When it’s time for a tenant to move out, there are several requirements that you will need to fulfill as a landlord. One of the best ways that you can prepare for any situation that arises at the end of a tenancy is to have a detailed and consistent process that you follow with all tenants when they are preparing to move out. This helps to eliminate confusion and miscommunications by setting clear expectations, and also helps to protect you in the event of a legal dispute.
Phase 1: Move-Out Documents
Begin the move-out process by sending a move-out letter to your tenant that details what the process will be going forward in terms of cleaning and preparing for the move-out. It should also include what the procedures will be relative to the tenant’s security deposit. This helps to clearly communicate your expectations in advance and also gives them the opportunity to ask questions or alert you to any potential problems. You will also want to complete a move-out checklist with the tenant (which is required in some states), and do a walk-through of the unit with them so that you can review and discuss any potential damage together. You can also take photographs to add to the photographs you may have taken before the tenant moved in so as to have a record of the before-and-after condition of the property.
Phase 2: Inspecting the Property
Once the move-out date has been confirmed between you and the tenant, it’s time to conduct a walk-through inspection of the property to document any damage as well as cleaning and general maintenance needs. As you perform the inspection, keep in mind that some things need to be checked in every room, while others are unique to specific rooms.
Carefully inspect each functional element of the kitchen. Check the sink by turning on the faucet to check for water pressure and drainage. Look for leaks, mold, and water damage under the sink cabinet. Inspect the countertops for any kind of damage. Check the cabinets by making sure the doors work properly. The burners on the stove, the oven, and the refrigerator should be clean and functional. Be sure to inspect the dishwasher for mold. If there is mold, it could mean there are seals or hoses that are damaged.
Inspect the bedrooms to look for any potential problems with the flooring, ceiling, walls, doors, etc. If there are walk-in bathrooms, you’ll want to look into those areas as well. A thorough inspection of the rooms will identify any damage that needs repairing. Damage in the home can be repaired using the security deposit that the tenant provided before moving into the unit.
You generally only need to use the security deposit for repairs or cleaning when a tenant leaves with the appropriate amount of notice and pays all of the rent they owe. In month-to-month tenancies where a tenant gives less than 30 days’ notice before moving, owes you rent, or stays beyond the final date they have paid rent for, you can generally deduct from the security deposit accordingly. If you must evict a tenant who has overstayed their lease, you can obtain a judgment requiring them to leave due to unpaid rent, and can later deduct the judgment from the security deposit once cleaning and repair costs have come out.
Phase 3: Move Out Day
The day has come for the tenant to vacate the property. Be very clear about where you would like them to leave/drop-off the keys. This should be stated in the lease agreement, along with a description of the penalty if they fail to return the keys within a certain timeframe. Also be sure to receive a forwarding address from the tenant. This way you can mail the tenant any leftover money from the security deposit and forward their mail until they update their new address.