A Quick Guide to Move-In and Move-Out Checklists for Renters
Submitted by Patrick Freeze
Patrick is the President of Bay Management Group, which manages about 4,000 units in the Mid-Atlantic Region. The company oversees more than $700 million worth of real estate as of October 1st, 2018.
(Contributions are guest opinions only and don’t reflect the opinion or endorsement of Money Fit by DRS, our staff, client or other interested parties.)
The Keys To A Successful Move
Anytime you rent a property or leave one, you need to ensure the residence 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 essential for these inspections. It is important to have both because you want to compare apples to apples when moving out. Otherwise, property management may dispute that overlooked damage was already on the property when you moved in.
Most property managers (PM) just want the unit to be in similar shape upon move out that it was in upon move in, with the understanding that there will be normal wear and tear on the walls, carpet and appliances. This is why responsible property management companies have such checklists. If your does not, insist on one or create your own based on the following lists.
With this in mind, there are some items that you may not think about until it’s too late. So, let's look at some best practices and what should be included on your checklists to ensure you're as protected as possible.
Filling Out the Checklists
Each checklist should include your name(s), the address of the property, and the last date of property management inspection. It's also best to include the name of the property management representative(s) who does the inspection or final walkthrough.
Complete the move-in checklist during a walkthrough with your PM. This allows you to ask questions and see the state of your property firsthand so you're not relying on a checklist that may be inaccurately filled out. Be sure to take pictures of each area and keep them in a secure storage file (online or hard copy). Although this may sound tedious, you'll be surprised at how much you can come to rely on these photos if you are held responsible for damage that already existed before you moved in. Once you've completed the move-in walkthrough, everyone on the lease (including the PM) should sign the document together. Be sure both tenant and PM get a copy of the move-in checklist, as you will also be using this as a guide when you move out.
Move-out checklists can be completed with or without the PM. If you don't go through the process together, you will need to complete a checklist of your own and submit it to the PM before leaving the property. At this point, the PM will likely conduct a walkthrough by his or herself. Before returning the key, be sure to document any damage or distress (beyond normal wear and tear) with photos in case the PM attempts to keep any unwarranted portion of the security deposit.
What to Include on Move-In and Move-Out Checklists
Some items are obvious. Are the window treatments in good condition? Are there any stains or holes in the carpet? Other things may not be obviously out of order until you have been in the unit for a few days or weeks. Organize your checklist by room to facilitate the walkthrough. If every room has carpet, make sure it's listed in each section, not just once. If one room doesn't have windows, you don't need to include a section for window coverings. Tailoring the checklists will help eliminate confusion in the long run.
Here are some things you want to have on the checklists:
1. Kitchen Appliances
Are your appliances clean?
Are they all working properly? Don't assume they work until you turn them on and test them for yourself.
Are any knobs or handles missing?
Have you checked the oven to make sure it's clean on the inside, too? What about the fridge?
Is there a microwave? If so, is it where it's supposed to be and clean on the inside?
Is the garbage disposal clogged or working correctly?
Are there any problems with the dishwasher?
2. Bathroom Fixtures
Are the shower and sink getting the type of water pressure you would expect?
Do all fixtures on the faucet and shower work correctly?
Is the toilet constantly running or having any trouble flushing?
Has the tub or shower been cleaned properly?
3. Safety Mechanisms & Aesthetics
Are the carbon monoxide and smoke detectors working properly? When was the last time the batteries were replaced? For moving in, ask and note the answer on the checklist.
Are there blinds and/or curtains covering the windows? Do they look like you would expect them to? Do the blinds open and close like they are supposed to?
Is the carpet clean? Does it have any stains or holes in it? If so, note the location and the size.
Are there any scuffs, marks, or holes in the walls?
Was there anything left in the cabinets or refrigerator? Were these spaces cleaned out thoroughly, including the use of disinfectants?
Move-in and move-out checklists are essential for both the renter who wants to protect his or her security deposit and the landlord who wants to protect his or her property. Both want to ensure minimal damage liability when upon move out.
Additionally, checklists minimize security deposit disputes, should there arise disagreements about the condition of the property upon move out. If you are unsure how to conduct a proper move-in or move-out inspection with appropriate checklists, ask the PM how he or she handles the process, or you may consider contacting a local consumer advocate or credit counselor.