A Quick Guide to Move-In and Move-Out Checklists for Rental Property Owners

Whenever a landlord or property manager rents out a property to a new tenant, or an old tenant leaves a property, property owners need to ensure the rental unit is in good condition. Conducting a property inspection is key for reducing your damage liability and avoiding security deposit disputes. Move-in and move-out checklists are vital tools that can facilitate these inspections.

If you own a rental property and had a tenant recently move out, take time to reevaluate your move-in and move-out processes. Do you have a documentable means of tracking flaws with your rental units over time, so you can determine which tenants are responsible for specific issues? For example, if one tenant damaged the property somehow and fixed it in a slapdash fashion, the next tenant could mistakenly be blamed for a problem the previous tenant caused due to poor record keeping.

The most significant benefit to developing solid move-in and move-out checklists is that they provide protection and peace of mind to tenants, landlords, and property managers. However, it is up to property owners to be responsible and perform thorough inspections between all rental periods.

Why Move-In and Move-Out Checklists Are Crucial

As a property owner, your income stream depends on keeping your rental units occupied so you can collect rental income every month. You must prepare a vacant property to be move-in ready for the next tenant, and your move-out checklist will ensure former tenants vacate safely without leaving messes behind. Poor move-in and move-out procedures slow down the process of securing new tenants, which means lost income for property owners. They can also cause disagreements over property damage liability.

Developing solid move-in and move-out checklists can help property owners identify problems with a rental unit as soon as possible. While many property owners and property management companies arrange regular inspections of rental units, move-in and move-out procedures are a bit different and require more attention. These checklists can also put renters at ease by providing them with a document that details all of the possible issues with a rental unit before move-in.

Elements of a Move-In Checklist

Property owners should take time to thoroughly inspect a rental unit before listing it as available to rent to a new tenant. Some of the things a property owner should check to include are:

  • The condition of bathroom fixtures. A new tenant will not want to move into a rental unit with bathrooms that have rusted, mildewed, or corroded fixtures. Landlords should also check to make sure the rental unit’s water system works correctly.
  • Check to make sure outlets, breakers, and other electrical systems in the rental unit function appropriately. If a rental unit has any wiring issues, arrange for an electrician to inspect the property and fix any problems before renting it to anyone. This can help prevent electrical fires and reduce property owner liability for electricity-related mishaps.
  • Included amenities. If you list a rental unit as having a hot tub, you must ensure the hot tub works. Check your listing to ensure it is accurate. Inspect all the furniture, appliances, and other amenities included in your listing to be sure they are functional and ready to use.
  • Wall and paint damage. Many property owners repaint their rental units’ interiors between tenants, and this small investment goes a long way toward mitigating losses over time. Tenants will be more likely to want to rent freshly-painted units.
  • Some property owners offer appliances with their rentals and will repair or replace broken appliances for tenants. This is common in apartment buildings and multi-family rental units. Others simply provide appliances and will remove them from the unit if they break down but will not replace them. This is more common for single-family rental properties. If you consider your rental units’ appliances a selling point, make sure they are in good condition and arrange for servicing before renting to new tenants.
  • Check the rental unit for damaged or broken windows, windowsills, seals, locks, screens, and sliding panels. These are not only security issues but also affect interior air quality and climate control.
  • Heating and cooling. Make sure the rental unit’s temperature controls work correctly and check the water heater, furnace, air conditioner, and other heating and cooling fixtures to ensure proper operation before a new tenant moves into the unit. Consider a remote-controlled thermostat to protect your investment.
  • Arrange for carpet deep cleaning or replacement if necessary, before a new tenant moves into your rental unit. Check tile, hardwood, and other flat flooring types for damage and arrange repairs to avoid potential injuries to the next tenant.

Now that you know which elements of your rental unit to check before renting, develop a shared document for you and your next tenant. That way, there is a record of the condition of the rental unit from the beginning of the rental period.This record offers the tenant peace of mind. If there is any recorded issue with the rental, the tenant can refer to this document to prove the tenant did not cause the problem.

These documents also help property owners track the condition of multiple rental units over time more efficiently. Owning multiple rental units can be a great way to earn a steady income with minimal work, but only if the property owner takes the time to review their rental units between rental periods carefully. A record of a move-in checklist signed by the tenant can help limit a landlord’s financial responsibility to prepare a rental unit for a new tenant.

Checklist for Tenants Moving Out

Property owners should develop two checklists for tenants moving out: one to provide to tenants with a list of things they must do and the required completion dates for those items, and another to use for personal reference once the tenant has left. For example, the tenant’s move-out checklist might instruct the tenant to have the rental unit emptied by a specific date and to meet the landlord for a move-out inspection at a designated time. The landlord should develop their own checklist for things to confirm once a tenant has left, such as the condition in which the tenant vacated the rental unit. The requirements for this should have been stipulated in the rental agreement, and the landlord should carefully document any issues before starting repairs on the unit.

Most rental agreements require tenants moving out to clean the unit thoroughly, remove all personal belongings, and notify the landlord or property manager of any known problems before turning in their keys. They must also provide advance notice to the landlord or property manager if they intend to move out of the property. Property managers and landlords should carefully stipulate notice requirements in their rental agreements, so tenants are clear on these obligations.

Most property managers require security deposits from new tenants. They are usually equal to one month’s rent, and the landlord will use this security deposit to pay for any damage a tenant causes during a rental agreement. Tenants can refer to the move-in checklist provided by the property manager to determine which issues are the tenant’s financial responsibilities.

For example, if the tenant and landlord noticed a slight crack in a window at move-in and the crack did not worsen during the course of the rental, the tenant would not be responsible for the repair cost. If the tenant damaged the property in any way or if the tenant did not abide by the terms of the rental agreement, the landlord may have legal grounds to keep part or all of the security deposit. They would simply have to refer to the move-in checklist and compare the space to the state of the rental at move-out time.

Documentation and Follow Up After Move-Out

After a tenant moves out, the landlord or property owner should start preparing the unit for a new tenant, but only once the landlord or property manager address any remaining issues with the previous tenant. Once the documentation is squared away, the property manager can refer to the move-in checklist to prepare the unit for a new tenant.

Landlords should arrange move-out inspections with tenants so they can inspect rental units together. This helps both parties understand their responsibilities. The tenant can clear up his or her final obligations to the landlord, and the landlord can start the process of readying the unit for the next tenant. This is also a perfect opportunity to look for ways to improve the unit to potentially list it at a higher rental price and earn more income from the unit.

In addition to this, you’d need to help with immigration, in case your new tenant is moving in from another country.

Maximizing Rental Unit Income with Checklists

Responsible property managers and landlords can streamline the move-in and move-out processes with comprehensive checklists, both for their own records and for their tenants. Establishing solid practices before and after each rental period helps landlords track the conditions of their rental units and streamline the move-in process for the next tenant. Failure to develop a sound move-in and move-out system can lead to lost rental income, financial disputes with former tenants, and low review scores from tenants that may harm your chances of finding new ones in the future.

Move-in and move-out checklists protect property owners’ rental income. As a landlord, property ownership and renting can be very lucrative and it can be a relatively stable investment as long as property owners take time to carefully inspect their rental units before and after every new rental period.

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