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Move-out Walk-throughs

Why Pre-Move-out Inspections with Tenants can be a Bad Idea

Did you know most tenants are more comfortable if you meet with them for a pre-move-out inspection before they move? They prefer to do this in person if possible and have their security money refunded to them on the spot. At the very least, they wish to know in advance of any deductions or charges against their deposit before they move.

Performing a move-out inspection before the tenants vacate is of virtually no benefit to the landlord. It can only create problems, confusion and disagreements between the parties.

Yes, it is usually a mistake to meet with the tenant for a walk through* to check the condition of the property and then hand over the security deposit. Often, there is a disagreement over whether the damages were the tenant's fault or responsibility, right?
*(In California, tenants have a right to a walk through with the owner before moveout. See California Pre-Moveout Inspection

Have you ever been in the awkward position of meeting with your tenant for a walk through in a damaged and dirty rental and the tenants expect the security back? Do you tell them that they will pay for all the damages they caused out of the deposit? Once they they are told of the intended charges against the deposit, do you think they will respond well to that? Will they have any incentive to do a good job returning your rental as clean and undamaged as possible? Of course not! Tyhey may even be spiteful and cause further damages just for the fun of it.

3 Reasons to Avoid Pre-Moveout Walk-throughs

  1. Walk-throughs cause arguments. Remember, tenants don't take kindly to being told they are responsible for damages. Sometimes they may even say, "It was like that when I moved in!" (Imagine that!)
  2. Tenants expect the chance to minimize charges against them by fixing what they damaged. Often a tenant's do-it-yourself repair can be worse than the damage itself! (They won't understand that their repair may not be good enough)
  3. Many damages occur during the move-out process which takes place after the pre-inspection walk-through.

Many landlords are just glad to get their rental back so they can clean up the property and try to get better tenants next time. Have you ever had this experience?

If you're not in California or another state with pre-move-out inspection laws, don't meet with the tenants for a walk through to refund their security and pick up the keys! (Unless you have decided that you want to give a full refund no matter what.) Have a spare set, or have them return the keys to you. Let your tenants know that since many damages occur during move-out, you always have the property inspected after the tenants have moved. Their security will be sent to the forwarding address they gave you on their * Notice to Vacate. They will want to do their best to leave the premises in good enough condition to get their security refund. So when they give notice to vacate, send them a * Move-out Reminder letter. This explains what tasks they can do to have the rental ready for the next tenants.

Whether you Deduct from the Security Deposit or Not

When returning security money to tenants or deducting from it, most states require a Security Deposit Settlement Statement to be sent to the tenant. This gives you the opportunity to professionally itemize deductions and charges you need to make against a security deposit. The LPA Security Settlement Statement has a section that lets the tenant know the property was video taped prior to move-in and immediately following move-out. That evidence is very difficult for the tenant to argue with. The tenants rarely question a well prepared settlement statement because they can see that you've covered yourself well. Repairs, major cleaning, lease violations, past due charges are all legitimate deductions you should make. Sometimes, when the charges exceed the amount of the deposit, the Security Deposit Settlement Statement turns out to be a bill to the tenants for a balance due!

The Security Deposit Settlement Statement may be used with or without a Move-In/Out Property Condition Inspection Report.

Essential landlord rental formsThis form alone has enabled us to make valid deductions and charges (saving us tens of thousands of dollars in damage costs over the years) from security deposits without a hassle from the tenants.

Don't get me wrong, we are not out to unjustly take security money from tenants! But when deductions need to be made, this form can be a miracle worker. Why? Because it itemizes valid deductions on paper in black and white and now becomes much more difficult for your former tenant to argue with the facts.

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