Before a tenant moves in and after a tenant moves out, you’ll want to conduct a pretty thorough inspection of your property. Hopefully, you have a plan in place for how you’ll document that inspection. If you’ve invested in good technology, you might be able to do everything online, with an iPad or even your phone. Maybe you prefer to write things down, and you’ll carry a legal pad or a notebook as you’re walking through your rental home.
Or, you might have partnered with a local property management company that’s taking care of the inspection for you. In that case, you can expect a detailed and transparent inspection report, complete with photos and recommendations.
If you’re managing your own move-in and move-out inspection, however, we can make one recommendation that will leave you feeling like you’ve conducted a thorough check of the property.
Use a checklist.
Move-in and move-out checklists are essential to you and your investment properties. Here’s why.
Checklists Keep You Organized
For starters, it’s basic logistics.
How are you supposed to remember to check that closet in the garage? Why would you remember to test the heat if it’s the middle of July?
A checklist will give you a lot of detail, which is important when you’re inspecting your rental property. The way your checklist is organized will depend on your property. If you’re renting out a unit in a multi-family building, your checklist may include inspecting the common areas. If you’re renting out a condo, your checklist may include a patio or balcony check.
Your move-in checklist will ensure that nothing is missed before tenants take possession, and your move-out checklist will ensure that you haven’t forgotten to retrace any steps that you took back at the beginning of the tenancy. Both checklists will likely be the same.
Even the most organized landlord can get distracted by an outlet that isn’t working properly or a screen door that won’t stay put. The checklist will keep you organized when it’s most essential.
You’re Documenting the Condition of Your Rental Property
Another reason that you’re likely to use the same checklist during the move-in inspection and the move-out inspection is that you’ll be comparing how the home looks at each point in time.
Presumably, you’re handing over a property to your new tenants that is clean, functional, and move-in ready. You expect to get the property back in a similar state, minus the expected wear and tear that’s always going to occur.
Your checklist allows you to highlight any issues with the rental home. You’re establishing a standard at move-in time, and during the move-out inspection, you’re using the checklist to determine if that standard has been upheld by your tenants.
You’ll Know Exactly What Needs Work
Don’t try to keep a running list in your head of the maintenance work that’s needed while you’re inspecting a property. You’ll never remember everything.
With a checklist, you can:
- Make notes about what needs to be fixed or replaced.
- Schedule your vendors right away to get the work done.
- Determine whether any upgrades or updates might be needed.
- Get as specific as you need to. Maybe you’ve noted on your checklist that the refrigerator needs to be replaced. Do you want to look for an energy efficient model? Note that.
The checklist during a move-in or a move-out inspection allows you to see your property as a whole but also break down the unique needs in each part of the property.
Checklists Can Include Photos and Videos
Your checklist is a powerful tool in documenting the condition of your property, keeping you organized, and creating an action list of items that need attention.
It also allows you to support what you find.
Photos and videos can be a great way to document the checklist. If you’re using a digital checklist, it will be easy enough to attach pictures. When you’re documenting damage, for example, you’ll want to have pictures of it. This will be especially important during your move-out inspection. You cannot withhold money from the security deposit because of a broken window but then not have any way to prove a window was broken.
Always leave space for your move-in and move-out checklist to accommodate photos and videos that make your case for how the property looks.
Move-In Checklists Provide Consistency for Owners and Tenants
During the move-in inspection, you’re preparing the property for new tenants. You want everything to be ready for them for a few reasons:
- A well-maintained, clean home meets the expectations of your tenants moving in.
- You don’t want them to make a long list of maintenance requests days after moving in.
- You’re trying to establish a positive and professional relationship with your tenants.
After you’ve completed the move-in checklist, leave a copy with your tenants. They should have the opportunity to note any problems or imperfections they have found during the first day or two of residency. Then, both of you can sign off on the checklist, effectively agreeing to the condition of the property at the point that tenants took possession.
Move-Out Checklists Help You Make Security Deposit Decisions
After completing your move-out inspection and hiring your vendors and contractors to do the necessary work, you’ll need to make some decisions about the security deposit. If you’re going to withhold money to pay for damage that goes beyond wear and tear, you’ll need your move-out checklist as well as your move-in checklist to document the damage that was done. If a tenant disputes what you withheld and wants to take you to court, this will be your most important piece of evidence.
We recommend a robust and detailed move-in and move-out checklist for your rental property. If you need some help putting one together, we’d be happy to share what we use. Contact our team at TCS Management.
TCS Management is a full service property management company headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, also serving Harrisburg, PA, Cherry Hill, NJ, Wilmington, Delaware and the surrounding areas. We focus on single-family and multifamily residential property management of homes, condos, townhomes, and apartment buildings.