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Apartment Move-Out Inspection and Walk-Through - FAQ's

By: Justin Chaplin
February 7, 2020

Moving on and moving up from a current apartment is a thrill. That is, until a landlord calls about scheduling a move-out inspection and move-out walk-through, or a tenant decides it’s not necessary. 

Will the landlord call out that scuff mark on the wall and withhold the security deposit? The landlord also has the stress of wondering if the tenants will agree to excessive wear and tear charges and other fees.

Instead of dreading the move-out inspection or move-out walk-through, tenants and landlords alike can embrace it as an opportunity to leave the premises with a clean slate. Everyone’s goal is to have as few repair costs as possible.

What is a Move-Out Inspection?

When a tenant gives a notice to vacate, or the lease has expired, the landlord usually schedules a move-out inspection or move-out walk-through to assess the condition of the apartment. 

But what is the walk-through’s meaning and purpose?

The intention of a move-out inspection is to look for any excessive wear and tear damage or illegal alterations. 

Don't worry; illegal alterations probably aren’t as scary as they sound. If a tenant decided to paint the entire apartment hot pink when the lease specified that anything except white or beige needed to be approved, they've likely breached their lease. In this case, the tenant will be responsible for the costs of repainting the apartment. 

Landlords and tenants can streamline the walk-through process by coming equipped with a moving-out checklist from cleaning to repairing any holes in the walls.

Why is a Move-Out Inspection Important?

Move-out inspections are crucial for landlords and property managers who want to recover the cost of the damage as quickly as possible. A streamlined and efficient move-out walk-through where everyone agrees also avoids disputes and conflict with tenants.

A move-out inspection is also crucial for tenants who want their full security deposit refunded and may want to fix any damages like a hole in the closet wall themselves. 

Avoiding disputes with the landlord and staying on good terms is also vital. One reason for that is a tenant may need a letter of recommendation from a landlord in order to secure a future apartment.

Giving Your Landlord Notice

Before a move-out inspection or move-out walk-through occurs, tenants need to give notice to vacate. Whether a job relocation is involved or the tenant wants to move on, they should provide written notice and submit a letter to the landlord. 

Need to write a notice to vacate letter? Try using our template.

When Should a Move-out Inspection Take Place?

Scheduling a move-out inspection or a preliminary walk-through a few days before permanently vacating the property could help resolve future conflict. Instead of arguing over damages and fees, a preliminary walk-through can identify issues. It can then give the tenant an opportunity to fix them.

Should a Tenant be Present During the Final Inspection?

Although it's usually not required, a tenant should always be present during the final inspection whenever possible. When the tenant isn’t present during the inspection, the condition of the apartment becomes a case of one person’s word against the other. 

Landlords could claim a long-standing hole in the wall was the current tenant's responsibility. Or, they may decide the normal wear and tear exceeded expectations without input from the tenant. 

When both parties are present, the landlord and tenant can talk through the issue and note any agreed-upon damage on a move-out inspection form.

Preparing an Itemized Statement

The landlord should come with an itemized statement of repairs or cleaning costs that the landlord feels the tenant should perform. 

The itemized letter, or move-out inspection form, should include:

  • [Date]
  • [Tenant's Name]
  • [Address of Rental Unit]
  • [Security Deposit Received]
  • [List of Damaged Property with Deductions for Repair]
  • [Excessive Cleaning Expenses for Pet Urine or Other Issues]
  • [Total Amount Deducted]
  • [Amount of Security Deposit Returned to Tenant]
  • [Signatures of Landlord and Tenant]
  • [Signing Date]

What is Normal Wear and Tear?

Leases usually dictate "normal wear and tear" as minor damage that would happen no matter who lived in the apartment. A loose doorknob or aging refrigerator that is breaking down usually constitutes normal wear and tear. In these situations, the landlord is responsible for the costs involved in repairing them.

Landlords consider damage that doesn't naturally occur, like a cigarette burn in the carpet or a missing doorknob, to be excessive wear and tear. This type of damage is due to tenant neglect. It’ll likely come out of a security deposit after an apartment inspection.

Is a Move-out Inspection Required by Law?

Some, but not all states require a move-out inspection by law. Tenants and landlords should check their state laws to determine the legal need for inspection. 

However, even if a move-out inspection isn't legally required, they usually benefit both the landlord and the tenant. Both parties can save themselves time, money, and headaches by agreeing to a move-out walk-through.

Common Landlord Mistakes During a Move-Out Inspection

Mistakes during the move-out inspection can lead to disputes on both sides about damage and fees. The easiest way to avoid conflict during a move-out walk-through is for landlords to have a move-in inspection with each tenant. At that time, they should document all existing damage. 

  1. Both the landlord and tenants should approve and sign the document listing existing damage. They should revisit the document during the move-out inspection. 
  2. Tenants should be present during the final walk-through. However, a landlord can request a lengthier inspection to check that everything in the apartment is working correctly. 
  3. They should also make sure no significant issues like pet odors are present. The landlord may find hidden damage when they have ample time to investigate the premises. 
  4. Most states require landlords to submit any requests to pay for damages within 30 days of vacancy. Requesting time to inspect the property before the tenant moves out may reduce the pressure for the landlord. 
  5. Afterward, the landlord can submit the itemized list to the tenant. That provides them with the chance to repair damages before the final walk-through and inspection.

A move-out inspection may feel intimidating. However, it benefits both parties. 

It also clears up any misunderstandings and unnecessary conflict. Whether you’re a tenant or the landlord, always request an inspection. It’ll help you to mitigate any damages and leave the property on good terms.

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Justin is a Content Manager and contributing author at Apartment List, helping people navigate the world of renting. Justin previously spent his time earning his BBA in Marketing from Boise State University. Read More
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