A Complete MoveOut Checklist for Tenants
You’re moving out of your rental home and would like 100% of your security deposit returned as quickly as possible. So, let’s look at how you can logically make that happen!
First, let’s look at what you’re up against with some statistics. According to a Rent.com survey, 1 out of 4 renters (26%) don’t get their security deposit back at all.
Nearly half of the survey responders (44%) confessed that it was due to them breaking lease agreements, while 36% have no idea why their security deposit was withheld.
If you’re not alarmed by that fact, think of how much you’ve put down for your security deposit. In most cases, it’s at least 1 month of rent. Just think of what you could do with that money, if you’re able to recoup it at the end of your tenancy.
What is a security deposit actually for? Well, it’s an incentive to have tenants return a rental property in the same condition as when they moved in. So, to get your security deposit back, all you need to do is take care of the home and make sure it’s in the same condition as when you moved in. .
Having handled countless turnovers over 25 years, our best advice for you is to have a both a MoveIn and a MoveOut Inspection Checklist. The MoveIn Checklist allows a tenant to document with the landlord, any and all issues with a home when they take possession of it. The Rent.com survey didn’t address how many tenants fail to complete a MoveIn Checklist, but from our experience, it’s at least 25%. With no MoveIn Checklist to prove otherwise, a landlord can charge everything and anything against a tenant’s security deposit.
What is a MoveOut checklist?
The main purpose of a move-out checklist is to make sure that you’re leaving the property in the condition that you got it in, because it gets compared to the move-in inspection and move-in checklist from when you first moved in.
Both lists need to detail what the landlord will look at during an inspection, as they will be the basis for evaluating how you took care of the property. It’s best to ask your PMC or landlord to include the move-out instructions in the lease agreement to avoid any unforeseen issues (e.g. failing to do proper cleaning of certain areas).
You can download MoveOut Checklists from the internet, but you still need to adjust them according to the specific property. For example, an SFH property with a lawn may require you to cut the grass before moving out, while a unit with a fireplace could require removal of excess debris and soot.
PRO TIP: Most tenants cut the grass, but never address weeds along building perimeters and fencelines, so make sure you always do this (and go behind the garage to get the ones there, too). Plus rake up any leaves!
What are the benefits of a MoveOut Checklist?
If you’ve been taking care of the property—like having maintenance work done and cleaning regularly—the move-out checklist will be your number one proof of how well you’ve been treating the property. It’s going to be difficult for landlords to deduct from your deposit if proper documentation exists (e.g. move-in checklists, move-out checklists, and plenty of photos).
Move-in and move-out checklists are irrefutable. If you don’t follow the checklist, the landlord can use it to prove damages.
MoveOut Checklist example
Not sure where to begin? You can use the example below to create your own move-out checklist.
● Sweep, mop, and scrub all tile floors.
● Remove stains in the grout.
● Repair damages done to the floors (broken tiles, missing pieces, etc.).
● Sweep and carefully mop hardwood floors.
● Ensure that hardwood floors have no scratches or deep grooves.
● Vacuum and clean all carpeting.
● Fix any tears, burns, or pet stains in carpets.
Ceilings / Walls
● Repair damaged walls.
● Repaint walls to their original color.
● Wipe down all the walls, including the switch plates.
● Dust and wipe wall fans, ceiling fans, and air vents with a wet cloth.
● Remove cobwebs in corners and on the ceiling.
● Remove mounted appliances and patch up the holes.
○ For small holes: Fill with spackle and sand properly.
○ For bigger holes: Patch and repaint properly.
● Clean windows properly. There should be no watermarks on the surface of the glass, and their tracks should be free of dirt and debris.
● Remove dust from window shades and blinds.
● Fix any broken parts (e.g. cracks on the window frame, holes on the screens or shades, etc.).
● Wash all the curtains.
● Replace or fix any damaged curtains (e.g. ones with burns, tears, etc.).
Cabinets / Doors
● Replace or fix door hinges, knobs, and locks that don’t work properly.
● Wipe down all the doors, including their frames.
● Empty, dust, and clean all cabinets/closets that were installed during the move-in.
● Wipe down the entire kitchen thoroughly, removing all grease, remnants of food, and dirt. This includes:
● Repair damages done to the kitchen. This includes:
○ Broken appliances
● Unclog drains and disposals.
● Clean installed appliances, including:
● Empty, clean, and defrost refrigerators/freezers.
● Clean free-placed appliances, including:
○ Blenders or food processors
○ Coffee makers
○ BBQ grills
○ Trash cans
● Empty and clean the cabinets. There should be no damages—doors and hinges should work, and the shelves should not sag).
● Remove grease and dirt from:
○ Exhaust fans
○ Range hoods
○ Overhead lights
● Thoroughly scrub and disinfect bathrooms and damp storage areas (e.g. garden sheds).
● Ensure that there is no mold, stains, or mildew in these areas. If there’s extensive mold or mildew, call an expert to fix the situation.
● Unclog and clear all pipes and drains, leaving no remnants.
● Sanitize and remove stains from sinks, toilets, shower stalls, and bathtubs.
● Repair or replace damaged items (e.g. toilets that don’t flush, cracked tiles, broken mirrors, etc.)
● Empty and clean all cabinets, drawers, and shelves. There should be no personal items left behind.
● Remove anything you installed or attached (e.g. toothbrush holders, additional soap dishes, shower curtains, secondary mirrors, water heaters, etc.)
● Wipe down mirrors using a glass cleaner, leaving them without water spots.
● Smells: Eliminate all lingering odors from any area. If the smell is due to smoking or pets that are not allowed, this may be considered a breach of lease.
● Utilities: If utilities are under the tenant’s name, they should remove their name from the utilities upon move-out. If the utilities are under the landlord’s name, then tenants should shut the utilities down upon move-out.
● Keys: Return keys to the landlord, including any duplicates made.
● Smoke detectors: Make sure all alarms and detectors have new batteries and are in working condition.
● Lights: Ensure that all the lights are clean and working. Replace any broken or damaged lights.
● Personal items: Remove any personal items in the entire property. This includes all outdoor and indoor areas: patios, balconies, yard, etc.
If this list sounds like a lot of cleaning, you can opt for a professional cleaning company. They can help you cover everything on the move-out list, and avoid extra deductions for missed items.
Putting down the security deposit during your move-in was a big financial commitment. Not everybody has spare money lying around to pay 1-3 months’ worth of rent upfront! So if you want to get your deposit back, make sure to follow your move-out checklist to a “T”.
Both you and your landlord essentially want the same thing. You want your security deposit back, and they want to have an efficient turnover and keep their investment property in good condition. These goals can be achieved with a thorough move-out process, ensuring that the property is in tip-top condition both before and after your tenancy.
Has a move-out checklist helped you get your security deposit back? Anything we missed from the list?
Image courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio