Landlord Makes Expensive Move-In Day Mistake

by Chris on November 26, 2012

When a landlord went to court over disputed security deposit deductions, she never expected to leave owing the tenants $700.  But with no documentation to show the condition of  the rental home at move-in, she was unable to convince a judge she should be allowed to withhold for damage at move-out.

Instead, the dispute ended with the landlord owing penalties for wrongfully withholding the deposit.

Although the landlord did walk through the property with the tenants when they moved in, she failed to make a record of the condition of the property at that time.

Later, on move-out day, the landlord found she was not available to meet with the tenants for a move-out inspection.

In order to apply property damage to a security deposit, the landlord bears the burden of proving that the damage did occur, and that the tenant was responsible. Move-in and move-out condition reports are the best way to paint the “before” and “after” pictures.

It’s easy to understand why many landlords feel that their testimony alone regarding damages to a rental will suffice if there is a tenant dispute.  Unfortunately, without documentation, it may be impossible for a judge to determine whether a landlord has meet the legal burden. In fact, some local tenancy laws require the inspection reports before a landlord can make a claim against the deposit.

Inspection reports may take a little time to complete, but it’s time well spent when it comes to keeping a rental property profitable. 

Landlords should use the same report format for both move-in and move-out so the documents are easy to compare.  Another tip that may speed up the process is to organize the reports to follow the floor plan of the unit.  Take notes regarding items discussed during the inspections on the forms, and ask tenants to sign.  

It’s also critically important for the unit to be in good repair when the tenant moves in, and that needed repairs are made throughout the tenancy.

By following these rules,  a landlord is in a better position to refute any future claims a tenant may make that the property was already damaged.

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).

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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.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Ginny November 27, 2012 at 6:55 am

My tenants always receive a letter of expectations/instructions prior to their vacating my apartments. I also ask the tenants for a written notice if they will not be attending the inspection at move-out time. They will usually come forward about any damage to the apartment prior to inspection. I always talk to the tenant after my move-in/out inspection as to what damage I have documented. They always receive copies for their records. I always have the control factor on my side with all my documentations. Now, I may not need all my documents everytime but I have them if I do! Thank you!

Randy Hodges November 27, 2012 at 11:30 am

This is a great thought which I have never considered for my rental house. Does anyone have a sample inspection report they would be willing to share?

Marv November 28, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Randy there are move-in and move-out forms on the website. After log-in go to the Forms Section to the right of Report Tenant Pay Habits. The two forms you need are at the bottom of the page. For all of you Landlords out there, if you haven’t already, please go to the Forms section to see what is available to you you. FREE!

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