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The Ultimate Move-Out Checklist for Landlords and Tenants

By: Justin Chaplin
February 11, 2020

Moving out is a part of the renting process that both landlords and tenants should prepare for. As a landlord, you want to ensure that the unit is in pristine condition and move-in ready, once the previous tenant has moved out. 

As a tenant, your priority should be getting your security deposit returned at the end of your lease agreement. 

The best way to make these things possible is by performing a move-out inspection and utilizing a move-out checklist. These are tools that streamline the move-out process for both landlords and tenants. 

They help to ensure that everyone is on the same page. They also help make the tenant turnover process as painless as possible.

Here's how to make a move-out checklist, and why they are important.

Why is a Move-Out Checklist Important?

Both landlords and tenants benefit from taking the time to conduct a move-out inspection. Ensuring that the unit is in pristine condition for the next tenant and guaranteeing a full security deposit refund offers a great incentive for both parties to perform a thorough inspection.  

For landlords, following a move-out checklist can reveal any significant damage that tenants caused during their occupancy. Inspecting a unit can also provide an accurate estimate of how long it’ll take until the landlord can consider the unit to be move-in ready. 

Landlords will need to arrange for people to make the necessary repairs and deep-clean the unit. That can take some time.

Security Deposit Disputes

Both landlords and tenants can use their inspection as evidence in the event of a dispute over the distribution of security deposit funds. 

In some cases, a tenant can deny having caused damage beyond normal wear and tear. However, a landlord may refuse to refund their payment on the grounds that they did cause significant damage.

If the disagreement can be mediated, it may be taken to small claims court. Both parties can provide proof of their argument. They typically do that showing detailed and time-stamped photographs that they took at the time of their inspection. 

This is irrefutable evidence. It’ll likely be the deciding factor in a security deposit dispute.

What is a Move-Out Checklist?

A move-out checklist is a list that details all the important aspects of a thorough move-out inspection. Both landlords and tenants can use it. 

These lists may also act as an apartment cleaning checklist. They cover many of the same topics.

There are general move-out inspection checklists available online. However, it’s best for landlords to provide tenants with an inspection checklist that is tailored to a specific unit. 

For example, your unit may have a unique feature, such as a log-burning fireplace. You might require the tenant to remove any logs, excess soot, and debris before move-out. 

If there are move-out instructions within the lease agreement, both landlords and tenants must abide by them. This helps to avoid any problems after move-out. Those problems could include tenants leaving furniture behind, an uncleaned unit, and even forgotten keys.

Sample Move-Out Checklist

Landlord move-out inspections should be preceded by a move-in inspection that they conducted before the current tenant moved in. This allows the move-out inspection checklist to act as a confirmation that everything in the unit is in a similar condition to the state it was in at the start of the lease agreement. 

Not sure where to start? No worries. We’ve got you covered with an in-depth sample move-out inspection checklist for both landlords and tenants.

Move-out Checklist: Living Spaces and Bedrooms

  • Walls - Walls should be free of any markings or damage. Holes left should be filled according to the lease agreement.
  • Floors - Hard flooring should be free of scratching or any deep grooves. Carpets shouldn’t be excessively stained or burned. Carpets should be vacuumed and hard floors should be swept and mopped.
  • Closets - Closets should be completely empty, dusted, and the floors cleaned. 
  • Ceiling Fans and Central Air Vents - These need to be dusted and wiped down with a wet cloth.
  • Windows - Windows shouldn’t have any cracks. They should be washed from the inside with a glass cleaner. Curtains should be removed. Blinds, typically provided by the landlord, should be wiped clean between each blade to remove dust and debris.

Move-out Checklist: Kitchen

  • Stovetop and Range Hood - Stovetops should be cleared of food and debris. Drip plates that are excessively burned or rusted will need to be replaced. Range hoods with lights and fans should be degreased. 
  • Oven - The oven should be cleared of excess buildup and degreased. Oven racks should be cleaned or replaced, as needed. 
  • Backsplash - Any backsplash in the sink area or near the stovetop will collect grease and debris. People should clean and degrease those as needed. 
  • Dishwasher - Tenants should clean the dishwasher filter regularly. There shouldn’t be any bits of food in the dishwasher in the dishwasher after move-out. 
  • Sink and/or Garbage Disposal - People should clean and clear the sink of any excess food. 
  • Floors - Floors should be free of excess marking or scuffing. Tenants or landlords should sweep or mop them. 
  • Cabinets - Cabinets should be completely empty. Tenants should remove any crumbs or trash. Doors should be secured on their hinges and shelves should not sag. 
  • Countertops - People need to clean and degrease countertops. The landlord could consider any burns, cuts, or large stains to be excessive damage. 
  • Refrigerator and Freezer - These should be empty and clean. The tenant may need to defrost the freezer. 
  • Microwave - The tenant or landlord should degrease and thoroughly clean microwaves from the inside out.
  • Windows - Windows in the kitchen may collect grease. The tenant or landlord should clean them accordingly.

Note: All appliances throughout the unit should be in good working condition. Landlords should perform routine maintenance checks throughout the lease term. That way, they can make sure they’re making repairs even if tenants do not report them.

Move-out Checklist: Bathroom

  • Toilet - Should be cleaned and disinfected.
  • Shower/Bathtub - Showers and bathtubs should be clear of personal items and shower curtains. The tenant or landlord should clean and disinfect them. 
  • Sink - The sink should be unstained and free of personal effects. It should be cleaned and disinfected.
  • Floors - People need to sweep and mop the floors. 
  • Mirrors - Mirrors should be wiped down with a glass cleaner and be free of cracks. If the mirror also acts as a medicine cabinet, it should be empty. 
  • Windows - Landlords or tenants should clean windows with a glass cleaner from the inside.

Note: Mold is a common issue in bathrooms, as it’s a moist environment. If the problem is extensive, an expert should perform mold removal. Landlords or tenants should check the bathroom fan regularly to ensure that it’s working. That’ll greatly reduce the chances of a mold problem.

Move-out Checklist: Miscellaneous.

  • Smells - If there are any lingering odors in the apartment that airing out will not fix, landlords could consider that to be excessive damage. 
  • Utilities - Tenants will need to take their name off of their utilities upon move-out. If the utilities are in the landlord’s name, they should turn them off while the unit is unoccupied.
  • Keys - Tenants should return their keys to the landlord upon move-out. Some landlords require tenants to pay a fee for any keys that they don’t return. 
  • Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Alarms - Landlords should change the batteries regularly.

Note: If you have expressly prohibited smoking or pets in the apartment, but the smell comes from animal urine or cigarette smoke, you can consider it a breach of the lease. If this is the case, you may need to write a notice to vacate prior to the end of the lease term.

Key Takeaways

Whether the tenant turnover is caused by eviction, the breaking of the lease, or the end of the lease term, both landlords and tenants should perform a thorough evaluation with the aid of a move-out inspection checklist. 

Regardless of circumstances, tenants and landlords should strictly adhere to any move-out rules or guidelines that the lease agreement includes. Both landlords and tenants are legally bound by their agreement. 

If a dispute arises, be sure to have time-stamped photographs on hand. Those will help you ensure that you have evidence of your argument. 

However, this shouldn’t be a problem with a responsible tenant and a law-abiding, responsive landlord. Happy renting!

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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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