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A move-out inspection is required when the lease period has ended and your tenant has moved out. This is your opportunity to thoroughly inspect the home and determine its current condition. You’ll need to conduct this inspection so you can make notes of any repairs that will be needed before you re-rent your Santa Cruz property, and you’ll also want to see if there is any damage that needs to be covered by your tenant’s security deposit.

During your move-out inspection process, make sure you’re paying attention to the legal requirements covered by California law. We have a few guidelines that can help you conduct a successful move-out inspection.

Documenting Your Property’s Condition

Notes and photos will be critical to the thorough documentation of your property’s condition. Don’t worry about taking too many pictures or gathering too many notes – the more information you have, the better protected you will be. Include photos of each room as well as the appliances, windows, doors, floors, and ceilings in those rooms. Take pictures of any outdoor spaces and open drawers, cabinets, and closets to get pictures of those spaces. Don’t forget the sinks, the tubs, and the toilets. Your notes should explain and support the pictures. Write down everything you notice so it’s easy to make decisions when you’re considering the security deposit and any potential damage.

Compare the Move-Out to the Move-In

Compare the condition of your property after the tenant moves out to the condition of your property before that same tenant moved in. You can use the photos and notes you just took to the photos and notes you took during your move-in inspection. This will show you whether there is any damage or if there’s simply wear and tear, which is normal and expected.

Offer Tenants a Pre Move-Out Inspection

You are legally required to include your tenants in the move-out inspection process. California law requires that you offer them the opportunity to be present as you inspect your Santa Cruz property. This isn’t a requirement and the tenants don’t have to agree to it; but landlords must offer it. When tenants want to attend the pre move-out inspection, schedule a time in advance and go through the property as you would during a normal move-out inspection. Point out any damages or cleaning items that they will be responsible for fixing or paying to fix.

Wear and tear is not a tenant’s responsibility. This is something that property owners must cover, so make sure you understand the difference. Carpets and paint have specific lifespans, for example. As a landlord, you should expect to replace your carpets every seven years and your paint every three years, regardless of the tenant who is living there.

Determining Security Deposit Returns

After you have conducted your inspectionAfter you have conducted your inspection and compared the condition of your home at move-in to move-out, you’ll need to decide whether the tenants will get their full deposit back. If you’re going to withhold money, make sure you document why you’re retaining funds and what they are being spent to repair. Be fair and be reasonable. We see a lot of landlords lose a lot of money by pushing the envelope with security deposit deductions. If you wind up in court, things might not go your way.

If you have any questions about move-out inspections or how to handle the security deposit, please contact us at Portola Property Management.