlords avoid disputes with tenants. It documents the condition of the property before and after a tenant lives there so that there can be no disagreements. It gives the tenant a chance to clean the unit and conduct repairs prior to moving out so that they can get their full security deposit back as well as a good reference in case they need it.

When To Do The Inspection

Before you schedule the move-out inspection, check your state laws on the exact timing requirements. In some cases the inspection may be conducted weeks before the tenant moves out. Other states stipulate that it must be done on the date of the move or later.

Doing the inspection before the tenant moves out gives them the opportunity to conduct repairs before they leave. However issues may be hidden behind furniture or under area rugs. Viewing the property after the tenant removes all of their personal property means that you will be able to do a more thorough inspection and the likelihood of surprises will be much lower.

Landlords should provide tenants with written notice of the inspection with plenty of warning. Provide tenants the date and time when you intend to do your walk-through. Inform them that they have a right to be present during the inspection if they choose.

Who Should Do The Inspection

The move-out inspection can be conducted by the landlord, the property manager, or both. Doing the inspection with the tenant present gives them an opportunity to give their input and can help prevent disputes if deductions need to be made from the security deposit. If the tenant chooses not to do the inspection with you, then you must be sure to carefully document the condition of the unit.

It’s always a good idea to document the condition of the property with photos or videos even if there is nothing wrong. Not only does this provide proof in the event that you need to go after the tenant for damages, it also creates a record for the future. Unless extensive repairs are required, the move-out condition after this tenant is the basis of the move-in condition for the next tenant.

What To Look For

During the inspection look in every room as well as the exterior including yards, sheds, and balconies. Look for any alterations that don’t comply with the lease agreement. Check for all damage beyond regular wear and tear.

Inspect hard floors for scratches or cracks and carpets for stains or burns. While most leases allow tenants to put up pictures with nails, there should not be any larger holes. Many landlords don’t allow tenants to change the color of the walls without approval so keep that on your checklist during the inspection.

Counters should be clean and free from stains. Check the functionality and condition of all appliances and fixtures. Inspect doors and windows to make sure they are in working order and that all locks, blinds, or screens haven’t been damaged or removed.

The tenant is responsible for removing all personal property and garbage. Check closets, cupboards, and any outdoor spaces to make sure nothing has been left behind. Finally ensure that the keys have been returned.

When To Charge

As a landlord you want your property in pristine condition but you must account for normal wear and tear. Minor scratches, faded carpets, and smudges are considered reasonable especially if the tenant has been living there for a while. When assessing the condition of appliances and fixtures you must consider their age and if it’s time for their replacement.

Watch for items that will cause you to incur undue expenses. You would probably need to freshen up the property between tenants anyway but if there are major issues that will significantly increase your costs then that is when the tenant may need to pay for the damages. Discuss these issues with the tenant and deduct the cost of setting this right from the security deposit. If the damage is beyond the amount of the deposit then the tenant will have to pay out of pocket.

A thorough move-out inspection is a vital part of the business. Keep good records of all inspections and how repairs were conducted. It can be a lot to handle but Property Matrix can help keep your business organized.