The move-out process begins each time a tenant gives notice or if you decide to terminate a renter’s lease. The process plays out whether it’s organized or not, but it’s typically smoother when planned.
The move-out process occurs in multiple stages. Sometimes it’s not very even. Tenants refuse to vacate, and some leave behind massive damage to the unit.
When there’s damage, you have to cover the repairs with your tenant’s security deposit and that may inflame an already-angry tenant.
Obviously, you can’t control every aspect of a tenant’s move-out, but you can design a system that makes the process easier to manage. If you’ve ever experienced an inconvenient, stressful, or downright frustrating move-out, the following six tips will help.
1. Set an example of open communication from day one
Tenants will relate to you according to the way you interact with them, starting with your initial encounter. Whether you speak to a potential tenant for the first time on the phone or in person, set a good example for maintaining open communication from your first point of contact.
For example, go out of your way to let people know you are there for them, no matter what. Make them aware you want to be informed about any issues, including necessary repairs and maintenance.
Make it a point to tell them explicitly that you don’t regard these types of reports as complaints or inconveniences because you want to make sure their space is safe and livable.
Many people have experienced landlords who don’t want to make repairs and leave their tenants high and dry. Over time, they stop communicating, even with good landlords.
When tenants feel their landlord is on their side, they’re more willing to communicate about problems as they arise. You will need all the communication you can get when move-out occurs.
2. Create a written process for lease terminations
Consistency will create success in any area of life, especially when you’re a landlord. It will also keep you out of legal trouble by preventing you from committing small but crucial errors.
During a tenant eviction, even tiny mistakes can cause you to lose a case if it ends up in court, and your tenant might win the right to stay on your property.
Create a thorough written process for lease terminations whether they’re initiated by you or the tenant. A written process makes it easier to move ahead without having to think.
You might not think clearly when you’re frustrated or upset with a tenant you’ve just had to evict. A written process makes it more likely you’ll do everything according to plan, without skipping any vital steps.
When your process is executed intentionally, everything you do will more likely play out by the book. A written procedure also allows you to delegate some of those tasks to other people more readily.
For example, you can look over your list of administrative tasks and hand some of those off to an employee or contractor. When you have a written procedure, you’ll also have the documentation others will require to do a thorough job on your behalf.
3. Strictly follow your written move-out process
Once you have a written process for a tenant’s move-out, make sure you follow it to the letter. Your move-out process should take into account the applicable laws, which means deviating from it could land you in legal trouble.
Following your move-out process to the letter will keep you in alignment with the legal requirements for lease terminations. There are too many details in landlord-tenant law to make it safe to rely on your memory.
4. Document everything with photos and video
Taking photos and video footage of the property before tenants move in and after they’ve moved out might seem like a useless, tedious task. If there’s damage, you’ll have to fix it anyway, so why bother?
The reason you need to have those photos isn’t just to document any damage – it’s also to protect you in case of a lawsuit. If you’re like most landlords, you put a clause in your lease that requires tenants to leave the property in the same condition as (or better than) when they moved in.
You also probably have a clause that states you’ll charge a cleaning fee if the unit isn’t as tidy as it was when the tenant settled in. Say you perform a move-out inspection and discover your tenant left the unit a mess when they moved out.
You enter the unit and find dust and grease all over the appliances, bug-filled light fixtures, and mud tracked throughout the house. You’re going to need to clean all that up, and it should be deducted from your tenant’s deposit.
If you can’t prove the appliances and floors weren’t in that state back when your tenant moved in, you might have a problem. Most tenants won’t try to fight their landlord over a cleaning fee deduction of $100 or so.
But disgruntled and vengeful tenants absolutely will. If you get dragged into court, even if you win, you’ll lose money by having your time wasted.
If the judge rules against your former tenant, you might win compensation for your court costs, but there’s no guarantee the other side will pay up and you’ll never get that time back.
5. Create a tenant-facing process for lease termination
A system for processing lease terminations is essential, but you also need to make things easy for your tenants. Create a tenant-facing process that makes it easy for them to give you notice.
For example, you can create a tenant portal online that enables renters to submit a proper notice to you via email. Through the online portal, your tenants can fill out a form that will collect all their crucial information, including:
- Their name
- Their address
- Their reason for leaving
- Their move-out date
- Their forwarding address for mailing the security deposit
- And more
Before you do this, however, make sure to run it by your attorney to ensure all documents and processes are legal.
6. Hire a property manager
Dealing with tenant move-outs probably isn’t your idea of a good time. If you’re renting out property to generate income, you probably never wanted to be a landlord. The good news is, you don’t have to be a landlord; you can hire a property manager to do it all for you.
Green Residential will make tenant move-outs a breeze
Are you a Houston landlord looking for ways to make your life easier? Are you tired of wrestling with tenant move-outs?
At Green Residential, our professional team of property managers will make the tenant move-out process a breeze. Whether you own one, three, or ten properties, we’re happy to help. Contact us today to find out more about our services.