A rental walkthrough is a process of documenting the condition of a property before a tenant moves in and then again after the tenant moves out to check if there is any damage and if the tenant’s security deposit should be charged.
This is an obvious one but most landlords don’t take enough or know what to photograph. When it comes to photos, the more the better. In addition to all walls, flooring, light fixtures, ceiling fans, doors (front and back since doors can be damaged by people punching them or putting stickers on them), and windows with any window coverings, you should also photograph the following:
- Front: If the property has a mailbox, driveway (in case of oil stains), landscape, porch, light fixtures, and front door.
- Bedrooms: Closets (inside and out since tenants can damage doors or remove light fixtures).
- Kitchen: Inside and outside of drawers, cabinets, and appliances. The sink basin, faucet fixtures, underneath the sink, and all countertops.
- Bathrooms: Bathtub, toilet, medicine cabinet (inside as well), and towel racks.
- Exterior: Porch/patio, fence, landscape, back of the house, and sides. Outside, you should take pictures of the yard, screens on the windows (note if there are any rips or holes and if any are missing), and garage door (in case the tenant dents it).
- Systems: Water heater or furnace, etc. Photos help to document the make and model and the location to show the space in case a repair is needed.
If there are scratches on walls or floors, hold a measuring tape near it since it’s difficult to tell in a photo how big something is if it’s a blank wall or floor around it since there’s nothing showing its size.
It’s helpful to have photos of the “before” when there’s no damage so if something is damaged when the tenants move out, you can see in the photo that it wasn’t there when they moved in. Many landlords only take photos of existing damage before the tenants move in and later the tenants claim that the issue was already there but if it wasn’t then you might not have a picture.
Walkthrough starting from outside and talk about what you see as you go through the property. Having photos and video is good since if you just have a video, it can be difficult to find what you’re looking for in a timely manner without watching the entire video to find the section you’re searching for.
Run faucets and see if they leak and check under the faucets in cabinets to ensure there’s no leaking going on there. Look for evidence of water around the base of toilets since that can be an indication that the wax ring needs to be replaced. Run the washing machine, garbage disposal, and dishwasher.
Things to Look for When Tenants Move Out:
Just looking for damage is not enough since tenants can replace items and you won’t notice just by looking at it since it’s not damaged. In addition to obvious and common alterations the tenants do like painting walls or rooms, some tenants have replaced nice appliances with cheaper ones, nice ceiling fans with basic light fixtures, removed plants and/or added their own, or replaced window coverings with cheaper ones.
You should also look for oil spots on driveways or inside garages, missing tools if you left any gardening equipment behind, missing garbage cans, and any missing shelves or drawers in the refrigerator.
Know the difference between normal wear and tear, damage, and estimated useful life.
Some landlords want to charge tenants because the property doesn’t look the same as when they moved in, but a certain amount of normal wear and tear is expected, and tenants should not be charged for it. What condition the property was in to begin with and how long the tenants lived there will dictate how much they can be charged if there’s any damage when they move.
If you had brand new carpet when your tenants moved in and they lived there for ten years and the carpet needs to be replaced, this is normal. Carpet is not expected to last forever, especially in rentals where tenants are moving in and out more frequently than in owner-occupied homes.
Being familiar with laws regarding security deposits and what is considered damage versus normal wear and tear is paramount to being a good landlord. Contact us if you have any questions about what you can and cannot charge tenants.