Having a system for moving tenants into your properties is critical to the success of your business. Most common disputes between tenants and landlords arise over expectations that were set before the tenant ever even moves into the property.
Most tenants meet their future landlords when they tour the property, pay the deposit and sign a lease. However, some landlords don’t take the time to set expectations with regard to the condition of the property and what the disbursements from the security deposits will be at the end of the lease. If you research disputes over security deposits, they are almost always fueled by a tenant. If a dispute arises, it is most frequently based on a tenant’s feeling that the landlord unfairly withheld monies from the security deposit when the renter moved out of the property. As a landlord, you may be completely justified in keeping the entire security deposit. Be sure that you set the expectation up front and that you have everything in writing.
Each landlord will have to decide what things are most important to them, but here are three important things that need to make the list.
First, carefully inspect the property with the tenant. It is very important that you and your tenant are on the same page about the condition of the property when they move in. Be as thorough as you can and document everything. Normal wear and tear should be expected, but damage is another story. Don’t forget to include things like the condition of the lawn, gutters, mailboxes, fence and any exterior items like mailboxes, screen doors and landscape lights. Also have a checklist for everything inside from bathroom mirrors and vanities to the condition of the flooring…document the condition of everything.
Secondly, back up your documentation with photographs. This will protect both you and your tenant. It will provide proof of the condition of the property at move-in verses the condition of it when the tenant moves out. If there is a dispute, you have pictures to back up any deductions that you take from the security deposit. By taking photos with the tenant there, you will reinforce the fact that you expect the tenant to take care of the property just like you do.
Lastly, make a cost replacement spreadsheet and give a copy to the tenant along with the lease. Include a list of items that are typically fixed or replaced after tenants move out. That way your tenants will know that if there is a hole in a wall, it will cost $50 of the security deposit to fix it. It may take you a while to compile the list, but it will be time well spent. If a tenant has a copy of the most commonly replaced items and the cost from the beginning, the deductions from a security deposit will not come as a surprise.
Save yourself the headache of disputes over trivial matters by having a standard system in place to utilize when renters move into your property.