1. Use a Checklist
Most apartments and vacation rentals will supply you with a move in/move out checklist. This is often the same checklist managers use when inspecting a unit post move out. Walk through your new home before moving furniture in and look for any damage to the interior and exterior. Take pictures with your smart phone and save them in a specific album on your phone so they’re easy to find. It’s a good idea to make note of any preexisting damages and report them to the landlord.
2. Read Your Lease
Many tenants never actually read their lease, or if they do it’s only at a glance. Lease agreements are required to explain what deductions can be made to your security deposit before it is returned. Many places will require professional carpet cleaning, but you can rent professional carpet cleaning equipment from most grocery or home improvement stores. Some leases will be generic and allows the landlord to withhold your deposit for anything “beyond normal wear and tear,” while other leases are specific in what you would be charged for. In California the only reasons a landlord can withhold rent is for unpaid rent, cleaning, damage repair or furniture replacement. In New York these deductions have to be reported to the tenant in a reasonable time. Most all deposit refunds are returned within thirty days of move out.
Make sure to clean everything, yes, everything. There’s the obvious: vacuum, mop, dust and sweep, but tenants moving out should also make the exterior of the home look presentable. Don’t forget to clean out the fridge, bleach the bathroom grout, and vacuum exhaust fans. Take out screws or nails and putty the holes. Most homeowners keep a small can of paint in the bathroom or garage for patching walls. If you keep your rental clean while you live there you will have a lot less work to do getting the home ready for move out.
4. Turn Off Utilities
If your utilities were not included in your rent you will need to make sure the services are turned off before moving out. Any utility charges the landlord receives before your lease end date could be deducted from your security deposit. Make sure not to leave the air conditioning running, turn off all the water and electricity.
Request a move out inspection with management or your landlord. Ask them to walk through the home and make note of anything you may have missed. In your lease a specific time should be listed for move out to be completed by. Try scheduling a move out inspection well before this time.