What happens when a tenant moves out is as important as finding the right tenant and maintaining the property. Yet there’s not much written about how to have a smooth tenant move-out. AHRN.com has your back!
ENSURE PROPER NOTIFICATION
As the lease ends, make sure you get your tenant’s written notification and a move-out date within the time frame you stipulated in the lease (likely 60 days). This gives you the latitude you need to: execute your tenant move-out, time your listings and marketing, take care of any repairs and cleaning, and move a new person in, with the fewest possible days of lost revenue.
This is also a good time to discuss how, if you allowed them to paint with a bright or dark color, the walls would be restored to the original neutral color. Can these folks do a neat job on their own, or do you need to hire a local who is going to tape and do corners and windows right?
SHOWING WHILE OCCUPIED
You likely set the parameters for showing the property to prospective tenants into the lease. The standard window of time is 30-60 days before the lease terminates – and that should allow you 2-14 days (depending on the market) to get the property into move-in condition. Some tenants are great about this, while some make it nearly impossible. Remember, it is your right to show the property, as long as you give your tenant 24-48 hour notice. Ask them to be extra tidy for it to show at its best. If necessary, you may offer to bring in a cleaning person to get the tough stuff – corners, wiping down cabinets and doors inside and out, removing fingerprints from light switches and around knobs – while your current tenant is still there.
TIP: Sometimes you have to get creative! Open all the shades where possible. If natural light reveals flaws, utilize indoor lighting instead (just know what lights in the home are harsh and leave those off or replace with soft white bulbs)! Keep props such as flowering plants for the entry, lemons in a pretty bowl for the kitchen counter, decorative pillows and a throw for bedroom or the couch, a pretty, scentless candle (and matches) and a set of new white towels and a bathmat in your car to quickly dress the place before the prospect arrives. (You can remove when you leave!)
THE WALK THROUGH
Once a tenant has everything out, you will have a final walk through of the property with them before returning their security deposit. Assuming you (preferably with the tenant) did the standard inventory of the property, noting possessions as well as dings, cracks, holes, and scratches on surfaces before they moved in, you’d now use those line items as a guide. Start at the front door and inspect each room, looking at walls, floors, and cabinet doors for any major dings, scratches or stains. Ask if appliances are running well. See that all is in place outside – the yard, deck and garage. Often a tenant will mention something obvious upfront, like their dog had an accident months before and point out a stain on the wood flooring, or that an appliance has an issue that just cropped up.
Tenants should present the place “broom swept,” which means relatively clean. There should be none of their possessions left in the dwelling, yard, or garage/parking area, cabinets, closets, or fridge. There should be no hangers in closets, tack paper in drawers, or garbage inside the house. In other words, it should be left pretty much the way they got it! Excluding anything mutually agreed upon during tenancy, it should be also restored to the original paint if they changed it.
You can also go back on your own to be sure doors and windows (and shades) open, shut and lock properly, including any garage door. See that the garbage cans you left are all there and in good shape. If an appliance is in question, run it to see if it’s functional. Ditto the heat and air conditioning. If you have been keeping in touch with your tenant through their lease, there should be no major surprises. Take pictures of any damage you find, just to have a record in case it’s needed.
TIP: When you get a tenant’s notice, ask in advance if they have any damage to report. This will give you a chance to get it fixed (for the next tenant) before they move out. Bonus points if you have receipts already in hand to reimburse yourself before the security deposit is even due!
REPAIRS AND SECURITY DEPOSIT RETURN
You should expect normal wear and tear – including the lawn. Any damage found that’s beyond that can be taken care of with the security deposit.
Having taken a healthy security deposit really pays off here. If you need, it you have it. If you don’t, you’ll be happy to return it in full. It’s when you don’t have enough that conflict arises. It’s very important to have a separate Pet Addendum and additional security to cover the more likely pet stains or scratches. Restoring a urine stain on wood floors can amount to a lot more than sanding an area and refinishing it. This is also where having enough renters insurance comes in handy if you need a supplement!
If your state requires your security deposit to be in an interest bearing account, you may also have to return any interest made. Some states let you keep a bit of it for administrating it. Check out the laws in your state.
Half the success of a move-out is based on taking care of the possibilities before the move in – especially helpful for first time landlords to know! It’s easy to see how all of the above can be dealt with up front, and included in writing, before the lease is signed. But if you didn’t do it all this time, take heart. It does not need to be in the lease for you to act as if it were, since you’re following standard protocol. Just walk through these steps the best you can, and be sure to “dot those i’s” with your next tenant!
Rochelle Joseph is a Writer and Image and Marketing Consultant who has had experience marketing, renting, buying and selling her properties for over 20 years. She has written and edited for several publications, including the Boston Book Review, The Emerson Review, ZooBorns.com, WildLife Magazine, the Houston Zoo, The Wildlife Center of Texas, One Spirit Interfaith Seminary as well as AHRN.com. She currently writes at her great gifts blog at Looky Here You and her animal blog at Naturegirrrl.