Moving Out Tenants, Part II

By E-Renter Tenant Screening
Posted on April 27, 2009 under Landlord Paperwork and Forms, Landlord Tips | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

Photo Courtesy of flickr

Photo Courtesy of flickr

Our last post covered a few tips for making tenant move-out day a little less stress-inducing. Today we’ll cover a couple other helpful procedures you may not be following, and we’ll talk about the elusive definition of “ordinary wear and tear.”

If your experience with the tenant has been positive, maintain a good relationship by offering to provide your soon-to-be-former tenant with a letter of reference. A good recommendation is very helpful, whether they are moving to another rental or buying a home, and your tenant will probably appreciate the offer. They may even do an extra-good cleanup job on your property—and they’ll be sure to tell their friends and family about it. Good publicity is always good to have.

The Move-Out Inspection

It’s best to schedule the final walk-through after the unit is completely vacant, and the tenants have turned in their keys. Then, there is no possibility of additional damage after the official inspection is completed.  The tenant should be present. Make sure you work off of the original Check-In Sheet with the tenant’s signature. Compare each item on the checklist with its condition upon move in day. The tenant may claim to have no knowledge of how damage occurred (or that there even was damage); the fact remains that they are responsible.

Once the inspection is completed, inform the tenant that you will have an estimate for the damages in a timely manner. Most tenants are anxious to get their security deposit back; if you indicate the full deposit is in jeopardy, they might offer to do some more cleaning or repair damages. Remember that you are under no obligation to allow this. However, if you know the tenant’s ability and feel they are capable of completing repairs, you may opt to give them a second chance.  Keep in mind that a sloppy paint job or improper repair work will cost you more in the long run!

Defining “Ordinary Wear and Tear”

You are entitled to charge tenants for damages beyond ordinary wear and tear. It’s your job to know the difference between “wear and tear” and serious damage that can be deducted from a tenant’s security deposit.

The standard definition of “ordinary wear and tear” in most states is deterioration or damage to the property expected to occur with normal usage. There are no concrete rules, however, so it’s a tricky judgment call in most cases.  Here are some examples:

  • Smudges on walls and switch plates: Ordinary wear and tear
  • Crayon marks on walls: Damage
  • A few small tack or nail holes: Ordinary wear and tear
  • Numerous nail holes requiring patching and painting: Damage
  • Carpet worn thin from use: Ordinary wear and tear
  • Carpet stains or bleach spots: Damage
  • Dusty or dirty blinds: Ordinary wear and tear
  • Bent or missing blinds: Damage

Making Deductions from Security Deposit

First, make sure that your paperwork is accurate, detailed, and thorough. An incomplete list of charges is asking for trouble. Your tenant could decide to challenge the deductions or even instigate court action. Explain how damage is beyond ordinary wear and tear. For example, just listing “Pet Damage, $50” is not adequate. You must provide details, such as cleaning or replacement receipts. Be thorough and avoid the hassle of fighting it out with your tenants. Here are a few guidelines to follow:

  • Name each specific item damaged on a separate line.
  • Indicate the exact location of the item.
  • Detail the damage, including type and extent. Use specific language like minor scratch, excessive staining, five burn holes.
  • Detail the repair completed or that the item required replacing.
  • Include repair estimates or replacement receipts for each item.

All tenants move out, but following established procedures and keeping communication open can make it a much easier experience for you and your tenants! 

For more landlord resources, including everything you need to know about tenant screening, turn to You’ll know that you have the best possible tenants when you prescreen tenants.

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