How to Create an Ironclad Tenant Move-In Checklist for 2021

Moving in time is exciting for both landlords and tenants. After going through a thorough screening process, the tenant finally has a great place to live and the landlord begins receiving cash flow from the rent. 

To help ensure that turning over the home goes as smoothly as possible, landlords use a move-in checklist to set the right expectations with the new tenant. 

 

What is a Move-In Checklist?

A move-in checklist for landlords is used to report and record the condition of the property the day a tenant moves in. 

Also known as a rental walk-through checklist, the move-in checklist is normally divided by room – such as living room, kitchen, bedrooms, and bathrooms – and includes items found in each roof, like appliances in the kitchen or the toilets and shower in a bathroom.

The checklist should be prepared in the presence of the tenant, signed by both parties, and included as an addendum to the standard rental agreement with the tenant receiving a copy. 

It is used as a guide for the landlord and tenant to identify any open issues together and to hold the tenant responsible for any damage beyond normal wear and tear when they leave after the lease ends.

 

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Benefits of Using a Move-In Checklist

A landlord move-in checklist is beneficial to both the landlord and the tenant.

Tenant

Moving day can be hectic for tenants, making it easy to overlook the little things that can become big issues over time. Using a move-in checklist when the tenant takes possession of the property:

  • Helps to keep the tenant focused on the condition of the property.
  • Acts as evidence of the original property condition if the landlord tries to withhold all or part of the tenant security deposit for damage that was already there when the tenant moved in.
  • Lets the tenant assess the condition of the rental and request repairs for items that may have been overlooked when the property was being made rent-ready. 

Landlord

The move-in checklist should be kept in the tenant file to document the condition of the rental when the tenant took possession of the home:

  • Hold tenants accountable for damage beyond normal wear and tear by documenting the existing condition of the property.
  • Reduces the risk of disputes between the landlord and tenant regarding pre-existing damage, especially important if the property is sold to a new owner before the tenant’s lease expires.
  • Allows for the property return of the tenant security deposit, and justifies any hold-backs to pay for damage caused by the tenant during the time they occupied the property.

 

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How to Write a Landlord Move-In Checklist

A landlord move-in checklist should include the following sections:

Property and tenant information

Include the landlord and tenant names, property address, and date the move-in checklist was completed. If the home is part of a multifamily building, include the unit number and size of the dwelling.

General inspection items

Condition of items found throughout the house, including doors and windows, window coverings and blinds, hardware and locks, floors and ceilings, and lighting and electrical outlets. Also, be sure to verify smoke detectors and fire alarms are in good working condition.

Kitchen

Check that appliances provided by the landlord such as the refrigerator and oven are functioning normally. Ensure the exhaust fan over the oven is operating as intended, that the water flow and drainage from sinks and faucets is adequate, and that there are no signs of leaks from fixtures or under the sink.

Dining area

Inspect walls, ceilings, baseboards, and floor coverings to assess their overall condition. Make sure all electrical outlets have covers, and that lighting fixtures have bulbs and are working properly.

Living room

Inspect flooring for existing signs of wear and tear, such as carpeting worn by foot traffic or existing discoloration in a hardwood floor. 

Bedrooms

Verify locking mechanisms on windows are working, and document the condition of shades and blinds. Check that each closet door opens and closes properly and that there are not existing dents or holes in the walls behind each door.

Bathrooms

Ensure the water pressure in the shower and bathtub is normal, and that all fixtures show no evidence of leaks. Document the condition of mirrors, towel racks, and toilet seats. Check that exhaust fans and lighting fixtures are working, and that electrical outlets are properly covered.

 

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States That Require a Move-In Checklist

According to the legal resource website Nolo.com there are 14 states where the landlord must provide the tenant with a move-in statement on the condition of a rental property:

  1. Arizona
  2. Georgia
  3. Hawaii
  4. Kansas
  5. Kentucky
  6. Maryland
  7. Massachusetts
  8. Michigan
  9. Montana
  10. Nevada
  11. North Dakota
  12. Virginia
  13. Washington
  14. Wisconsin

However, it’s a good idea to use a move-in checklist even if the state the rental property is in doesn’t require one. 

