Tenant check out is the time when you make sure that the property and its contents are in an acceptable condition prior to the return of the deposit. Much will hinge on the thoroughness of your original inventory. Assuming it to be fairly watertight, here are our tips on ensuring a stress-free conclusion:
Give the tenant time and information: Two weeks before the tenant check out date, get in touch to ensure they know how the procedure will work and to give them time to get the property in order. As well as the original inventory they should have information on what is expected at check out: that the property should be in the same clean condition (allowing for ‘fair wear and tear’) as when the tenancy began, along with your specific requirements.
Make sure the tenant is present: Some landlords may think it preferable to go through the property alone while the tenant is out to avoid the risk of the tenant distracting you (or persuading you to be too lenient!). But if you do the check out alone and send the results (including details of damage and costs) to the tenant, you risk wasting time and effort waiting for a reply and/or arranging to discuss any issues. The best course may be to make sure the tenant is in the property, but request that they wait while you do the check alone. Make thorough notes and only go through them with the tenant at the end. This way you’ll increase the likelihood of coming to an agreement on the spot.
‘Fair wear and tear’ or damage? Tenants cannot be held responsible for ‘fair wear and tear’ (e.g. a carpet fraying naturally over time) but are liable for damage (a big red wine spill on that same carpet). There will be borderline cases and our advice is to be lenient if possible: it will probably save you time and help your reputation while not lumbering you with significant costs. If there is damage that needs to be compensated for, try to be reasonable. You cannot make it an excuse to improve the property at the tenant’s expense. So in the case of the red wine spill, you cannot charge the tenant for a new carpet, which would bring you a net gain, but you can charge for a professional clean.
Don’t sign the check out until the very end! Wait until the tenant has moved everything out and is ready to move themselves. This avoids the risk of damage, theft or the tenant dumping a load of unwanted stuff on your hands after the check out has been signed.