Granted, it’s difficult to get excited about move-in and move-out condition reports. But it might help to consider that these smart little spreadsheets are what allow you to collect for any damage that a tenant might cause.
In fact, a landlord can use condition reports to:
Identify property damage from the previous tenant;
Flag needed repairs before more damage occurs;
Track failed repairs or call in a warranty;
Record any damage the current tenant causes; and
Claim deductions against a tenant’s security deposit or pursue the tenant for reimbursement.
Like other landlord forms, move-in and move out checklists can be found online. However, like other landlord forms, a move-in and move-out condition report must be tailored to the specific property. Many preprinted forms need to be modified because those forms:
Lack the accurate number of bedrooms or bathrooms;
Do not specify which bedroom is which;
Do not include outdoor spaces; or
Include non-applicable features that cause confusion.
Creating a Move-In and Move-Out Checklist
Modify an online form or create a custom checklist in Google Sheets or Excel by following these tips:
The same form must be used for both the move-in and the move-out, so create two columns and label them accordingly.
Include a key to any codes or abbreviations that will be used to describe the condition of the property. For instance, with numbers, include the scale — usually 1-10 — and explain how that is determined. Or define the cutoff for “excellent”, “good”, “fair”, and so on. An alternative is to leave ample space to write in phrases or sentences to describe the property condition.
Walk through the property when creating the checklist because memory can be limited. It typically is easiest to begin at the front door and follow the flow through the unit.
Record the condition of each surface. It’s helpful to list items in the same order in each room. For instance, begin with floors, then walls, doors, windows and window coverings, then ceilings, light fixtures, fans and smoke detectors, then counter surfaces, and systems like electrical outlets, faucets and appliances. Finish with any outdoor spaces — balconies, patios or yards and parking. With single family homes, more modifications may be needed for garages or outbuildings.
Each room must be easily identified on the checklist. That can be difficult with multiple bedrooms or bathrooms. Many preprinted forms use numbers, but “Bedroom 1” might not be clear. Use more descriptive language to identify these rooms: master bedroom, first-floor bedroom, 10×14 bedroom, Jack and Jill bath, 3/4 bath and so on.
Leave loads of space for comments or other notations. Because both the landlord and tenant can place comments on the form, provide a corresponding space for the commenter to initial next to each comment.
Include signature lines for both the landlord and tenant. That may require multiple lines for the tenants. Separate sets of signatures will be needed for the move-in and the move-out inspections. Include space to record the dates and times for both the move-in and the move-out.
The move-in condition report can be completed by the landlord prior to the tenant moving in. The signed form is then left with the tenant for about a week or 10 days. The tenant can use this time to inspect the property and to comment on any additional items. Once the tenant has made the updates, ask the tenant to sign and return the form. Pay attention to the tenant’s comments and act on any needed repairs as soon as possible.
Alternatively, the tenant and landlord can complete the move-in checklist together at the tenant orientation.
The move-out condition report should be completed in person with the tenant. That way, the tenant and landlord can discuss any items of damage that exceed normal wear and tear. The tenant should be allowed to add comments before signing the form. This will reduce the likelihood of a legal dispute and prevents the tenant from later denying the condition of the property.
Landlord Tip: One way to ensure the rental unit is returned in good condition is to offer a mock move-out inspection using the checklist about a month before the actual move-out date. That gives tenants a head start with cleaning or repairs needed in order to get the full deposit back or avoid any financial liability.
Finally, and perhaps the most important tip regarding the move-in and move-out checklist: Use it! If you don’t, you may not be allowed to deduct damages from the tenant’s deposit or win a monetary order for the full amount.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is 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.