Bill Gray – The Landlord Doctor

Insider Advice on Collecting Tenant Debt and Screening Tenants

Wait Before You Hand Over Keys to New Tenant

Posted by Bill Gray on September 16, 2009

[tweetmeme source=”your_twitter_name” only_single=false after a tenant signs the lease, the landlord immediately hands over the keys.  At this point, many landlords miss a critical opportunity to gain profit and minimize the risk that the tenant will eventually leave owing money.

In 30-40% of the tenant debt files I review, either the move-in inspection was done poorly, or not done at all.  This makes it difficult to accurately document any damages the tenant may cause while he or she lives in your rental.  In turn, this makes recovering the repair costs all the more difficult.

Often a landlord will simply hand the tenant a move-in checklist and say, “Let me know if you find anything wrong.”  After the lease is signed, the landlord and all tenants who signed the lease must inspect the rental unit together.

With everyone present, it is very important to meticulously inspect and document the entire unit inside and out.  Perform the inspection with your new tenant by your side.  Do not just let everyone wander around the rental doing their own inspection.  Some landlords go as far as using a urine stick to show there are no pet urine stains in the carpet.   I encourage you to check for pet urine before move-in, and I highly recommend it upon move-out.

Make sure your move-in/move-out inspection sheet has room to document the condition of every area of your rental.  It also must have spaces where you and your tenant sign the checklist both during move-in and move-out.

Take pictures of the general condition of the rental, especially of any area that may be disputed when the tenant moves out. Digital cameras make storing these photos very easy.

By inspecting the rental together and both signing the inspection sheet, you are sending a very clear message to your tenant without speaking the words: “I expect you to take care of my rental unit; if you don’t, you will be held accountable.”

Before you hand over the keys, perform a detailed move-in inspection with your tenant.  You will increase your profit by minimizing the risk of debt when the tenant moves out.

Email me your tenant debt issues and I will try to help.

Bill Gray

Copyright 2009



6 Responses to “Wait Before You Hand Over Keys to New Tenant”

  1. Diane Johnson said

    Great points. I confess, I have not always taken the time to inspect the apartment with my new tenants. You are right, this is something I need to make a priority. Thanks, Diane

  2. Heather said

    Love the article! In fact we do exactly what is stated in this article with exception of the ‘urine stick’ which I think is an excellent idea! Our inspection sheet is 6 pages long, lists room by room, and everything in it. I do have one question though. What if the tenant moving out refuses to sign the move out inspection? Will it still hold up in court? We have had situations where we have had to write, “Tenant refused to sign” on the sheet.
    Thanks so much for your WONDERFUL articles!


    • Bill Gray said

      Hi Heather,
      I am glad you find the articles useful. Tenants do sometimes refuse to sign and often are not present at all for the inspection. You never know what will hold up in court, but I recommend you do exactly what you are doing now by writing “Tenant Refused to Sign”. The photos you take of the unit are even more valuable in these situations. It is also a good idea to have a colleague inspect with you as a witness, and also for safety purposes, when you suspect a difficult inspection.

      Thanks for the question and keep up the good work. Let me know if I can be of any help.


      Bill Gray

  3. I don’t know If I said it already but …This blog rocks! I gotta say, that I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read….

  4. Mathew M. said

    I sit as a judge on Montgomery County’s Landlord Tenant Commission (a board set up by the County as an alternative to civil courts for landlord tenant disputes). A move-in inspection report is the best evidence that you can submit to me on the condition of the property at the beginning of the tenancy.

  5. Debbie McLellan said

    Hi,I’m just a GOOD TENANT who helped my landlords evict some tenants from hell out of their house. Without sites like these I could not have done it.I wish to thank you for all the advice. I have training in investigations so I used this in my documentation for the case, pictures,times, dates, places,audio tapes for the noise, etc. and it helped. However I was shocked when the company that was hired to take it to arbitration told me it was the first time that she had received everything so perfectly documented and ready for court. She said people had no idea how to do it or they didn’t have time so they just threw together some stuff that they had and that was why so many lost their case and their money. So my Question to you is this. Would any Landlords hire someone for a reasonable fee to document and put it all together for them, so they win in court and can you claim the fee at the end of the year.

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