Most of us have heard of the horror stories between tenants and landlords during the move out process. Discrepancies over damages, repairs, and security deposits can be commonplace and very frustrating.
So, how can these discrepancies and frustrations be avoided? How does a tenant go about getting all or at least most of your security deposit funds returned back to you?
Surprisingly, the answers to these questions can be found during the MOVE IN process! In fact, even sooner, at the time of the lease signing. During the lease signing, a landlord should very clearly spell out their expectations regarding how you should leave the condition of the property at the time of move out. These expectations should be put in writing in your lease agreement. If a landlord does not address these topics during the time of the lease signing, a tenant should take the responsibility upon themselves to ask questions of the landlord regarding what the expectations are.
Generally speaking, the tenant is to leave the property in the same condition it was received, minus “normal wear and tear”. Tenants cannot be held liable for damages that are deemed to be normal wear and tear. Tenants can be expected to be held liable for any damages resulting from neglect, accidents, abuse, damage related to pets or children, or purposefully using the property in a way in which it was not intended. In my experience, the definition of “normal wear and tear”, can vary greatly between individuals. Take the time to discuss this term with your landlord and come to an understanding of what normal wear and tear means to him/her.
The excitement of moving into a new home can easily distract a new tenant from the important process of completing a move in report and taking the necessary steps to ensure they’re not held liable for blemishes and damages that already exist at the property. This is a situation where the cliché; An ounce of prevention is worth a pound cure, can prove very accurate. If a tenant wants to get their deposit back, they must take the time to fill out a detailed move in report and take pictures and videos of the property. Create a file and put these documents in a place where you wont forget them. When you go to move out years down the road, you'll know exactly where they are and you'll be so thankful that you took those few hours at the time of move in to make your move out process that much easier and stress free.
Did you know a tenant has a legal right to ask their landlord for a pre move-out inspection? Most tenants don't realize this, but they actually have the right to have their landlord come to their home within two weeks of vacating the property and point out any of the damages/blemishes that they could be held liable for. This gives the tenant the opportunity to repair these items themselves before the final move out walk through. A tenant should always take advantage of this opportunity to make sure that everyone is on the same page before the property is vacated.
If landlords and tenants take the time to communicate with each other, spell out expectations, put those expectations in writing, document the condition of the property upon move in, and take advantage of your pre move-out inspection, I'm confident both parties will be spared from lots of headaches and avoid any surprises on move out day. Most importantly, tenants will have a much higher likelihood of getting all of their security deposit back, and we can all use more money in our pockets when moving into our next dream home.