If you’ve ever been a renter, you’ve likely paid a security deposit. Deposits can be steep! You probably really wanted the entire amount returned. Now that you’re a landlord, you know you’re more than happy to give renters their security deposit back—so long as they left your property tidy and free of damage. A moving-out checklist ensures keeps both renters and landlords happy. (We’ve even got a moving-in checklist, so you can start on the right foot.
Procedures and checklists streamline everything. They make the process faster and more efficient. They prevent you from smacking your forehead and saying, “Darn it, I forgot to do a walk-thru inspection!” Here’s our recommended process for renter move-out and move-in.
What Landlords Must Do for Move-Out
Moving out doesn’t happen in a day. It can be a long process—so make sure you’re dotting your is and crossing your ts from the moment your tenant turns in notice.
One to two weeks before move-out
- Schedule a preliminary walk-through. Afterwards, alert the tenant—in writing—to the issues that need to be resolved in order for the tenant to receive their deposit back in full. For example: Tenant must repaint walls back to their original color.
- Send tenant a “cleaning checklist” that outlines the expectations of how clean the unit must be. (See below.)
- Remind tenant that all their possessions must be removed by 12 p.m. on move-out day, or whatever time is specified on the lease. Schedule a time for the final walk-through of the unit, preferably at 12:00 noon or 1 p.m. on move-out day.
- Arrange for a cleaning crew and a handyman to come to the unit on the afternoon of move-out day.
On moving day
- Come to the walkthrough with two copies (to be signed in duplicate) of three forms:
- The move-out inspection checklist
- The final move-out form, which states that the tenant’s lease is over, all obligations are finished, and they will not be staying
- A form for a forwarding address and phone number.
- Bring a camera. Any issues with the unit must be documented.
- Walkthrough the unit with your tenant, photographing any and all damage or uncleanliness.
- Have tenant sign all three forms.
- Email tenant any photos of damage.
- After tenant leaves, instruct cleaning crew and handyman as necessary.
Add pet-related or yard-related items to the move-out instructions, if necessary.
Within 30 days of move-out
Mail tenant their security deposit at the address specified, less any portion of damages that are removed from their deposit. Include a letter outlining the damages, and send copies of contractor estimates covering the cost of damage repair.
Move-Out Letter from Landlord to Tenant
Make sure your tenants are clear on what needs to be done. Alongside the moving out checklist, we recommend sending an explanatory letter. Here’s one example of what it should say:
Thank you for providing timely notice that you will not be renewing your lease. As you prepare to leave, keep the following in mind:
Please allow ample time to perform necessary cleaning/repairs. Any repainting, repairs, cleaning, trash removal, and any other expenses associated with returning the condition of your home to your move-in condition will be deducted from your security deposit at a rate of $25.00 an hour.
Your security deposit will be mailed to the new address you provide within 14 days [or however long according to local laws] after your move-out inspection has been completed. We expect you to return your home to the same condition as when you moved in.
If you have any questions, please call. Good luck with your move!
Renter Moving Out Checklist
Make things easier for you and your renters by providing this all-inclusive move-out checklist. Remember, you may need to edit to suit your property—if there’s no lawn, don’t confuse them by asking to clear it. Typically, landlords ask for rentals to be “broom clean.” This move-out cleaning checklist should cover all the bases.
- Phone landlord three to five days in advance to schedule move-out inspection
- Sweep, mop, and dry all floors
- Dust and clean all walls, ceilings, and ceiling fans, ensuring all dirt, smudges, and grease are gone
- Wash all baseboards, woodwork, and windowsills.
- Clean all light fixtures
- Thoroughly clean all bathroom fixtures, including toilets, bathtubs, showers, sinks, and cabinets—inside and out
- Clean and wash the kitchen, including the sink and fixtures, making sure to remove all dirt and grease
- Keep all utilities on until the day after the move-out inspection
- Clean underneath, behind, and between stove and refrigerator area
- Wash down outside of stove and refrigerator
- Clean the inside of stove, refrigerator, and dishwasher using appropriate cleaners
- Clean and wash inside and outside of cabinets, using degreaser when necessary
- Sweep and mop hallway floors and dust hallway walls
- Vacuum carpets
- Clean closets, including wiping down the shelves and rods
- Clean all windows and screens and return screens, if they have been removed
- Remove any items from the deck, balcony, closet, attic, crawlspace, basement, yard, shed, etc.
- Remove all trash, rubbish, and personal property from the lawn, driveway, garage, and other outbuildings—and don’t pile up garbage at the curb
- Leave curtain rods and brackets in place, unless they are personal property
- Return all keys at or before move-out inspection
- Wash windows
- Ensure all light fixtures have working light bulbs
- Check that smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms are working.
A smooth move-out begins the day your tenants sign their lease. In addition to outlining your expectations—such as proper notice and move-out inspections—in the lease agreement, follow these steps before your renters move into their new apartment.
When tenants sign the lease
- Print copies of the following documents:
- Sit down with the tenant. Review the lease together, and explain anything that they don’t understand.
- Have the tenant initial each page of the lease and sign the last page. Repeat this in duplicate, so you each can keep a copy.
- Give the tenant the EPA pamphlet.
- Have the tenant sign two copies of the Lead Warning Statement. Have each party keep a copy.
- Give the tenant a moving checklist:
- Get renter’s insurance
- Put the electricity and gas in their names
- Forward their mail
- Schedule a time to conduct move-in walkthrough. Inform the tenant that they will not be allowed to gain access to the unit until after they complete a walk-thru with the landlord / property manager.
On move-in day
- Conduct a walkthrough with tenant, taking photographs—these will be essential to compare after move-out. Note the number of keys that you’ve given the tenant. Notate and sign forms in duplicate, so that you each retain a copy.
- Email photographs to tenant, to further document the condition of the unit at the time of move-in.
For renters looking to maximize their returned deposit and minimize arguments with the landlord, living up to your end of the bargain is imperative. And landlords who want to reduce their workload when tenants leave a property should be clear and upfront about their expectations.
What best practice move-in/move-out procedures would you add to this list?
Let me know in a comment below.