Suggestions for Landlord-tenant walk through prior to signing lease.

7 Replies

We're in DC renting a 100 year old row house. Everything works but it has plenty of  quirks and flaws in the plaster and trim and flooring.  We were going to bring a camera and let the tenant take pics of whatever she cared to notice. Is this a good method? Any other suggestions for how to document the flaws before someone signs their lease?  

Personally, I wouldn't do the camera thing. I do a walk thru with the tenant on the day of signing the lease so the tenant sees everything is clean and in tenantable condition.

I tell them how to get in contact with me once they are moved in & settled if they notice any issues  that need to be addressed or documented so they are not liable for (deducted from security deposit)  once they move out or maintenance requests.

You may want to take pictures of the quirks/flaws you speak of for your records.

Take photos of what they notice as well as everything else prior to someone moving in. That way everyone is protected. You can tell a judge that there wasn't a hole in the wall when they moved in, but without proof, it's your word against theirs and they will say that the hole was there when they moved in and you refused to fix it. Courts are not very intelligent and will give the benefit of the doubt to the defendant. 

We note flaws and also note what is not flawed on the move-in check list ahead of time. I use the previous tenant move in/move out check list to jog my memory. I also do the final wipe down of the unit during the make ready and this refreshes my memory of the unit flaws. I take photos and keep an ongoing photo file for each unit. 

The tenant and I both sign the move-in check list on move-in day after doing a move-in walk through. I have a camera with me and note anything of significance. Then I give a copy of the checklist to the tenant and allow them 3 days to add anything else they find to the list. If I agree with their finding, I sign off on it.

To note the original condition, I use the abbreviation C & F (clean and functional) on every line item. I won't rent a unit until everything is C & F. I carry disinfectant wipes with me as we are doing the walk through, so if I notice dirt that was missed I take care of it on the spot. 

I also use notations such as "brand new" and "new 2013" on items that are in new or like new condition. On the old items that are flawed and whcih I won't charge the tenant for even if they get dinged up some more, I write "old" or "many scratches". But mostly I note conditions by counting and measuring. I use a 12 inch ruler in the photos next to damages such as carpet stains, repaired holes in doors if they are still visible, bent window blinds, discolored fireplace brick, etc. 

One of the things that has helped me the most is to write..."All windows and screens in place and functioning."  "All windows - no broken glass." "All screens - no tears." "All window tracks - clear of debris, no dents." in addition to C & F. If something was previously damaged and repaired, but still obvious, I will write something like... "3" hole on back side of door repaired." and take a photo of it.

@Michael Showalter  For your situation I would write in the "Additional Notes" section, just what you wrote, something like.... "Minor quirks and flaws in the plaster and trim and flooring, consistent with age of the home, painted and intact." Then take photos from the corners of every room. I do this in a clockwise manner starting from the entry. Then take photos of anything significant that you want to remember so you don't accidentally charge the tenant for it later. 

For homes built prior to 1978, I would also add "Entire home repainted post 1978 (or the exact date if you have it), no exposed old paint. All paint intact - no peeling or chipping."; this is for the record so a lead-based paint issue won't come back to bite you later. Take photos for your own record. The tenant can take their own photos if they wish. It's the paperwork that will be signed and put in the file. The photos should be a back up, not the primary record. We only give the tenant a copy of the written record, not a copy of the photographic record.

I do a walk through and show them how to secure the water valves, where the fire extinguisher is, how to reset the garbage disposal, and anything else that is pertinent.  I constantly remind them to email me for all concerns unless it's "WATER WATER EVERYWHERE" (That line works well as they always quote it to me when I see them for a maintenace issue).  Then I hand them the move in/out checklist and tell them it's due in 5 days.  I know my properties, so I let them have fun with it.  What they find, if anything I already know about.  It they take pics I save them on an external hard drive with a scanned copy of the checklist.  I then email them back the scanned copy after I signed it so everyone is covered.  

Originally posted by @Michael Showalter :

We're in DC renting a 100 year old row house. Everything works but it has plenty of  quirks and flaws in the plaster and trim and flooring.  We were going to bring a camera and let the tenant take pics of whatever she cared to notice. Is this a good method? Any other suggestions for how to document the flaws before someone signs their lease?  

I would suggest a few things:

- Do a walk-through alone before you and the tenant do one together.

- Video record the entire walk-through with yourself and the tenant; get the tenant on video too.

- Give the tenant three days to find any additional damages and get photos, if possible.

This is thorough and will pay off at the end. The tenant will be more inclined to take care of the property if they know that you know just as much as they do, and can recollect easily if there is a dispute about the security deposit. 

I go through & take photos of all walls, ceilings, floors, doors, woodwork, fixtures, appliances, curtains, etc. plus any areas that have damage (dents in doors, small hole in carpet, etc.). All pics are burned to a CD & given to the tenant at lease signing. They are welcome to take their own photos as well. There is a place on the lease for them to sign that they did receive the CD. At walk-through we have a checklist (which I have prepared ahead of time) & note anything else. I'm pretty thorough, but you never know.

I think that just having ample documentation, shared with the tenant,  has been a deterrent to a lot of potential problems.