Sounds like a pretty bad situation. I feel that you have two options: Either you pass on the move out inspection return their deposit and accept the condition of the unit as is -or- you bring a witness/ protection and walk through the unit citing and documenting everything with a camera. That’s probably what’d I’d do but I’ve never been in that situation before.
Does your state require you to conduct the inspection with the Tenant present?
I never conduct final inspections with the tenant present because they will try to distract every time. It's best to do it on your own so you can focus and be thorough.
If your state requires you to conduct it with the tenant, then bring a witness and record the entire thing (audio should be sufficient). Don't get into arguments about anything. Walk through, document in writing and with pictures or video, take notes about what the tenant says is not his fault, and move on. Even if the law requires their presence, it probably doesn't require you to give them an itemized list of deductions right there on the spot. Document and decide later in a safer environment.
As Nathan said, I would make sure you are following your state's landlord-tenant laws first and foremost. When we performed move-out inspections at the apartment complex I worked at, we always did it after the tenant had moved out and took plenty of photos of the damages we were charging for. In addition, we would make sure to keep receipts for the labor we charged for. It's always better to have more than enough than not enough proof. It ended up saving us from being sued in many cases. Hope this helps!
Our policy, which is written in to every lease, is for us to conduct a walk through AFTER the tenant has vacated. We document everything and send a tenant photos and invoices reflecting our expenses to bring the property back up to the condition it was when they moved in. If there's money left from their deposit, the statement comes with a check too. We do this in less than 30 calendar days, per the lease. We've had problem tenants, same situation you are describing. Generally, I've found that by the time they've moved in to a new place and are getting settled, they've, literally and figuratively, moved on.
@Marty Bauer I give tenants a move-in / move-out checklist. I ask them to go through the checklist and make sure everything is completed. That ensures your expectations are conveyed in writing. If work needs to be done, I document everything with photos and receipts. I hire cleaning done so I can show a receipt. Some landlords clean themselves, but it is hard to substantiate your time or hourly rate if it is disputed. Plus I just don't like cleaning. A crew can do the work quickly and I don't get my hands dirty. Make sure if you are charging for damage on things like carpet that you are pro-rating the damage. For example if the carpet is 8 years old, you can't bill much of anything for damage because carpet isn't considered to have a life much longer than that.
Originally posted by @Marty Bauer :
@Matt Honeyford great points. He has a history with the local police and they offered (suggested) to be there for the move out.
Probably a smart move. Really hope it works out for you pal.
Also, since it hasn't yet been mentioned, once he's out and you have the keys have the unit quickly rekeyed.