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Do THIS and Never Fight Over a Property Management Deposit Again

September 22, 2017 / by Brent Silberbauer

move-in-move-out-inspectionMuch of successful property management is getting qualified residents to rent out your property. But even when you get the sense that you are getting the best residents to move in, you still need to cover your bases when it comes to move-in and move-out paper work. 

Document Before and After

Property managers need to do a thorough job in documenting the exact condition of your rental before and after a resident moves out. If you currently don’t have a system for recording and filing move-in paper work, you need to get one, and fast. 

The reason you need an excellent and detailed move-in file is because it’s going to help so much when your resident moves out. Our company manages over 1,500 units and it’s a somewhat rare occurrence when a resident actually leaves a unit move-in-ready for the next person.

Typically, we need to hire professional cleaners, or do some touch up paint to prepare the unit for the next resident. We take the costs for the cleaning and maintenance out of the resident’s deposit, and that’s where the move-in paper work will come in handy. 

Often times people’s standards of cleanliness vary greatly. What one person sees as clean, another sees as dirty. Typically, a resident who has lived in a unit for a couple years is completely used to living in the unit and no longer sees the dirt. 

After they move out and you need to hire professional cleaners to turn the unit over you could get into a situation where the previous resident argues with you about the cleanliness of the apartment. If you have been in the property management industry for any amount of time you know how this goes: 

Past resident: “The blinds were cleaned!”

You: “No, they were still dirty, sorry.”

Past resident: “I’m going to take you to court.”

Ugh. This “your word vs. their word” argument is emotionally draining. Not only that, but it’s not a good defense in small claims court. So here’s how a little bit of work on the front end can save you a ton of hassle on the back end. 

Use an Inspection Software for move-in and move-out inspections

There are a ton a great apps out there for mobile inspections. Appfolio’s Mobile Inspection, Pruvan’s Inspection App, and our favorite, Inspectful. Basically, what you do is walk through the property and take move-in pictures to document the condition of the property upon move-in. We walk through with the new resident and they sign off on the move-in inspection. After the resident moves out, we again walk through the unit and take move-out pictures showing the true condition of how the resident left the unit. 

With just this short process we now have hard, undeniable evidence of what exactly the property looked like before and after the resident moved out.

When a resident calls up after we bill them for the turnover work we just calmly listen to them and email their move-in and move-out documents. If they still have an issue after that we can look at the pictures together. Typically, over 95% of the residents who receive these documents never call back.

Because of this process we have only been to small claims court one time in the past 11 years. The one time we did go to small claims court we won overwhelmingly because of all the documentation we had regarding the condition of the property. 

If you have not downloaded one of these apps, or if you have not developed your move-in/move-out documentation I suggest you get to work on that. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. A little bit of hard work on the front end is going to save so much time and energy on the back end.

What are your property management experiences when it comes to deposits? I would love to hear in the comments below. 

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Topics: Residential Property Management