Landlords have distinct responsibilities during the move-out inspection, but it actually starts when the tenant first moves in to the rental property. At this time, a move-in inspection should have taken place, complete with an inspection form that documents the condition that the rental property was in when the new tenants first move in. The lease should also state examples of billable damages the tenants could face if negligent.
Documentation is Key
Without documentation, the move-out inspection has nothing to be compared to. The move-in inspection is crucial to preserving the rights of both landlords and tenants. It should cover the current condition of the unit in writing as well as via time-stamped photos and a video walk-through if possible. The completed inspection form should be signed and dated by the tenant on the day of move-in.
Without this step, it is much more difficult for landlords to justify security deposit deductions, damage charges or added cleaning costs down the road. Armed with the move-in form and visual documentation, the landlord should then decide on a move-out inspection date and time. The tenant should be notified in writing, and it is then the responsibility of the tenant to confirm that they wish to be present for the move-out inspection. (Landlords are not required to work around the tenant’s schedule when setting up this date and time, although they can if they choose to.)
Tenants may also request a pre-move-out inspection so that they can have the opportunity to repair any issues that might otherwise be deducted from their security deposit. If the tenant requests it, this inspection must generally take place two weeks before the date of move-out, but specific state laws can vary.
Normal Wear and Tear vs. Billable Damage
A certain amount of wear on a rental unit is normal and not considered damage that can be deducted from the tenant’s security deposit. Minor scrapes, chips and scuffs as well as small holes or nails in the wall from hanging pictures are considered normal wear and tear and not billable damages.
Other examples of normal wear and tear include sun fading of window treatments, carpets or wall paint, small water stains in the kitchen or bathroom, and a moderate amount of dirt. Examples of billable damages would include cigarette burns, pet stains, large gouges in the wall, major plumbing problems, excessive grime, and missing fixtures.
While these assessments can in some cases be subjective, having a signed lease that clearly states examples of billable damages upon the tenant’s move-in can go a long way in preserving the landlord’s right to make deductions. Using a tenant screening service can also help landlords to connect with tenants that will treat their property with respect and leave it in good condition when they move out.