By Salvatore J. Friscia, San Diego Premier Property Management, San Diego, CA
The “move out” stage of a tenancy can be voluntary or involuntary. The voluntary move out process begins when a landlord receives notice from a tenant that they have intentions of no longer occupying a rental property. The preferred method of notice as in accordance with most rental lease agreements is typically a 30-day written notice to vacate. If the tenant is currently on a lease agreement the notice should be received at least 30 days prior to the expiration of the lease agreement and if the tenant is on month to month terms the notice can be given at any time. A premature notice to vacate does not void the terms of a lease agreement and the tenant could be responsible for the remaining time and lost income suffered by the landlord until expiration of the lease agreement. If the tenant verbally states that they are going to move, it is suggested to inform them to formally put their intentions in writing along with the last date of occupancy and have them mail or email the notice to you. Having the written formal notice will guard against miscommunication and floating move out dates while allowing the initial marketing of the property to begin with certainty. The formal date will also help with calculations for rental proration if necessary.
It is then recommended to advise the tenant, once again in writing, at least two weeks prior to the move out date that they are entitled to a voluntary pre-move out inspection. The tenant may or may not want to participate in this inspection. If the tenant agrees to the pre move-out inspection, it will allow both parties to openly inspect the property and compare the condition to the already completed “move-in” checklist on file. The pre move-out inspection is an opportunity to revisit the property and advise the tenant, based on the current condition, of possible withholdings if any from the security deposit. The pre move-out inspection will also allow the tenant an opportunity to be aware of and make the necessary repairs and cleanings to avoid security deposit deductions.
If the necessary repairs and or cleanings are not performed prior to move out, it can be documented on the “move-out” checklist as a deductible item and withheld against the tenant’s security deposit funds. Comparing the “move-out” checklist against the “move-in” checklist will help you evaluate the necessary deductions. It is important to know that any repairs held against the security deposit should be itemized along with a receipt for services and copies should be given to the tenant along with the remaining funds within 21 days of vacating (California Law please check your local laws).
Having to make warranted repairs to a rental property is not unusual and should be handled in a timely fashion by the owner, but having a “move-in/move-out” checklist allows both parties to understand what is expected of them. It puts the tenant on notice that the owner is serious about keeping the property in good condition and will not hesitate to use the security deposit to assure the property will be returned in the same condition as it was received. Without the checklist it becomes difficult to prove excessive wear and tear and damages done to the property were caused by the tenants. If a dispute over the security deposit escalates to small claims court, the situation can result in the tenant’s word against the owner’s word. Without documentation the court could award the full security deposit back to the tenant leaving the owner with costly repairs. Utilize your “move in/move out” sheet and avoid unnecessary disputes.