4 common misunderstandings of the move-in/move-out inspection

Written on December 6, 2017 by

College StudentMove-in and move-out inspection processes protect the interests of both landlords and renters for the duration of the rental contract.

One of the greatest potential conflicts both landlords and renters face is a disagreement over who pays for what after move-out. You can be conflict-free by avoiding these common points of misconception and misunderstanding.

1. What’s normal wear and tear?

Wear and tear is a given whenever people live in a home. The problem comes from differences in opinion about what “normal wear and tear” means, exactly.

Normal wear includes the type of wear that would happen no matter who lived in the space. Slight wear on carpets and minor scratches on linoleum or hardwood floors are normal wear and tear; cigarette burn marks are not. A shower stall that isn’t quite as sparkly and new as it looked before is normal; a hole or massive crack in the shower surround is not.

Related: The ultimate guide to “normal wear and tear”

2. Who benefits from inspections?

While both move-in and move-out inspections help a landlord keep track of the property’s condition, these inspections aren’t only for the landlord’s benefit. Tenants benefit when there’s a discrepancy over damage.

For instance, if the landlord notices a hole in a closet wall during the move-out inspection, they might believe the tenant is responsible. But a copy of the move-in checklist might show that the hole was there before the current tenant moved in.

3. Who should be present at move-out?

In some cases, a tenant may move without ever coming back for the final move-out inspection, but that’s not ideal. The tenant and landlord should both be present if possible and go through a move-in/move-out checklist together.

During the inspections, each party notes the condition of everything from appliances to the carpet and window coverings. Both parties should sign and keep copies of the checklist to help prevent disagreements regarding the return of the security deposit.

The checklist helps ensure a tenant will either get back all or most of the security deposit back or understand why the landlord will be keeping some or all of it. So it’s best for tenants to participate in the move-out inspection and fill out the form as accurately as possible.

4. How can I make the process smoother?

It’s best for both parties to take pictures or video recordings of the space when moving in and again when moving out as proof of potential issues.

If recording video, record your voice, noting the nature of the issue and the date. This technique also comes in handy during the entire lease term—tenants can track the landlord’s timeliness in addressing maintenance problems, and landlords can show how timely they have been.

Also, both parties should save any texts or emails that show conversations of potential problems during the lease period.

The wrap-up

Due diligence helps ensure that both parties agree on the condition of the rental, whether during move-in or move-out. Checklists used by both landlord and tenant, cross-checked during the inspections, help alleviate nearly all misunderstandings about the rental’s condition.

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13 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • SM

    We just went through a “bad” move out. Up there as a worst. Move-in was video taped, pics AND a 10 page move-in/out document was completed and signed as well. Our usual process. Although the law does not “require” it, we always request the tenant be present at move-out walk through in DAYLIGHT. In this case, the tenant was not cooperative, left while we were completing it, came back, lied why the stove was not working, got nasty when many inky stains, etc. on a brand new carpet at move- in were pointed out. This IS a top item to discuss. Tenants need to understand, most landlords DO want to return all escrow. Why we go through the process. A FIFTH item in PA – tenant MUST notify of new address. She didn’t – forfeit 100% & damages.

  • Trudy Northern

    What say the law on PRE move out inspections? If a tenant requests a PRE-move out inspection, is it legal to charge the tenant a fee for the Pre move out inspection or is it free to them? (California)

  • BZed87

    Do you reccomend a specific move in move out form or check-list to use? Does COZY provide one?

  • Tanya Garvin

    Thank you so much for answering question 3, Who should be present at move out. However, what do I do when the landlord indicates in their guidelines that they do not perform move out inspections with clients present under any circumstances? Because the last time I moved I only got back a very small amount of my security deposit where I lived prior. I don’t want that to happen again, so that’s why I don’t understand why this landlord won’t perform a move out inspection with their tenants. Is that legal? Can they do that? Please help! Thank you.

    • Donna

      I would like to know what are my rights as a tenant to be present at the move-out inspection that the landlord doesn’t want me to be

  • Gloria

    I moved in an Apartment but wasn’t allow a walk through. I paid my Security and first month’s rent. I was then given the keys to my Apartment but did not get a walk through.Is there anything I can do about it due to the fact I am not please with my Apartment?

  • Matthew MacDonald

    I purchased a triplex I was living in a few years ago from the previous owner. One of my tenants is moving out, they have been there since the previous owner. He never did an initial move-in walk thru with them before they moved it. I was the one who cleaned and painted the entire place and made it move in ready back before they moved in. Can I still do a final walk thru and I know of siding on the house corner is chewed away by their dog and the grass is all dead but was full and green when I took over ownership and I have pictures of the backyard when it had grass after they moved in. Can I charge for the siding to be replaced along with reseeding the yard? I appreciate your time reading this.

  • Tough Patrick

    In the “tough” rental market, being the agreeable tenant will help you win the apartment or house. But once in and the lease agreements are signed, you and your landlord are no longer buddies. Once your lease is signed, the only person whom you should trust is yourself. After a few weeks of settling in, this is when you contact the landlord and request an inspection. This is when you document, document, document and get it if not signed, get it in writing. NEVER TRUST the landlord or property manager. Take pics with a newspaper indicating the time-stamped date, do it monthly, send the photos, always request a visit and be there when it arrives. Landlords will not return security deposits. They will conjure damage, be ready.

    • Janet

      I agree with you, Patrick. I didn’t get an inspection in my current rental nor did the landlord make the upgrades/improvements he promised. Every time I asked, I was ignored. I tolerated the apartment but there were so many problems with it (none of which were my fault) including rain damage, ceiling leaks and broken heaters. The landlord refused to repair the problems, and I believe he was waiting for me to move out to do it. During the time, I took photographs of all the damage that occurred (which were not my fault). When moving, the landlord tried to keep my deposit over a stupid $6 set of broken plastic blinds that actually broke the first two days I lived there. Lesson learned. Get everything in writing!

  • Becca Hud

    I completely understand about tenant responsibility when moving out of an apartment, but you did cover the “move-in” portion. I’m trying to verify how long do I have to complete my initial move-in inspection per Va. State law. They gave me 5 days, but I didn’t discover most of the things until well after that.

  • Rose

    Long story short, my month to month tenants will be moving out with their 30-day notice after receiving my 60 day notice. Now they requested an initial inspection. I listed a time and date. They said they aren’t available at that time and proposed a new time for the same date. I said I would not be available and asked what other times and dates. They have not responded and their move out date will be approaching and we have not agreed on a time or date. Am I supposed to finalize a time and date and give them a 48 hour notice without us agreeing? Or not conduct an initial inspection.

  • Tracy

    I was wondering if you can file a lawsuit against the property manager for gouging move out fees? The property manager charged 2593.00 for flooring and an additional 325.00 not detailed and 195. For painting. Lived there two years and the flooring was not new at move in. It had stains and had only been shampooed. I plan to speak with the property manager first to see if we can come to an agreement.

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