Each week, we answer a reader’s question about renting their properties – from first-time landlords needing pointers about contracts to experienced owners with technical queries. Aunt Agatha, Rentify’s agony aunt, is here to help! 

Q: How can I ensure a smooth tenant check-out? 
A: Whether you’re saying goodbye to your new best friend or celebrating seeing the back of a troublesome rogue, you should always oversee the tenant check out professionally. You need to ascertain whether the property is in an acceptable state and, if not, how much of the deposit should be kept. If you produced a thorough inventory at the start of the tenancy then the check out should be fairly straightforward. Here are five things to be aware of. 

  1. Start Early

A few weeks before check out, get in touch to remind the tenant that you will be coming over at a convenient time to check on the property’s condition. This gives them a chance to review their copy of the inventory and make sure that the property is still in the same good condition it was in at the start.

  1. Reasonable wear and tear

It is important to remember that the property will never be in the exact same state as at the start of the tenancy. You can’t charge a tenant for the natural deterioration that happens to bits and pieces in every house. However, if something has been actively damaged, then that’s a different matter. If the sofa is looking a little grubby and frayed, then that falls under the heading of “fair wear and tear”. If you arrive to find one of the sofa arms falling off, that’s when you can charge them for it. If there’s a red wine stain, the best course of action would be to charge the tenants for a professional cleaning.

  1. Ask your tenant to be there

It will speed up the process if your tenant is in the house, or waiting somewhere nearby, when you are performing the check out. If something was left in a condition that you consider unacceptable, it could be explained to them in person with use of the inventory. If they disagree with your decision, a discussion could take place there and then. This is when pictures taken at the start of the tenancy could be very useful.

  1. Wait…

…until the last minute. Try to do the check out on the actual day that the tenant is moving out. The property will be as empty as possible, limiting any unnoticed or hidden damage. It also ensures that the tenant has taken all of their belongings with them (and hopefully none of yours). Definitely do not sign anything until the tenant has completely moved out just in case that final bookcase puts a hole in the wall!

  1. Take time to assess damage

If you think you need time to assess any damages and the corresponding costs to clean, repair or replace items, take it. Get quotes from the relevant people and remember replacements should be ‘like for like’: you can’t charge for a plush new ergonomic chair if they broke a bog-standard wooden one. Nor can you charge them for a professional clean of the whole house if they only left a stain on the living room floor. If you do end up in a dispute over the deposit, you can take a look at our advice for dealing with it.

Rentify is an online letting agent for landlords, established in 2012. Learn more about our services here. You may contact the editor of this story at editor@rentify.com.