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What to Do When a Tenant Moves Out

Posted by Mitchell Vinnitsky on May 6, 2021 4:00:00 PM
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What to Do When a Tenant Moves OutThere are tons of resources online (our blog included) about how to find and manage great tenants. But, what about when those residents decide to move on? Even the most successful landlord or property manager will have to deal with turnover at some point. As such, there should be a documented process for how to wrap things up with the former tenant and get the vacant unit prepped and ready to be re-rented as quickly as possible. If you haven’t yet defined this process, here’s what we recommend.

Communicate in writing.

First, you’ll want to keep as much communication about the move-out in writing as possible, whether via text, email or your online portal. This ensures that all dates are documented and leaves no room for confusion, ambiguity or misunderstandings. Start by confirming their anticipated departure date to ensure you’re both on the same page.

Schedule a walk-through.

It’s always best to do a physical walk-through with the tenant present. Don’t rush through this, otherwise you could miss something important. Check the entire unit for any damages that would reasonably be attributed to the tenant (versus normal wear and tear, which we will cover below). We recommend creating a checklist that you can use during the walkthrough so nothing important is overlooked.

Ask about maintenance issues.

Sometimes there’s a problem with a unit that may not be easy to spot during a walkthrough, but that your tenant can advise you of so you can get it corrected before re-renting the place. For instance, perhaps the toilet tends to run or there is a leaky pipe under the sink. Or, maybe one of the appliances has been acting up. Ask the tenant to list anything they feel may need repair or replacement.

Take photos of damages.

If you do find damage that you feel the tenant is responsible for, be sure to take lots of pictures. This is especially important if you plan to withhold some or all of the security deposit. If there ends up being a dispute down the road, you’ll have plenty of evidence to back up your claim. You’ll also be able to use the images to get an estimate for whatever repairs may need to be done. We suggest pointing out these issues to the tenant during the walkthrough to prevent unexpected surprises.

Collect the keys.

If your scheduled walkthrough is a different date than the actual last day of tenancy, you may need to schedule a separate date and time to collect the keys to the unit. It’s a good idea to ask the tenant whether any copies have been made, just in case. If so, and they’re not accounted for, you’ll definitely need to change the locks (though we recommend changing them anyway).

Do a second walkthrough after move-out.

Once the tenant has officially vacated, it’s wise to do a second walkthrough to make sure no additional damages have been done and nothing has been left behind that you may need to dispose of. This is also a good time to assess any non-tenant related issues in the unit that may need to be addressed. For instance, some normal wear-and-tear to be expected includes:

  • Nail holes in the walls from hanging pictures
  • Small dings or scuffs on the walls (especially if the former tenant lived there for a while)
  • Dirt and dust
  • Fading carpets

What isn’t considered normal wear and tear would be things like broken tiles, stained carpets, large holes in the walls, tears in wallpaper, writing on walls, unauthorized changes in paint colors, etc.

Assess damage and notify the tenant.

The law dictates how long a landlord has to return the security deposit. If you plan on withholding any portion of the deposit, get estimates right away and write up an itemized list of what you are charging them for. This letter should be dated and mailed, along with any remaining balance, to the former tenant – typically within 30 days of when they vacated. We recommend sending this certified mail, if possible. And try to be fair. If it ends up in court, you don’t want to look bad in front of a judge.

Clean, repair and re-rent.

Once all of these steps have been taken, the last step is to get the unit ready to be re-rented. If repairs need to be done, schedule them as soon as possible. The sooner you can turn the unit around, the sooner you’ll be back in business and the less money you’ll lose in the process.

What did we miss? Do you have a tried-and-true move-out process that others might benefit from? Please share in the comments.

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