Ensuring the best chance for the return of your security deposit:
One of the most common and frustrating problems both Landlords and Tenants constantly fight with is the move out process. Property Management Companies act as an intermediary for the owner of the property and the tenants of the property. The managers are hired to protect the investment of the owner, and as the point of contact for the tenants as well, we want to make sure you are returned all of the deposit you are entitled to.
We would like to go over a few strategies to help you, the tenant, make sure that you have the best chance at getting your deposit back. Believe it or not, most managers don’t “want” to claim your deposit just because. A move out in which we can release 100% of the deposit back to a tenant is typically the easiest transition and means we are able to quickly find a new tenant, which is our primary function.
– Read your lease agreement: I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten into a dispute with a tenant who had never read the lease document they signed. In most cases, the terms of the lease are not overly strict, but they can be very specific. Most lease agreements will include move out procedures, or will reference a move out guide that must be followed. The purpose of these procedures is to set the guidelines for you, which if followed, will normally result in the return of your deposit.
– Put yourself in the shoes of the incoming tenant: Once you have finished packing and the house is nearly ready to return to the management company, think a minute about the new family moving into the house you just finished calling home. Would you be happy moving into it like it is tomorrow? This is the situation we, as managers have to assess each time we conduct our move out inspection. Is that new tenant going to want to put their food in the fridge, sit on the toilet, or soak in the tub as you left it? Walk out of the house and then back in and picture yourself moving in…would you be satisfied? Are there any minor repairs that need to be done?Are the stove pans clean? Toilet paper and towel bars secured? All light bulbs working? Things like this can quickly cause charges to start accruing.
– Clean Carpets Professionally: Most companies have a clause in the lease agreement that calls for professional carpet cleaning (if present) by a professional cleaner. This immediately rules out rug doctors rented from stores or personal carpet shampooers. Go ahead and plan on hiring someone, and check with your management company to see if the company has any reliable recommendations. The recommended companies are usually aware of the standards set by the company and can advise the company if problems exist that are not your fault. Hiring “Joe Bob’s Carpet Service” because they were running a $20 special may not be sufficient once the work is done. Now you have spent money on a cheap job, and the manager may still have to make a claim against the deposit.
– Clean…or Don’t: One of most common disputes between tenants and landlords or managers is the overall cleaning of the house. I recommend again checking with the Management Company to see if they have a guide detailing the standards expected upon your move out. Also see if the company has any recommended cleaners they recommend. If you decide to clean the property yourself, make sure it is done at a professional level. Just because you cleaned for a few hours does not mean that you cleaned well. The same can be said for hiring a non-reputable company. We know it is frustrating for tenants who spend a day cleaning a house, only to find that the manager still made a claim for cleaning. This is why it is important to follow guidelines exactly, or to avoid the headache all together and hire a professional. If you clean and miss something, someone has to be hired to correct the issues.
– Touch-Up Painting and Repainting: Once you have packed up your belongings and moved furniture, you may have an abundance of nail holes, scuff marks, or damage from moving and rearranging furniture. Before you start throwing paint around to cover or “fix” the problems, make sure to check the color match of the paint you are using. If the paint was left at the house, it may be a good match, but based on the overall condition of the walls in the house, or the age of the paint in the can, it may not match anymore. Check to see if scuffs can be cleaned with a damp magic eraser before trying to repaint them. Do NOT mud over nail holes unless you plan to repaint over the mud. These issues are made worse in most cases by trying to fix with mismatching paint or plain mud. If you need to match color, you can always take a sliver of the wall paint off by “peeling” the wall like an apple and taking it to Home Depot or Lowe’s for a color and sheen match. Make sure you pick an inconspicuous spot, such as a closet before stripping the paint. If you repainted a room and did not get approval from the Manager or Landlord first, be prepared to repaint the room back to it’s original color, especially if bold colors were used. If you are going to fully repaint, take care not to spill paint or hit the ceilings or baseboards.
– Avoid “Move-In Problems” at Move-Out: When you agree to rent a property and sign a lease, make sure the house is in the condition that the manager is going to require you to leave it upon move out. If you move into a house and find it dirty, or find that the carpets have not been cleaned, or repairs have not been made, or any number of issues, make sure to notify your manager in writing, immediately. If not, many leases will waive move in issues and make you responsible for correcting them at move out. The excuse that I left it better than when I moved in is also not a valid reason to not complete some portion of the move out procedures. The contract you sign at the beginning of the lease says you will agree to complete those steps involved in your move out, whether or not it was completed for you. So make sure the manager corrects the issues at move, or makes some concession at the beginning so that it does not become an issue later.
– Do not expect to have an opportunity to correct issues after move out: Many tenants ask if they can be present for move out inspections, or ask if they can be notified of the work needed and then have an opportunity to resolve them before being charged. The answer is normally a resounding no. Once you vacate a property and return possession to the manager, the manager has a responsibility to the owner to prepare the house to rent again. Going back and forth with a tenant to make corrections, reinspect, and then follow-up again is a financial and legal liability. Once you vacate the property, and before you return the keys, make sure you have done everything in your power to make sure the property s ready to go.
– Talk to your Property Manager: Often overlooked in the move out process is actually talking to your property manager. Ask them what they are looking for, how specific issues should be handled, and who they recommend. At our office, we are happy to coordinate all the cleaning and repairs, and can give quotes before you vacate. That way you can decide what you want to pay for, or what you can do yourself.
– Finalize your Move-Out: Make sure you vacate the property by the date specified in your move out documentation and that keys are returned along with any garage door remotes, gate keys, etc. that may have come with the property. The manager may not consider the property vacant until the keys have been returned to the office or arrangements are made for pick up. Always keep the manager updated with changes of dates or prearranged scheduling.
– Document Everything: Even the best managers and inspectors are still human. Make sure you document your move in process with photographs and written documentation. Any concessions or repair work you request should be in writing and kept on file until move out. Once you are completely out of the house, make sure to document the condition with additional photos and deliver them to your manager. If you hire work, such as carpet cleaners, painters, or house cleaners, make sure you also turn in the receipts when you turn in keys. It is much easier to defend a dispute if everything is in writing, rather than trying to remember a year old conversation that was had when you moved into the property.
IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS FOR YOUR MOVE-OUT
- Read Your Lease: I can’t stress this enough. Make sure you follow the guidelines set out by the manager. If you agreed to do it and don’t follow through, expect to be billed for it.
- Clean Thoroughly: If you decide to clean, make sure the bathrooms and kitchen are cleaned completely. This means around the bottom of the toilet, removing soap scum from the showers tubs. If we find hair of any kind in the bathroom, that’s a bad sign. A clean kitchen should also have clean drawers and cabinets.
- Work is Expensive: Property Managers generally have a list of contractors that they know are reliable and have reasonable rates. That does not mean they have the cheapest rates. If you know the house needs cleaning, and tell your manager to hire someone, make sure to get a quote rather than be surprised later. It may be cheaper for you to hire someone or do the work yourself. Also, if you clean the house and miss something, the manager still has to hire the cleaners to go out and take care of the problem. Minimum service calls are not cheap, and while it may seem excessive to you, contractors work to make a living, and will charge for their time.
RE/MAX Infinity Property Management is a full service property management company located in Pace, FL. We proudly serve Homeowners, Military Personal, Investors, and Renters in Santa Rosa and Escambia Counties. If you have a rental property or are seeking a rental property in Pace, Milton, Pensacola, or Gulf Breeze, give us a call. We are proud to be the #1 Property Management Company in Santa Rosa County.