Pre-Move-Out Inspections (and Why You Should Care)
Yes, you still need to do a Move-Out Inspection as well. A lot can change between ‘someone’s home’ and ‘no one’s home!’
One of the more annoying aspects of property management is the need to perform inspections when the tenant is still living in the home. Sometimes, it’s easy — but more often than not, the tenants don’t cooperate with the desire to inspect. That means coming in to do an inspection is always a gamble, even if you give warning that you’re coming: no one wants to take the time to actually have an inspection performed. No one likes an interruption! But the benefits of consistently doing pre-move-out inspections outweigh the risk by a solid margin.
What Is a Pre-Move-Out Inspection?
Hopefully, everyone reading this knows what a move-out inspection is: it’s what you do after the tenant is gone, to figure out what all needs to be done before the next tenant can move in. A pre-move-out inspection is actually remarkably similar — but you do it while the tenant is still there.
Your inspector, with or without the tenant (more on that in a moment), goes through the house and notes everything they can find that would cost the tenant a part of their security deposit. They compare that list to the list of problems that existed when the tenant moved in — you did perform a move-in inspection, right? — and cross all of those pre-existing conditions off of their new list.
The Second Reason for Pre-Move-Out Inspections
That new list gets turned over to the tenant so that they can fix up everything they care to fix up (so as to get back as much of their deposit as possible). This saves the owner time and money on fixing easy problems, and makes the tenant happy to get more cash in their pocket. But that’s only the second reason.
The Main Reason for Pre-Move-Out Inspections
The main benefit is that the inspection will tell you the condition of the property, which reduces turnaround time when the tenant moves out. If the place is a mess, showings aren’t an option, which means advertising isn’t an option. On the other hand, you know you need to line up contractors for maintenance, and you can arrange them to start the day after move-out (or as close as possible). On the other hand, if the place is nice enough to show, you can start advertising as soon as you have the ability, which will also help reduce vacant time.
We mentioned above that you can end up doing a pre-move-out inspection with or without the tenant on hand. This isn’t up to you! You are legally obligated to give the tenant the opportunity to walk through alongside your inspector (which means you must adapt to the tenant’s schedule as far as is reasonable). If they choose to let you inspect without them present, that’s fine — but in our experience, few of them will.
It’s a Trap!
There is one major legal trap you have to beware of when you send an inspector out to a property for a pre-move-out inspection. Many times, a tenant will try their hardest to get your inspector to make any sort of statement to the effect of “here’s what you need to fix up in order to get your deposit back.” It is 100% mission-critical that your inspector not say anything of the sort.
The reason why should be obvious: you don’t want to give the tenant a leg to stand on should they decide to try to take you to court because they didn’t get their security deposit back in full. It’s ridiculous to think that a pre-move-out inspection could possibly catch every single issue that might require you to withhold a portion of the security deposit — heck many post-move-out inspections don’t do that!
So leave the tenant with some official documentation that specifies that these lists will help them get their rental up to snuff before they leave, but in no way constitute an agreement that you will be returning any portion of their security deposit. Avoid that one trap, and getting pre-move-out inspections done regularly will help your owners minimize the downtime on their properties, and your tenants will appreciate your efforts as well.