Landlord/Tenant Checklist & Its Importance
by Alex Levy, Associate Attorney
The summer rental season has begun, prompting a post about a particular document that marks the beginning, and end, of many tenancies – the move-in/move-out checklist. The move-in/move-out checklist is a form that a tenant traditionally fills out to record the physical condition of the rented premises upon moving in, and that a landlord traditionally fills out to record the physical condition of the rented premises upon the tenant moving out. This form often receives attention in the context of the return of, or the withholding from, a tenant’s security deposit. Below are a few reasons why landlords and tenants may find this move-in/move-out checklist useful, as well as some considerations in filling out the form.
A landlord may utilize a move-out checklist to identify deficiencies at the premises following a tenant’s departure and calculate the extent that the tenant’s security deposit will be withheld, if any. A landlord may also use the move-out checklist as the procedural or documentary vehicle through which they restore the premises for the subsequent tenant – since the form illustrates the types of cleaning, repairs, and replacements that need to be made to return the unit to ‘move-in ready’ condition, it can just as readily serve as the checklist to turn the unit. A proactive landlord may also use the move-in checklist they receive from a new tenant as a way to identify, and remedy, potential deficiencies on the premises that the landlord may have failed to notice when they conducted the move-out checklist for the previous tenant.
A tenant who thoroughly fills out a move-in checklist upon taking possession of the premises, and who returns it promptly to their landlord, reduces the likelihood of encountering a misunderstanding with their landlord about the extent that the state of the property differed from move-in to move-out. This benefit manifests most relevantly in the form of a more likely return of the tenant’s security deposit. A new tenant also benefits from filling out a move-in checklist because the activity forces them to evaluate their newly rented premises in an amount of detail that they may not have otherwise done, which facilitates the immediate identification of any physical deficiencies. Such a tenant may then act quickly and request that their landlord make any remaining repairs that were identified on the move-in checklist, without drawing as much suspicion from the landlord about whether or not the damage preceded the new tenant’s occupation of the premises.
There are a few considerations that both a landlord and a tenant may want to take into account when filling out the move-in or move-out checklist, respectively. First, many appliances may not appear to lack functionality in plain view, so it is wise to test each of them to make sure that such items are in fact entirely operable. Second, certain deficiencies may warrant increased specificity – this may be achieved by describing the deficiency more articulately on the form or by taking pictures of the noted deficiency. Lastly, a reminder that communication is an important aspect of developing, maintaining, and ending a productive landlord-tenant relationship – mutual management of expectations may reduce the likelihood that potential disputes will flare up in the future.