When it’s time to move out of a rental, it’s not quite as simple as pack up and go. You’re excited about your next big step, of course, but don’t let that cloud your vision. Your landlord will want to inspect the apartment thoroughly before returning your security deposit so it’s helpful to get ahead of the game. Having a tenant move-out checklist ensures that you’ve done everything you should for a smooth exit! Walk through the steps below and you should be ready to move out of your rental property, and get your security deposit back.
1. Review your rental agreement or lease thoroughly.
Most of us sign our lease and then tuck it away, never to be seen again. Now is the time to find it and refresh your memory. Are there any responsibilities or clauses in there that you need to take care of before you move? Do you need to fill holes from wall decorations? What are the expectations of how clean the space will be left? Are there conditions around getting your security deposit back? What is the time period within which your landlord has agreed to return your deposit? Fully prepared with all of this information, you will be able to communicate with your landlord about your plans for moving out with no stress.
2. Give your landlord official notice.
Once you are clear about the terms of your lease, give your landlord official notice about your plans for moving out of your rental. The agreement likely states how much notice they require if you are month-to-month. If you are “breaking” your lease by terminating it early, you’ll need to let them know your plans to fill the vacancy for the remainder of your lease term if that is allowed. If they don’t allow subleasing and are unwilling to cancel the lease, you might be on the hook to pay rent for the remainder of your contract! Make sure you have examined all of your options before you continue down this tenant checklist.
3. Inspect your rental for damages.
Your rental is bound to show the wear and tear of everyday life, especially if you’ve lived there for a while. But if any significant damages have occurred you will need to do some repairs. Making small repairs and doing a little deep cleaning can go a long way to getting your security deposit back. Consider:
- Filling holes in the wall
- Repainting the walls to their original color if you changed it
- Replacing burned or heavily tarnished drip trays on the stovetop
- Degreasing backsplashes or walls around the stove
- Making sure the plumbing is in good order, i.e. drains flow properly
- Deep clean the floors if they have accumulated dirt or stains, including possibly renting a carpet cleaner if necessary. This is sometimes required in rental agreements.
- Replace anything that you have broken such as lighting fixtures, mirrors, or furniture
4. Double check that all utility bills are paid.
Because some utility companies have billing cycles that don’t coincide with the first of the month, you may need to call the company and request to pay a partial month. The electric company might need to come check your meter, for example, so make sure you call about this well in advance and don’t wait until moving day! Internet, cable, and water companies should also be notified if applicable. Your landlord has the right to withhold your security deposit in order to pay off any outstanding bills, so avoid this by getting them all taken care of!
5. Move all of your belongings out.
This step can take a while if you haven’t already started to declutter your home Your landlord probably doesn’t want you to leave that couch that you’re getting rid of, so you will need to make arrangements to sell, donate, or leave it for curbside pickup. Make sure you look through all of the cupboard, drawers and closets, basement or attic storage. Pull out and find a destination for every little thing that wasn’t there before you moved in. If you are hiring professional movers, they can help you with this packing process too. This will clear the way for you, or a cleaning company, to give the rental a full deep clean if that’s what your lease requires. Some landlords have their own cleaning company that will come after you leave, so make sure you are clear on expectations.
6. Document the state of your rental property.
Document your cleaning and repairs as you prepare to move out of your rental. This is especially important if your lease requires that you steam clean the carpets or have a professional cleaner do a deep clean of the whole place. Keep receipts and take before and after photos of any professional repairs you have done, and take plenty of photos of the entire property after everything is all cleaned. This could prove valuable if there are any disputes with the landlord about your security deposit!
7. Schedule your final walk-through inspection.
Your landlord will walk through your rental property with you to make sure you are leaving it in good condition. This is when you have the opportunity to share about any repairs or upgrades that were made, or discuss any concerns the landlord may have. Hopefully you can come to an agreeable solution to any issues that are discovered. Remember, you have all of your documentation to show that you put in the work to clean the place up!
If all goes well, you should receive your deposit within 2-3 weeks depending on state law. It’s onward and upward to enjoy settling into your new home!