Not all landlords bother with doing inspections when their tenants are moving into or out of their property. However, everyone should definitely perform inspections without fail. They are an essential way for you to protect your rights as a real estate owner and landlord and are covered by law for a reason.
To clarify why they are so important, let’s go over pre move out inspection: things to know.
Why is the pre move out inspection necessary?
The main reason for the existence of pre move out inspection is to protect the landlord’s interests. When a tenant signs their lease, they also hand over a deposit meant to cover any damages to the property they are renting. If damages appear, you can withdraw money from the deposit, or the landlord can reserve a part of it to cover their expenses once the lease is up.
The whole point of the inspection is to go over the rented property and ascertain its condition. Upon review, the landlord can decide whether or not the deposit can be returned to the tenant. If a landlord makes and smartly follows a checklist for renting out a property, they can probably avoid taking on a troublesome tenant that will cause damage. Still, the inspection is one final failsafe put in place to guarantee your profits will not be harmed.
The timing of the inspection
Depending on your state laws, the time you can do the inspection varies a little. Still, it generally falls on the final day of the tenant’s lease, hopefully, once they have already packed up and prepared to leave the property. This allows you the best possible survey of your property. After all, tenants can cover up damage through strategic placement of furniture or other belongings.
Once the property is emptied out, it becomes much harder to deceive the landlord and claim the deposit. You should be particularly wary if a tenant requests an early move out inspection. While their concerns can be genuine, and the request might come from clashing schedules, this can also be an attempt to cover up damage or, in rare cases, the actions of a spiteful tenant planning to damage your property on purpose. No matter what, you should tactfully refuse their request.
The benefits of doing the inspection
The one truly major benefit of the pre move out inspection is to justify your decision to withhold the deposit. Of course, you can only withhold the deposit if such action is deemed legal. When a pre move out inspection is not done, refusal to hand it over can come across as arbitrary and unlawful. Besides, the inspection gives you, the landlord, a perfect opportunity to thoroughly document the condition of your property even if you know that the tenant is a good one and unlikely to have left behind any damage.
With the pre move out inspection out of the way, both parties can dedicate themselves to pursuing what they need to do next. The tenant can focus on moving and tasks such as trying to review potential long distance movers and find the best option available if they haven’t already. And the landlord can focus on repairs or finding a new tenant.
The most important part of the pre move out inspection is, of course, the review of the property itself. Now, there is a significant caveat here that we must mention before going over anything else. Before you rent out a property, make sure to document its condition thoroughly.
Take photos of everything—the walls, the floors, windows, and doors, the kitchen, bathroom, etc. You must photograph every room from multiple angles under ‘ideal’ light conditions. Meaning that you can’t let shadows and such obscure what the focus of the picture is. The same applies to any appliances and furniture you plan to make available to the renter. In the case of appliances, it might even be wise to document a video of them working. Make a checklist and go from room to room, so you don’t forget anything.
Why do you need to go this far?
Unfortunately, it is because many tenants will try to claim that whatever damage they’ve caused was ‘there when they moved in.’ In that scenario, it would surely be your word against theirs. Without sufficient proof, you won’t be able to accomplish much, so you should give up and return the deposit. They might even try to take legal action against you, which can get drawn out and be highly unpleasant – both for you personally and for your rental business. Solid and undeniable proof, with proper dates on the pictures and everything, will quickly shut down any such attempts.
The security deposit policies
One final question about the pre move out inspection remains. Just what level of damage justifies refusing to return a deposit? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. The legal guidelines say that a ‘reasonable amount of wear and tear’ does not qualify as grounds for refusing to return the money.
Now, what can be defined as ‘reasonable’? In simple terms, you are not entitled to keeping the deposit over superficial damage, which you can fix with very little work. For example, the walls getting a bit dirtied and needing a fresh coat of paint does not qualify as damage. Furniture color and texture fading away similarly does not mean you can claim money for replacements. So, if your curtains are torn, you can claim money to replace them. If they look a little worn and ratty, you cannot. Property management for landlords is admittedly a complex subject when such tricky legal situations are brought up.
Now that you have gone through our guide on pre move out inspection: things to know, you should understand exactly why you should never skip this inspection. Without it, you have no legs to stand on when trying to claim the deposit you deserve to withhold. And you can even get into legal trouble if you are not careful!