A good landlord move-in checklist can eliminate disputes with the tenant, encourage the tenant to take better care of the home, and justify withholding all or part of the tenant security deposit to pay for damages beyond normal wear and tear.

 

Best Practices for Documenting the Property Condition

Use abbreviations to record the condition of the property when the tenant moves in, and make any additional notes as needed. If there are questions are about the level of detailed reporting needed, ask whether someone reading the report who wasn’t present when the move-in checklist was prepared would understand the notes:

Common abbreviations

  • NA = Not Applicable
  • SC = Scratched
  • DT = Dented
  • CP = Chipped
  • ST = Stained
  • NC = Needs Cleaning
  • NSC = Needs Spot Cleaning
  • NR = Needs Repair
  • NM = Needs Maintenance
  • NP = Needs Painting
  • NSP = Needs Spot Painting
  • RP = Needs Replacing

 

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Preparing the Property for a New Tenant

The time between the old tenant moving out and a new tenant moving is known in the rental property business as a tenant turn or tenant turnover. As a rental property owner, it’s important to minimize the length of time between tenant turns in order to maximize cash flow from rental income received.

Once the tenant has given their notice to vacate, schedule a property inspection two weeks before they leave. The purpose of this inspection is to identify items that may need to be repaired, and ensure that vendors are scheduled to begin working immediately after the move-out inspection with the tenant is completed.

A previous tenant will usually leave the property in good condition, but there are still things a landlord should do to prepare the property for a new tenant:

  • Complete a move-out checklist with the previous tenant, using their original move-in checklist as a reference guide.
  • Advise the previous tenant of any damages beyond normal wear and tear that may result in part of the security deposit being withheld, and include a written list of documented expenses along with a check for their remaining security deposit returned.
  • Collect keys and garage door openers from the previous tenant, then rekey the locks and change the garage door code for the safety and security of the new tenant.
  • Make any needed repairs while the property is vacant, and take the opportunity to do any planned updating, such as installing new appliances or replacing worn out window coverings.
  • Paint any walls, baseboards, or door trim as needed, ensuring that the new paint matches the existing colors in the house.
  • Have the interior and exterior of the property professionally cleaned, including carpeting and flooring, to help extend the useful life of the carpet.

When the work is done and the home is ready for the new tenant, have your property manager go through each item on the move-in checklist. The cleaner the move-in checklist is when it is completed in the presence of the tenant, the better the tenant’s first impression will be.

 

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Where to Find a Free Move-In Checklist

Here are five places online to download a free move-in checklist:

  • Zillow Move-In Checklist for Landlords and Tenants
  • eForms Move-in / Move-out Checklist Landlord-Tenant
  • RentalLease.com Landlord/Tenant Move-in Move-out Checklist
  • Word Templates Online Move-in / Move-out Checklist for Landlord-Tenant
  • FreeForms Move-In / Move-Out Checklist for Landlord & Tenant

 

Final Thoughts on Move-In Checklists

The purpose of a move-in checklist for landlords is to document that the property has been inspected by both the landlord and the tenant in the presence of one another. 

The checklist identifies open items that need maintenance or repairs and records the condition of the property when the tenant takes possession. 

A move-in checklist lets the tenant know what condition the property should be in when they leave, and also reduces the risk of the landlord trying to charge the tenant for damage existing prior to the tenant moving in.

 

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This article, and the Roofstock Blog in general, is intended for informational and educational purposes only, and is not investment, tax, financial planning, legal, or real estate advice. Roofstock is not your advisor or agent. Please consult your own experts for advice in these areas. Although Roofstock provides information it believes to be accurate, Roofstock makes no representations or warranties about the accuracy or completeness of the information contained on this blog.
Jeff Rohde

Author

Jeff Rohde

Jeff has over 25 years of experience in all segments of the real estate industry including investing, brokerage, residential, commercial, and property management. While his real estate business runs on autopilot, he writes articles to help other investors grow and manage their real estate portfolios.

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