Move-In Inspection
Upon move-in, most landlords require that tenants pay a security deposit, which is cash that a landlord may use to account for damages to the property or other tenant failures. By completing a move-in inspection, both landlords and tenants can resolve the condition of a rental unit when the tenants take possession.

Move-Out Inspection
The goal of a move-out inspection is to evaluate the rental unit’s condition when tenants vacate the property. This info is compared to the details provided in the move-in inspection and is often the grounds for security deposit deductions.

Goal of the Inspection

The immediate goal of a move-out inspection is so that a landlord can verify the state of the property. It allows the landlord to resolve if damage has been done to the unit while in the use of the renter. Damages may reduce the amount of any returned security deposits. Also, if the cost to fix the damage is above the value of the deposit, the tenant will need to make up that sum.

If this assessment is performed before a tenant’s move, the landlord can present the tenant with a list of the deductions taken from their security deposit. This will also allow the tenant to make required restorations to the unit before moving out. This walk-through inspection is also done so that the landlord understands what must be repaired before the next tenant moves into the property.

Timing and Scheduling a Move Out Inspection

A move-out inspection happens at the end of a tenant’s lease and when the tenant moves out of the rental unit. The precise time when this inspection can take place will differ depending on your state regulations.

In some states, the inspection must take place on the date of the tenant’s move out or two to three days after. Waiting until a tenant has removed all of their possessions from the unit means no damage can be hidden, and the landlord can see any potential problems.

A move-out inspection can be accomplished anywhere from three days to two weeks before a tenant’s move-in in other states. This is done to allow the tenant to make any restorations to the unit before they leave, so they have a possibility of receiving their full security deposit back.

In states where a move-out inspection is required by law, the landlord usually has to inform the tenant when the review happens. The landlord must serve the tenant with written notice of this inspection, informing the tenant of their right to be present at the inspection and the date and time the inspection will take place.

In states such as Georgia and Kentucky, the landlord will first inspect the unit and write down any potential deductions from the security deposit. The tenant is then given or sent this list and has a specific time to review the unit. The tenant can either agree or dispute the charges.
Meanwhile, landlords in Arizona and California must perform a walk-through inspection.

State Laws and Inspections

Not all states require a move-out inspection. You should review your state’s security deposit regulations to determine if you are bound to conduct this inspection. For instance, landlords in Alabama and Colorado are not required to perform a walk-through inspection.

Landlord Benefits of Move Out Inspections

  1. Determine Repair Costs: The move-out inspection permits a landlord to determine the repairs needed and the approximate expense.
  2. Avoid Disputes: Making the tenant aware of the potential deductions that will be taken from their security deposit can help stop disputes. The tenant will understand what to expect and not be surprised by the deductions.
  3. Tenant Fixes Damages: Inspecting before a tenant moves out allows the tenant to repair the damages so that deductions are not taken from their security deposit.

Tenant’s Benefits of Inspections

  1. Fix Damages: A move-out inspection allows a tenant to repair damages they did not recognize existed.
  2. Get Full Security Deposit Returned: If the tenant repairs the damages the landlord has noted before moving out, the tenant will likely have their full security deposit returned.
  3. Avoid Disputes: The move-out inspection notifies the tenant of the deductions that will be taken from the tenant’s security deposit so that the tenant is not shocked when they do not receive the full security deposit back.

What’s Normal Wear and Tear?

Normal wear and tear can be hard to define, and the law on this matter varies by state. Normal wear and tear include the type of wear that would occur no matter who lived in the space. Slight wear on carpets, insignificant scratches on floors, and a dull shower or tub are normal wear and tear. Suppose you struggle to distinguish between normal wear and tear and property damage.

In that case, Merriam Webster defines normal wear and tear as “normal depreciation,” meaning that if someone lives in a rental, it will appear lived in by the time they move out. To paraphrase Georgia law, landlords cannot fix up their rental property at the tenant’s expense. You must return the tenant’s security deposit if there is no property damage beyond normal wear and tear.

Who Should be Present During the Move-Out Inspection?

If feasible, the landlord and tenant should be present to walk the unit together as they go through the move-in/move-out inspection checklist (also known as a walk-through checklist). During each review, both parties should document the state of everything in the unit, from appliances to carpet condition. The landlord and tenant should both sign and keep copies of the checklist to stop disagreements regarding the security deposit return.

By having the tenant at the move-out inspection, you can guarantee that they know what is deemed damage versus normal wear and tear. Doing it together with a proper checklist will help the tenant comprehend what they are being charged for (if anything) and why.

How Can I Make the Process Go Smoothly?

Both the landlord and tenant should take photographs or videos of the unit when moving in and again to prove a clean, damage-free space or potential problems. This is particularly helpful if the tenant cannot be present for the move-out inspection. Providing the tenant with a to-do list of items to clean before their move-out date may also help make the procedure go smoothly. This way, there won’t be any shocks when you charge them for leaving the fridge full of expired meals or the toilet left uncleaned.

Is My Landlord Required to Perform Move-In & Move-Out Inspections?

On one extreme, if a landlord plans to remove any portion of the security deposit, some states require a landlord to perform move-out inspections and notify a tenant of the charges that will be made. On the other hand, some states only suggest conducting such inspections, and landlords have more freedom in selecting security deposit deductions.

What Else Can I Do as a Tenant?

Taking photos of the rental unit when you move in can be quite useful in establishing the condition of the apartment and help safeguard against unnecessary move-out charges.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Because landlord-tenant laws differ by state, and in some cases, even by county, a local landlord-tenant lawyer is in the best position to advise you of applicable housing regulations and to notify you of more specific move-in and move-out procedures.