Walkthrough with Tenant When Moving Out?

8 Replies


I was hoping for some opinions on whether or not most landlords are conducting a final walk through with their tenants when they move out of a unit.

I provide my tenants with a detailed checklist, including common charges, when they sign the lease and again before they get ready to move out. I also have been scheduling a walkthrough on their move out day, clearly stating that it is a preliminary walkthrough and that not all security deposit charges will/can be identified at that time. I, of course, mail them their refund within the required time frame and document all charges from it.

I am considering changing my practice of holding a move-out walkthrough. I have found that some tenants use this opportunity to attempt to dispute damages (with no proof) or expect to leave the walkthrough with a comprehensive, itemized list of all charges (which I don't have the time to complete then, nor exact charges on some items yet). In short, it ends up being a somewhat uncomfortable last meeting, especially if the tenant is responsible for quite a few damages.

How are others handling key turn-in/move out? Is a walkthrough with the tenant generally common practice?

Thanks in advance for any input!


As uncomfortable as it can sometimes be, I think the exit walk-through is very important. While it can be difficult to confront them about existing damage at that time, and they may become defensive and even argumentative - those same people are likely to have a much more troubling reaction to receiving a reduced refund with an itemized list of deductions.

Tenants living in denial are more likely to speak negatively about you and your property (can be a problem if they stay in the same area), post publicly online (yes, we landlords have ratings), and in the worst cases file suit against us. Most states have all sorts of tenant protection laws specifically relating to deposits, and in skipping the walk through WITH the tenant, you are opening yourself up for a difficult day in court. I am not saying that you would necessarily lose, but spending a day in court and paying even the minimal court fees is a loss in my book.

Perhaps part of the problem is how you are preparing (or not preparing) your tenants FOR the final walk through. I just had a tenant notify me that the will be moving out at the end of their lease, at the end of August. On the phone, I walked them through the process of the last day - explaining that ALL of their belongings must be out BEFORE I come for the walk through, that we will review any potential damage together, and that they will not receive anything in writing or a check at that time, but that the refund will be mailed to them within 14 days. I also explain what I expect a "clean" apartment to look like. Now the week before the move out, I will drop by and go over all of this again. Good communication of expectations will save you every time.

Thanks @Travis Lloyd for the input! I agree that communication is key, and I probably go overboard with it, as is, setting tenant expectations. I think that communication is part of the "problem" with the trouble tenants since it opens the "dialogue". Move out condition and even specific charges are very clearly articulated to the tenant and are not open for negotiation in my mind, but that doesn't keep them from trying. Most tenants are no problem at all, but I just wanted to see what alternatives there are in dealing with the troublesome few.

Move out inspection with the tenant is vital as well as a move in inspection. In California it is required that we ask the tenant if they would like to partake in an initial moveout inspection prior to the final move out.

Perhaps an initial inspection 2weeks before final may lighten the load. You can point out the issues at hand at the Initial inspection which gives them time to fix the issues if they would like more deposit back. Then at the final inspection they are aware of the issues.

Also I don't know if this is national but if in California if we don't give a notice of inspection in lieu of asking if they would like to partake. A savvy tenant can sue and receive all deposit back regardless of the condition of the apartment.

i don't see the point in doing it the day of moveout if your telling people that it's not final and can add stuff later. We offer that they can have a preliminary move out walk through something like at least 2 weeks before so they have time to fix stuff and clean. We emphasize the move in walkthrough, taking a billion pictures, having them fill in and sign move in walkthrough form, and communicating our expectations that we get it back in same condition and just as clean and provide fee sheet addendum to lease. 

I don't do exit walk thrus with my tenants for a couple of reasons:

1. It eliminates the confrontations that can develop between the tenant and landlord.
"What do you mean I have to pay for the blind my dog chewed on"? "That dent was already in the refrigerator". I take my time while doing the walk thru by myself looking for hidden damage and then compare it to the walk- in report / pics.

2. I will keep a running tab of the damage I find while getting the unit to re-rent. Case in point. I was a couple of days into a turnover when I noticed some vinyl siding was damaged off of the deck. The tenant had their grill too close and it warped the vinyl siding. I probably wouldn't have caught that walking thru with the tenant. Cost to repair was $500. Tenants comment to me was "Oh yeah. I meant to tell you about that".

I have other businesses and trying to plan a time convenient to the tenant can be tough. By everyone else's comments, I have a different approach but it works for me.