Move Out Inspection Basics for Landlords and Tenants

Landlord standing by a ladder pointing to damage the tenant caused to a rental unit.

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The landlord laws of certain states require a move out inspection prior to a tenant leaving a rental unit. Other states do not have this legal requirement. It is best to check your state's landlord/tenant laws or look at your lease to see if this is a requirement in your state. Your landlord will schedule the inspection with you after they receive your Notice of Intent to Vacate letter.

Even if it is not legally required in your state, many landlords will conduct move out inspections. This inspection has several benefits for both landlords and tenants.

What Is a Move Out Inspection?

A move out inspection occurs when a landlord and a tenant walk through the rental unit to look for any damage or illegal alterations to the unit. The landlord is looking for any damage in excess of normal wear and tear or any changes to the unit that have not been mutually agreed upon, such as changing the paint color. The landlord is comparing the current condition of the property to the condition of the property when the tenant moved into the unit.

Purpose of the Inspection

The main purpose of a move out inspection is so that a landlord can document the condition of the property. It allows the landlord to determine if damage has been done to the unit while in the use of the renter. Damages may decrease the amount of any returned security deposits. Also, if the cost to repair the damage is beyond the value of the deposit, the tenant will need to make up that sum

If this inspection is conducted before a tenant’s move, the landlord can present the tenant with a list of the deductions that will be taken from their security deposit. This will also give the tenant a chance to make necessary repairs to the unit before they move-out. This walk-through inspection is also done so that the landlord knows what must be fixed before the next tenant moves into the property.

Timing and Scheduling a Move Out Inspection

A move out inspection takes place at the end of a tenant's lease and when the tenant is moving out of the rental unit. The exact time when this inspection can take place will vary depending on your state laws.

In some states, the inspection must take place on the date of the tenant’s move out or two to three days after. Waiting until a tenant has removed all of their possessions from the unit means no damage can be hidden and the landlord can clearly see any potential issues.

In other states, a move out inspection can be done anywhere from three days to two weeks before a tenant’s move. This is done to allow the tenant to make any repairs to the unit before they leave so they have a chance of receiving their full security deposit back.

In states where a move out inspection is required by law, it is usually the landlord’s responsibility to inform the tenant when the inspection will take place. The landlord must serve the tenant with written notice of this inspection, informing the tenant of their right to be present at the inspection and the date and time the inspection will take place.

In states such as Georgia and Kentucky, the landlord will first inspect the unit and will write down any potential deductions from the security deposit. The tenant is then given or sent this list and has a specific amount of time to inspect the unit themselves. The tenant can either agree or disagree with the charges.

State Laws and Inspections

Not all states require a move out inspection. You should check your state’s security deposit laws to determine if you are obligated to conduct this inspection. For example, landlords in Alabama and Colorado are not required to perform a walk-through inspection. Meanwhile, landlords in Arizona and California must perform a walk-through inspection.

Landlord Benefits of Move Out Inspections

  1. Determine Repair Costs: The move out inspection allows a landlord to determine the repairs that are needed and the approximate cost of these repairs.
  2. Avoid Disputes: Making the tenant aware of the potential deductions that will be taken from their security deposit can help end disputes. The tenant will know what to expect and will not be surprised by the deductions.
  3. Tenant Fixes Damages: Conducting an inspection before a tenant’s moves out gives the tenant the opportunity to fix the damages so that deductions are not taken from their security deposit.

Tenants Benefits of Inspections

  1. Fix Damages: A move out inspection allows a tenant to fix damages they did not realize existed.
  2. Get Full Security Deposit Returned: If the tenant fixes the damages the landlord has noted before he or she moves out, the tenant is likely to have their full security deposit returned.
  3. Avoid Disputes: The move out inspection informs the tenant of the deductions that will be taken from the tenant’s security deposit so that the tenant is not surprised when he or she does not receive the full security deposit back.