Property Management Blog

Rental Property Move In and Move Out Inspections - Why do them?

Friday, November 6, 2020

Many property management companies do not offer much when it comes to inspections, and I find that peculiar. Maybe that's because there is a fair amount of time and labor involved. Maybe they do not know how to conduct them? At any rate, move in and move out inspections are vital, for the resident's sake, ours, and the property owner's sake.

Renting in General

Have you ever rented a car? I have several times, and I always giggle a little when they walk me around the car, in the dark and rain, showing any flaws or not. Then when I turn the vehicle back in, they do it again. The car rental employee is covering their six and making you aware that they are covering their six. At the same time, they are letting you know that you will be held responsible for any damage.

A move-in inspection on a rental property is similar, as is a move out inspection. However, here we're talking about (hopefully) a long term resident versus someone using a car for a day or two. The stakes are more significant too. What that means is that, even though we have dived elbow deep into these properties already, several times, the resident's perception is very much reality.

Move Out Inspections

In California, you must perform a move out inspection provided the resident vacating requests one. There are no ifs, and, or buts. On the other hand, you can set stipulations on these. 

Let me explain:

We set a legal scope of 5 to 14 days before vacating, during which time the outgoing resident can have their move out inspection. We make that very clear to our residents in the literature we send out. Even so, there is always one or two every couple of months that leave the property entirely, then expect to be there during the beginning of the rehab process while handing us back the keys. That. Isn't. Going. To. Work.

But wait, there's more...

A move out inspection can be informational, as we do it. You see, we will list things that will help the resident get the max they can back from their security deposit. Such as: be sure to mow the yard, put down seed it if there are bad spots, leave no trash or personal items behind. Clean this, that, or the other thing. You see, we WANT the resident to get back as much of their deposit as they can, and we will offer up tips on how to maximize this. Do nails holes need spackle? Here's how to do it right and NOT generate more cost by doing it incorrectly.

A few real-life examples:

We had a lady in my region who requested her move out inspection. I went out to the property, and she quizzed me on how to get her full deposit back. I went over it all, and she stated very clearly, she would have everything perfectly set. She was so very close! The only thing I found on the rehab walk was some spilled hot chocolate mix in a high kitchen cabinet. She was pretty short and probably never saw it there, way up high.

However, another resident of a different property got the same exact move out inspection and did absolutely nothing to prepare the property. There was a LOT of cleaning and wall patches that needed doing, and we had to charge them a large sum of money.

A third example is the people who forego their move out inspection. In that case, we really don't have the opportunity to help them. They miss out on the opportunity to know our objective as far as the readiness of the property. This scenario seldom ends well for the resident!

The resident is moving in - how is a move-in inspection different?

When we rehab a property, we do not bake cakes, nor do we take showers. Nor do our contractors. In other words, there are several items we test, like everything, but we do not use each household item long-term.

However, the newly moved-in resident uses all of the household items, for real, and they will inevitably find items that need attention. On the move-in inspection, we take down the sign and go room by room with the resident. We will note anything which needs correction. Much of what we markdown is to assure the new resident that they will not be held responsible for something they are not responsible for at the end of the lease.

But wait, again, there's more

This inspection has more uses than just that, as well. You see, by our mere presence at the property, it signals that 1) we care, and 2) we know this property. That is a lot different from, say, a resident moving in and feeling like only they, alone, know the property's ins-and-outs. If you only knew how often I hear about people who moved into a place and never saw the landlord or property management. Roughly the same number of people have stated, "I always took care of all the repairs myself." That runs a cold shudder down my spine. You see, I did the same, and I was terrible at it. In hindsight, I probably cost the owner of the last rental I lived in more than I saved them.

It's about a connection and more

You know, people will ride with you a long way provided they are kept informed, that they know you're listening, and there is a connection.
 Not every property can be made into a "like new" condition. That is not even a realistic expectation. That requires, I dunno, magic wands, and fairy dust, all of which are exceedingly scarce.
 However, we can take a property from "needing serious work" (and well beyond) to habitable (and well beyond). At the same time, each property may have flaws when a resident moves in and will likely have flaws when said resident moves out. On our end, we want the resident to know that we hear them, act on that which we can, and inform them on items outside the scope of a property rehab.


Other Uses of Move-In Inspections:

Sad as it is, I have heard an awful lot of times that a particular item, like a broken door, was "this way when I move in..." Sometimes, after doing research, the resident is absolutely right. The point is, if a move-in inspection is conducted correctly, as well as previous rehab inspections, we have this data already. The key is knowing how to conduct them correctly. And we do.

Also, there is another purpose, and that is correcting perceptions. The carpet may have wear, but it ought to be clean. A tile on the kitchen counter may have a crack in it, and we have documented that. "You will not be responsible for [insert item here]. We do have it on film."

 Yet there is another aspect to this as well. That would be the "gimmebecauseiwant" folks. Example: "I want new flooring because I want new flooring."
 "Well, Mr./Ms. Resident, I'd love to accommodate that request, and I know how you feel. However,  having worked with the property owner and contractor on this rehab, we found that, while there is wear, the flooring is serviceable and is not an item the property owner can afford at the moment. Perhaps we can address this later, say, at the annual inspection."

You see, there are multiple people involved in each property rehab. There is a property management company, the property owner, multiple contractors, the outgoing resident, and the incoming resident. Each does their part. In each phase of a property rehab, from vacancy to move in, the resident ought to avail themselves and use our inspections. I mean, shoot, there is no cost, and at the end of the day, it could save them a ton of money.