It helps to know what is expected when you move out of a rental home. The condition of the home will determine whether and how much of your security deposit your landlord will give to you. To help, follow these simple guidelines to help make sure your move-out contains no surprises!
Don’t skip the walkthroughs
Plan your exit from your rental on the day you move in by making sure you and your landlord mutually understand what the property looked like before you took occupancy. Take photos of any existing damage, nail holes, etc., and have your landlord sign off on your inventory list and photos. That way, there won’t be any question about which tenant left the damage behind.
When the last piece of furniture is out of your rental, go back and perform an exit walkthrough with your landlord, which you both should also sign off on. This particular step should help ensure that you know what to do to receive your full deposit back and whether you need to do to fix any outstanding issues.
Reread your lease agreement
Depending on how long you’ve been in your current rental, it’s probably been a while since you read the fine print of your rental agreement. When you get ready to give notice, read it all through again and make sure you understand what’s required of you when it comes to cleaning up after yourself in preparation to move. If enough detail is not provided in the lease, contact your landlord for specific guidelines so that you know exactly what to do.
Define normal wear and tear
For most landlords, expected, normal wear and tear involves the decline of walls, floors and surfaces as is to be expected from everyday use. That usually means some additional matting of carpet nap, fading or wear on linoleum, some wear on countertops, fading or yellowing of wall paint (depending on the length of tenancy) and some deterioration of grouting in showers and tubs. Also, legally, the landlord should adapt the definition of “wear and tear” to correspond with the number of renters living in the home during the tenancy period.
When the renters include children, the issue can get harder to define. Marker or crayon on the walls, for instance, definitely goes beyond the bounds, but kids, in general, can be harder on floors and surfaces than the average adult.
Items that are not considered part of the everyday toll on a rental property might include:
- Stains and burns on carpet
- Pet scratches on floors, doors, walls and molding
- Broken or missing blinds
- Broken windows
- Large nail holes or an excessive amount of small ones in walls
- Gouges in walls or doorways
- Flea or other insect infestations caused by your pet or a lack of household cleaning
If you have any questions about a particular piece of wear or tear in your rental home, consult with your landlord about it.
Report small repair problems immediately
Sometimes there are little things going wrong with your rental that may not bother you enough to make sure the landlord fixes them immediately, but could lead to larger-scale damage down the line. Leaking water, for example, is a prime example. Though the drips or seepage from a faucet or pipe may not seem like a big deal for you, it could be rotting away the wood underneath. Be sure to report all such issues to your landlord right away so that you aren’t held responsible, depending on the laws in your state, for bigger damage down the road.
How clean is clean?
Though you and your landlord may not have an identical sense of cleanliness, there are some universal standards to go by. Use effective cleaning agents—not just water—when it comes to removing dirt. Pay special attention to kitchen appliances and bathtubs or showers.
Also put yourself in the shoes of the next resident and ask yourself how you would feel about the place if you were seeing it for the first time. If you sense it could be cleaner, you may want to continue your cleaning efforts. If you don’t feel up to the task, consider hiring a professional cleaning service to help you. (Weigh the cost of the cleaning service against the amount of your deposit at stake.)
Don’t leave the question of whether or not you’ll get your security deposit back to chance. Set up a successful opportunity from the moment you move in by documenting any existing damage, keeping up on small repairs and knowing the letter of what your lease requires for a clean departure when you move from your rental home.