After a tenant moves out, it’s a landlord’s job to inspect the property carefully and to note any damage that was left behind. An important distinction that you need to understand is that damage is one thing but wear and tear is another.
It’s acceptable to charge the tenant’s security deposit for damage. However, you cannot make deductions for normal wear and tear.
Documentation is Critical
Most landlord and tenant disputes occur because of the security deposit and the different opinions on what constitutes normal wear and tear. This is why it’s so critical to have a well-documented inspection report. Your move-out inspection checklist must start with the move-in inspection that you conducted before your tenants took possession of the property.
That move-in checklist should have included pictures, videos, and notes about every detail of the home. When the tenant moves out, you should take pictures of the same things and make notes about the same areas. By comparing the two inspection reports, you’ll be able to clearly see if the oven door was hanging off its hinges at the beginning of the tenancy. You’ll be able to demonstrate that the large hole in the wall did not exist until the tenants hung an oversized television.
Keep careful records before the move-in and after the move-out.
Wear and Tear vs. Tenant Damage
Normal wear and tear is the responsibility of the landlord because it’s deterioration that will occur regardless of who is living in the property. Wear and tear happens at the bet-maintained properties and it happens at your own rental home. Those small nail holes from where pictures were hung is considered wear and tear. Scuff marks on walls from where furniture rested is also wear and tear. Worn carpet in high traffic areas and dirty grout on tile tubs are difficult to avoid.
Damage is something different and it usually happens from the tenant’s abuse or misuse of the property. If there’s a larger hole in the wall or deep scrapes in the floors or large stains on the carpets, you know that those things were caused by some kind of neglect or accident, and the tenants should be held responsible financially.
Make sure you manage your expectations. Landlords tend to think everything is damage, and if you’re too eager to charge the security deposit, you could get some pushback from your tenants. Legal disputes over security deposits are rarely worth it, and you could end up spending more money than you realize defending yourself in court. Be reasonable and communicate with your tenants.
Professional Decatur Property Management and Inspections
We have a detailed and thorough rental inspection checklist that we use on all move-in and move-out inspections. We generate detailed reports and we work closely with tenants to make sure everyone is on the same page in terms of move-out expectations and property condition. Working with a professional property management company in Decatur can help you protect your property and limit the liability involved with making incorrect security deposit deductions.
We’re here to help. Please contact us at 360 Real Estate Network.