Anticipate Tenant Move-out Mistakes and Avoid Income Loss

by Chris on April 10, 2011

Maybe you’ve experienced this scenario. A tenant gives notice of a move-out, but quickly falls behind on proper planning. There are no moving trucks available on that busy weekend. Friends who promised to help don’t show, and the tenant has trouble hauling some of the bigger items.

The tenant also greatly underestimated the time it is going to take to clean the rental property once they get their belongings out. At the eleventh hour, trash piles up in the corner because the trash bags and cleaning supplies were inadvertently stuffed into a box that traveled to the new home.

Stressed and tired, the tenant forgets to check for food in the refrigerator, or neglects to clean the stove.

In the end, your rental property looks abandoned rather than restored.

Now, you not only have to arrange for the unit to be cleaned, but also will have to chase after the tenant for reimbursement.

If you hold a security deposit, you will have to account for deductions, and then wait to see if the tenant will take legal action to dispute the amounts.

Anticipating mistakes in restoring the rental property during a move-out can save an enormous amount of time and money in the long run. Fortunately, it’s easy to help guide the tenant through the process. Tenant Verification Service’s affiliate website, www.tenantsinfo.com provides a move-out guide that demonstrates the steps a tenant should take well in advance of the move. In addition, the website offers tenants information on how to recover the maximum amount of the security deposit by following proper procedures.

Sharing this information with the tenant can diffuse any potential conflicts that could arise. Because these conflicts tend to cost landlords more than tenants, it’s in the landlord’s best interest to take the lead and educate the tenant.

Planning the move well in advance allows the tenant time to gather bids from moving companies to assure the best price, or alternatively, to bribe friends who may be willing to help move heavy items. If the tenant is using a moving company, they may be asked to photograph or inventory their belongings in advance. Making rash decisions at the last minute can lead to catastrophe, like the young man who rented a truck based on his estimate of the square footage of his belongings, not the linear footage. As a result of his cloudy thinking, his sofa hung out the back of the truck.

Providing the tenant with an easy-to-follow cleaning and repair checklist, preferably one that outlines what must be done in each room, can make for a smooth transition out of the rental property. The result: a clean unit ready in time for the next tenant to move in.

Another successful strategy is to provide an estimate of the time it may take to complete the tasks on the checklist so the tenant plans ahead.

A cleaning and repair checklist is appreciated by the tenant, who becomes more frazzled as moving day approaches. Without it, the tenant will undoubtedly forget to do something. See our post Cleaning Checklist Minimizes Problems When Tenants Move Out  for a basic cleaning checklist.

It’s important to keep professional rapport with the tenant during this time, in part because the tenant is under pressure and tempers can flair, but also because the tenant needs the landlord’s guidance. What may seem obvious to the landlord isn’t always obvious to the tenant. Don’t be confrontational–there’s still time to resolve problems. Be open with the tenant and discuss exactly what has to happen if they want their deposit back or want a good reference.

Also, it is crucial to schedule a walk-through appointment with the tenant before they leave. Go through all items on the move-out inspection report together. Allowing the tenant to express concerns they have can help diffuse disagreements that otherwise turn into legal disputes. Bring along the move-in inspection report and the lease, as well as any photos or video of the condition of the rental before the tenant moved in. If the tenant says, “It was like that when I moved in”, or “I didn’t think that was my responsibility”, you can simply point to the photo or lease provision and explain your position. This can work both ways, so be prepared. If you haven’t been in the property for awhile, it’s easy to forget that a tile was already cracked or the grout was already worn.

Be sure to collect a forwarding address, and if at all possible, leave things on good terms. Unresolved tensions will lead to further disputes. The tenant will be impressed by your professionalism. Who knows, they may even refer a friend to fill a future vacancy.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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