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Tenants Move-Out Process: Lower Cost and Less Stress

Would you like to know how to get the tenants to do most of the work for you when moving out?

Many landlords and property managers think it’s entirely their job to do all of the turnover work. Don’t make this mistake. Waiting for the tenants to move out before you start showing the property or waiting weeks to get it ready to show, increases the vacancy rate. It costs money and takes time, the time you can be marketing your rental.

You want to get your property back in move-in condition and get it on the market ASAP. In this article, I will explain the process we go through when we have a turnover and the forms we use to make this happen.

The move-out process starts when we receive or mail a written lease nonrenewal notice. Each state has a different notice requirement, ranging from 15-60 days (check landlord-tenant state laws.)

After we receive the tenant’s notice, we mailed them a move-out packet. Your state may also require a move-out checklist and some states even ask the move-out inspection to be conducted in the presence of the tenant. We don’t do that because we use an outside company to conduct the inspection. This gives us a third-party unbiased report. Check our directory for more info on companies conducting rental condition reports.

The mailing of the move-out packet starts the entire move-out process.

Here are the two forms we use to go through the entire process:

  • The move-out checklist (this one is for us.)
  • The move-out packet (mailed to the tenant at least one month before the move.)

The Move-Out Checklist is something we use to make sure we don’t miss anything. There is a lot going on especially if you are managing properties for other people. We have to keep in touch with the owners, prepare to transfer utilities, and keep in touch with the tenants and the property owners.

The Move-Out Packet tells the tenants exactly what to do and what to expect when they move out. It gives them step-by-step detailed instructions on how to get their security deposit back. There’s a full cleaning checklist for the tenant. This packet includes specific charges for cleaning and maintenance issues. It lists itemized deductions prices for cleaning, repairs, replacement, and repainting.
The packet also explains how the move-out inspection will be conducted and gives instructions for returning keys, garage openers, and other items.

We email and mail this to the tenants immediately after we receive a written notice and we email it again a week before they are scheduled to move out. You can also send this with a certified return receipt to make sure that the tenants pay attention to it and understand that it’s important.

The price for some of the items on our list may seem high. For example to replace a light bulb we change from $4 to $12. It depends on the type of lightbulb and the location.
It’s important to mention that this price covers not only the actual price of the lightbulb but also includes the labor and admin expenses. These things are very easy to overlook but if you are planning to run a profitable property management company, you have to deduct all expenses that are connected with changing that lightbulb.

When tenants look at the prices of the deductions, they are more likely to replace all burned-out and missing lightbulbs instead of paying us to do it. They have a choice, replace or pay.
The move-out packet gives tenants clear instructions and an explanation of what deductions will be made from their deposit. This leads not only to tenants doing most of the work because they want to get their entire deposit but also to fewer disputes over security deposit claims.

I’ve been asked many times about the legality of deducting deep cleaning or other charges that are not for damages. Those are good questions and if your lease doesn’t list those items as tenant responsibility, then you don’t have the right to request it. However, if you have a clause in your lease, specifying how you want the property returned to you and what the tenants are required to do, you can legally claim those charges from their security deposit.

I have never been in court over security deposit claims and I think the main reason is the Move-Out Packet. Tenants are genuinely happier because we set clear expectations so after they move out there are no surprises.

If they follow the move-out instructions, they will get their security deposit back. I don’t want to keep their deposit. My goal is to get get my property back in a condition ready to rent. That’s a lot more valuable to me. I am saving time and money.

After we started using the Move-Out Packet and Checklist, our turnover time went down. We were less stressed about the process and we got our rentals back in a much better condition.

The biggest expense for a landlord is the vacancy, the longer the property sits without a paying tenant, the less profitable it is. And we are all in it to make money, right?

When we get our properties in move-in-ready condition, we can immediately start marketing and showing them as opposed to wasting time scheduling different contractors and cleaners and wasting weeks on turnovers.

Our shortest turnover after we started using the move-out packers was one day. You can’t beat that.

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below. Thanks for reading.

About the author

Jana Christo is a business owner, real estate investor, and property manager. She has 16 years of experience in most areas of real estate.
During the last recession, she was also the managing partner for a company that bought and rehabbed properties from the court foreclosure auctions. Today, she manages her own portfolio of rental properties and shares her experience on Rentce.com.