There’s a proper procedure to follow when a tenant has moved out and the landlord is preparing to return the security deposit and complete a move-out inspection. To illustrate how we manage this process at Penny Realty, we are visiting one of our properties. We’re in a two-bedroom, one-bathroom rental condo to show you which basic principles absolutely need to be done correctly.
Offer a Pre Move-Out Inspection
In California, landlords are required to offer tenants a pre move-out inspection. In this case, our tenant declined that offer. It’s important that you offer it because it’s required by law. If you don’t offer this to your vacating tenants, you may not be able to make any deductions from the security deposit. If you try to make deductions, the tenant can dispute them and they won’t hold up in court.
Wear and Tear versus Damage
We’re looking at the bedroom for examples of wear and tear as well as damage. The tenant moved in two years ago, and the unit had brand new carpet, fresh paint, and it was perfectly clean. Today, after the tenant has moved out, it’s not in the same condition.
What can we charge the security deposit to repair or replace?
Stains on the carpet are outside of normal wear and tear. We’ll need to hire a professional carpet cleaner to remove them, and the cost will be deducted from the tenant’s security deposit. The marks we see on the walls from furniture placement are normal wear and tear, and we won’t charge the deposit for those. Damage might be a broken screen or broken window blinds.
If the carpet cleaners try to remove the carpet stains and are unsuccessful, we need to do some math to figure out how much we can charge to replace the carpet. The life expectancy for flooring is five to seven years, and for paint, it’s two to three years. So, based on the two-year lease period, we can charge for carpet replacement on a pro-rated basis. In this case, we could charge the tenants three-fifths of the amount of the carpet replacement.
Kitchen and Cleanliness
This tenant did not clean the property before vacating, and that will mean an automatic deduction. All of our properties are professionally cleaned before tenants move in. We also expect them to be professionally cleaned at move-out. If a tenant provides a receipt for this service, we won’t deduct the cost from the security deposit. Carpet cleaning is another automatic charge. Tenants can take care of it on their own, or we’ll have it done and paid for out of the deposit.
Understand Security Deposit Requirements
The most common pitfall for landlords is not returning the security deposit within the required 21 days of a tenant moving out. It’s important to follow this timeline, otherwise you could end up owing your tenant up to three times the amount of that security deposit. You also need to attach receipts to the deductions so you can substantiate any charges you’re making from the security deposit. You want to make sure you’re documenting that you’re only charging the amount that matches the damage. If there’s a stain in the living room carpet, you cannot use the deposit to re-carpet the entire home.
If you have any questions about how to handle the move-out inspection or the security deposit, please contact us at Penny Realty.