The Importance of the Move-in/Move-out Checklist
September 26th, 2019 | By: Jen Wilburn, Esq.
For a landlord, the transition from one tenant to the next can sometimes be time consuming and expensive. It becomes especially difficult when the vacating tenant has caused damage to the unit. Although photos are the best way a landlord can document the condition of its property, as we previously advised (see our blog on this topic here), another useful tool is the Inventory Checklist, a/k/a the Move-in/Move-out Checklist.
Inventory checklists are used at both the start and the end of each tenancy so that the condition of the property can be documented and then compared to later if necessary. The checklist should include all things associated with the condition of the unit, such as the walls, window treatments, carpeting, doors, appliances, fixtures and even furniture, if provided by the landlord. This checklist is important because it helps the landlord determine the damage caused by the tenant to then help justify withholding their security deposit or aid in the pursuit of a post-possession collection action.
The checklist, especially at the time of move in, should not be looked upon as an adversarial exercise. On the contrary, it is a good opportunity for both the landlord and tenant to walk the unit and make sure they start the tenancy on the same page, very much like when one rents a car.
Tenants often note things that are minor or that could be viewed as “normal wear and tear”, such as scratches, dents, or stains. However, sometimes there could be a more legitimate issue noted. So, although the checklist is not considered a formal request for repairs, landlords should nonetheless be mindful of the conditions raised by the tenant and take steps to remedy them. After all, if there is a maintenance issue that needs immediate attention, it is better to know of it from the outset, so as to avoid even more costly repairs that could materialize if left unaddressed. Plus, this will help to promote a good rapport with the tenant and safeguard against any lingering animus.
As with most aspects of the landlord and tenant relationship, the checklist is also governed by statute. Both landlords and tenants have responsibilities that they need to adhere to. Though there is no specific statute regarding checklists in Ohio, it is good practice for landlords to still use them to help comport with the security deposit requirements. Therefore, landlords should have a procedure in place to ensure compliance.
When it comes time for the final walk through when the tenancy has ended, this also does not necessarily have to be combative. The checklist can be used to make sure there are no misunderstandings. If the end of the tenancy is more involuntary in nature, then the move-out checklist becomes even more vital as mentioned above to provide documentary support of a potential damages claim.
The Bottom Line: Regardless of how long a tenant leases a unit, the importance of the inventory checklist cannot be understated. Having good documentation and procedures in place is always helpful to hold the tenant accountable for the damages they cause.