Move Out Inspection Basics for Landlords and Tenants

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Certain states require landlords to perform a move out inspection prior to a tenant leaving, while other states do not have this legal requirement. Even if it is not legally required in your state, this inspection has several benefits for both landlords and tenants. Here are the basics of this inspection and how it can help clear up conflict and misunderstandings. 

1. What Is a Move Out Inspection?

A move out inspection occurs when a landlord and a tenant walk through the rental unit to look for any damage or illegal alterations to the unit. The landlord is looking for any damage in excess of normal wear and tear or any changes to the unit that have not been mutually agreed upon, such as changing the paint color. The landlord is comparing the current condition of the property to the condition of the property when the tenant moved into the unit.

2. When Does a Move Out Inspection Happen?

A move out inspection takes place at the end of a tenant's lease, when the tenant is moving out of the rental unit. The exact time when this inspection can take place will vary depending on your state laws.

In some states, the inspection must take place on the date of the tenant’s move out or two to three days after. Waiting until a tenant has removed all of their possessions from the unit means no damage can be hidden and the landlord can clearly see any potential issues.

In other states, a move out inspection can be done anywhere from three days to two weeks prior to a tenant’s move-out. This is done to allow the tenant to make any repairs to the unit before move-out so the have a chance of receiving their full security deposit back.

3. Why Does a Move Out Inspection Take Place?

The main purpose of a move out inspection is so that a landlord can document the condition of the property. The landlord is trying to determine if damage has been done to the unit that would allow for deductions to be taken from the tenant’s security deposit.

If this inspection is conducted prior to a tenant’s move-out, the landlord can present the tenant with a list of the deductions that will be taken from his or her security deposit and give tenant the chance to make the necessary repairs to the unit before move-out. This walk-through inspection is also done so that the landlord knows what must be fixed before the next tenant moves into the property.

4. Who Schedules a Move Out Inspection?

In states where a move out inspection is required by law, it is usually the landlord’s responsibility to inform the tenant when the move out inspection will take place. The landlord must serve the tenant with written notice of this inspection, informing the tenant of the tenant’s right to be present at the inspection and the date and time the inspection will take place.

In states such as Georgia and Kentucky, the landlord will first inspect the unit and will write down any potential deductions from the security deposit. The tenant is then given or sent this list and has a specific amount of time to inspect the unit themselves. The tenant can either agree or disagree with the charges.

5. Is a Move Out Inspection Required by Law?

Not all states require a move out inspection. You should check your state’s security deposit laws to determine if you are obligated to conduct this inspection. For example, landlords in Alabama and Colorado are not required to perform a walk-through inspection, while landlords in Arizona and California must perform a walk-through inspection.

3 Benefits of Move Out Inspections for Landlords:

  1. Determine Repair Costs: The move out inspection allows a landlord to determine the repairs that are needed and the approximate cost of these repairs.
  2. Avoid Disputes: Making the tenant aware of the potential deductions that will be taken from their security deposit can help end disputes. The tenant will know what to expect and will not be surprised by the deductions.
  3. Tenant Fixes Damages: Conducting a move out inspection before a tenant’s move out gives the tenant the opportunity to fix the damages so that deductions are not taken from their security deposit.

    3 Benefits of Move Out Inspections for Tenants:

    1. Fix Damages: A move out inspection allows a tenant to fix damages they did not realize existed.
    2. Get Full Security Deposit Returned: If the tenant fixes the damages the landlord has noted before he or she moves out, the tenant is likely to have their full security deposit returned.
    3. Avoid Disputes: The move out inspection informs the tenant of the deductions that will be taken from the tenant’s security deposit so that the tenant is not surprised when he or she does not receive the full security deposit back.