Move-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.
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.
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.