The move-out process can be stressful for both owners and tenants. Change of any kind can inspire uncertainty and anxiety, and when your tenants are moving from one home to another, they can be emotional and distracted.
For you as the rental property owner, there’s less emotion involved, but the move-out process is still a disruption. You’re thinking about how quickly you can get inside to the property, make the necessary repairs and replacements, and rent the home to a new tenant.
But, there are a lot of details that need your attention before you can place a new tenant and continue collecting rent.
There’s the collection of keys and the inspection and deciding about the security deposit.
It’s easy to make a mistake or to forget something, and that’s why we like the idea of a checklist. When you have a reliable, consistent checklist that’s easy to use, your move-out process will feel less rushed.
Here’s what your checklist absolutely must include:
- Accepting notice to vacate.
- Offering a pre-move out inspection.
- Switching the utilities after the tenant leaves.
- Conducting a thorough inspection.
- Making all necessary repairs and replacements.
- Returning the security deposit.
Tenant communication will be especially important during the move-out process. When you work together and use your checklist, it will be a less stressful time for everyone.
Receiving Your Santa Rosa Tenant’s Notice to Vacate
The first thing you need is an exact departure date from your tenants. You can plan your turnover timeline from there.
Your lease agreement should dictate how much notice your tenants must give you before leaving. Typically, it’s as little as 30 days and as many as 90 days. Once you learn that they won’t renew their lease agreement, ask them for a move-out date and then share your expectations for how they will leave the property.
Send a letter that acknowledges you’ve received their notice to vacate. Include instructions that are likely already listed in the lease agreement but should be reinforced. You’ll want them to:
- Turn in the keys
- Provide a forwarding address
- Remove all of their personal belongings from the property
- Return anything that was changed to its original status. For example, if window blinds were taken down for curtains to be hung up, those blinds need to go back.
- Clean the property and remove any trash.
By sharing your expectations, there will be less confusion about what tenants need to do. Everyone has different cleaning standards, for example. Tell the tenants that the property needs to be as clean as it was when they took possession.
Offer the Pre-Move Out Inspection
Landlords in Santa Rosa and throughout California are required to offer tenants a pre-move-out inspection. This is an opportunity for you to walk through the property with your departing residents and point out any areas that might trigger a security deposit deduction.
Tenants know that they cannot be charged for general wear and tear items. But, they might not know that a large stain in the carpet or the door that’s off its hinges in a bedroom can be considered damage and thus subject to a security deposit deduction.
Not all tenants will take you up on this offer. But, you need to extend the offer, and it’s actually not a bad idea for you to do the inspection. This will give you some indication of how long it will take you to turn the property over.
Change the Utility Accounts
Your tenants will likely turn off the utility accounts that are in their name so they may start service at their new home. We recommend that you arrange for those utilities to be turned back on in your own name as soon as the service account transfers.
This is important because you cannot turnover, repair, or market a home that does not have electricity and water. Make sure you and your vendors can get inside to do work and prepare the property for showings. It’s also a security issue. Dark, vacant homes can be a target for criminals and thieves.
Conduct a Thorough Move-Out Inspection
Once the tenants have completely moved out of the property, it’s time to go in and do your own move-out inspection. You’re looking for a few different things with this inspection:
- You want to see if the tenants moved out all of their belongings and trash.
- You need to know if any property damage caused by the tenants was left behind.
- You need to inspect the general wear and tear that is always part of a residency.
- You need to make a list of what kind of work will be needed and which vendors need to be scheduled.
The most important part of this inspection, and perhaps the most challenging, is differentiating between tenant damage and normal wear and tear.
The wear and tear that’s left behind is your financial responsibility. You cannot hold the tenant responsible for the natural and gradual deterioration of a property over time. It’s a result of any tenant’s normal use of the home, and it would happen no matter who was living there. Every home is prone to wear and tear, so tenants are not charged to make those repairs.
What does general wear and tear look like? This can often feel extremely subjective, but when you have as much experience with move-out inspections as Santa Rosa property managers, you can work through the distinction pretty quickly.
- A good example of wear and tear is what furniture leaves behind on walls and carpets. If a sofa sits in the same place in the living room for a year or more, there will be indentations in the carpet. There may be scuff marks on the wall. That’s not damage. It’s just what happens.
- Tenant damage, however, goes beyond wear and tear and you can charge the security deposit for any damage that’s discovered and documented. Anything that results from a tenant’s abuse, misuse, or neglect will result in a charge against the security deposit. If there’s something a tenant should have done to prevent the home from getting damaged, you can charge the deposit.
Sometimes it’s hard to judge the difference between wear and tear and damage. If you did a thorough move-in inspection, you should get some help determining what you’re looking at. The move-in report documented the condition of your home before the tenants took possession. So, compare the condition to the condition now. Inspect the photos and take new photos. What do they show?
Documenting this inspection is critical. Not only do you need descriptive notes, but you also need photographs and if necessary, videos. By collecting that sort of documentation, you’re leaving little doubt that the damage is real and was caused by tenants. If your tenant disputes a charge to their security deposit, you’ll want to be able to prove your standing for making that deduction. Take a lot of photos and make sure they’re easy to compare to the photos you took during the move-in inspection.
Make Turnover Repairs for Your Santa Rosa Rental Property
After the property has been inspected and any damage has been documented, it’s time to schedule the work that needs to be done.
Get your vendors into the property to make repairs as quickly as possible. You’re moving fast because you want to re-rent the home right away. You also want to have an accurate record of costs, so that if you’re charging the security deposit, you can establish what exactly your costs were.
Have all maintenance taken care of, and consider whether you want to take this opportunity to make some improvements and upgrades. Fast, cost-effective renovations like new floors, fresh paint, and better landscaping can help you improve your rental value and attract better tenants. Remember that those upgrades cannot be charged to the security deposit.
Once all the work is done, have the property professionally cleaned. Then, you’re ready to begin marketing the home to new potential tenants.
Return Your Santa Rosa Tenant’s Security Deposit
California security deposit law requires you to return your tenant’s deposit within 21 days of move-out. When the tenants leave the property in excellent condition and you’re returning the full deposit, simply send it to their new address.
If you’re making deductions, make sure you indicate what you’re deducting for and why. You’ll want to include any invoices, receipts, or estimates to show that the amount you’re withholding is reasonable and valid. You don’t want to find yourself in a dispute with your tenant.
In some cases, your tenants may leave without providing a forwarding address. If your tenants do not give you their new address, you’re required to send the deposit to their last known address, which may be your own rental property.
If you have any questions about what you need to do before your tenants leave a property and you begin the turnover process, we’re happy to help you put together your own customized move-out checklist. Please contact us at Prestige Real Estate & Property Management. We manage homes in Sonoma County, including Santa Rosa, Windsor, Sebastopol, Petaluma, and Rohnert Park.