There are many reasons that a tenant may choose not to renew their lease agreement with you. Maybe they’re buying a home of their own or moving into a new city or state. They could need something larger or smaller than the home they’ve been renting from you.
Once you learn that your tenant will be moving out, you need to take a few steps that will ensure the move-out process is efficient, easy to manage, and successful for both you and your tenants. You want them to leave feeling like they had a good rental experience with you. And, you want to be able to rent your property to new tenants quickly. Both of those outcomes will require some cooperation from both you and your departing residents.
As local property managers in Phoenix, Mesa, Gilbert, and throughout the East Valley, we’ve overseen a number of tenant move-outs. We know what works and what doesn’t. We know how to pivot when we think things might go wrong.
With all of our experience, we’ve put together some steps you should take to ensure the move-out process with your tenants is a success.
Here’s what you should do.
1. Accept the Notice to Vacate Your Phoenix Rental Home
Your lease agreement should state how much notice your tenants are required to provide before vacating the property. If you’ve offered them a lease renewal and you receive a notice to vacate instead, make sure they’ve provided the appropriate amount of notice.
When you receive the written notice to vacate, send them a list of move-out tasks that your tenants will be expected to complete. Before they leave, you’ll want to have the keys returned as well as any remotes or other property. It’s also important to get a forwarding address so you can send back the security deposit.
Those guidelines are likely in your lease agreement, but when you provide them in writing at the time that your tenants are making their plans, you’ll reinforce what’s required in order for them to get their security deposit back. Most tenants will have that on their mind.
It’s also important to establish the move-out date.
The notice to vacate should indicate what their last day of residency will be. If that information has not been shared, you’ll want to follow up with your tenants and ask about the exact date that they plan to move out.
Having this information will allow you to schedule your own inspection and prepare to have any necessary vendors come in to make the property ready for new tenants.
2. Set Some Cleaning and Move-Out Standards
Your tenants presumably moved into a home that was empty, clean, and ready to be used.
Obviously, you expect that you will get the property returned in a similar condition, minus the expected wear and tear that happens at the end of any tenancy. Share your expectations with your tenants. Let them know that you want the property to be in its original, clean condition.
A checklist can help. That list should include the following:
- Moving All Personal Possessions Out of the Property
You will conduct an inspection after your tenants have vacated, and you don’t want to find that there’s furniture or personal items left behind. There shouldn’t be food in the fridge or dishes in the dishwasher. Remind tenants to remove everything from closets, cabinets, garages, and dryers. Let them know that anything left behind will be removed at their own expense. You can charge the removal fee from their security deposit.
- Taking Out All the Trash
Again, there’s nothing worse than walking into an empty home to find bags of trash that haven’t been taken out or food scraps in the kitchen sink. Let your tenants know that the trash needs to be removed from the property, as well as any recyclables.
- Cleaning Requirements
Everyone has a different definition of what clean looks like. This is why it’s important to be specific. Tell tenants that they need to sweep and vacuum floors, wipe down sinks and countertops, and clean out the microwave and refrigerator. If you have carpets, you can require that they be professionally cleaned, as long as that requirement is in your lease agreement.
- Pet Policies
Address potential pet damage if your tenants have dogs and cats. Messes should be cleaned up, and if a dog dug up the landscaping, you can expect that to be repaired.
3. Collecting Keys and Forwarding Addresses
Your move-out process must include the collection of keys, remote controls, garage door openers, and any other property that may belong to your home, townhouse, or condo. If there’s a mailbox key, you’ll want to get that back, too. Provide instructions on how the tenants should return keys and other items to you. You might want to have them dropped off in person, or perhaps you’ll instruct tenants to simply leave them on the counter before they depart. Be specific so tenants aren’t left wondering what to do.
Ask for the forwarding address as well. Explain that you’ll be mailing back the security deposit.
4. Conduct Your Move-Out Rental Property Inspection
After your tenants have moved out completely, you’ll need to go inside and conduct an inspection.
This inspection will help you determine what kind of work needs to be done before you’re ready to rent the property out again. You’ll find wear and tear - which you’re responsible for, and you might also find evidence of damage - which the tenants are responsible for.
- Wear and tear is the natural and gradual deterioration of the property over time. It’s a result of any tenant’s normal use of the home, and it would happen no matter who was living there. Every home is prone to wear and tear, so tenants are not charged to make those repairs.
A good example of wear and tear is carpet. If there’s a lot of wear on the carpet in high traffic areas like hallways, you can likely consider that to be general wear and tear. If the paint has small holes in the walls from pictures that tenants hung, that’s considered wear and tear as well. Scuff marks on that paint from where a piece of furniture was against the wall will be considered wear and tear.
- Damage is anything that goes beyond normal wear and tear. It’s a condition or a problem that has resulted from a tenant’s abuse, misuse, or neglect. You can absolutely charge the security deposit for any damage.
It’s not always easy to know whether you’re looking at wear and tear or damage. If you did a thorough move-in inspection, you should have the evidence you need that damage was done to your property. This is why it’s so important to take a lot of pictures and document the condition of your property before and after the lease period.
Consider the extent of the repairs that the property needs, the length of time that your tenant had been living at the home, and the structure and condition of the home. You’ll also want to look for unauthorized changes. If a tenant painted a wall, for example, and didn’t return that wall to its original color, you can charge the security deposit for new paint.
5. Get the Work Done
Schedule your vendors to do the work in the property as quickly as possible. You want to re-rent the home as quickly as possible and you also want to have an accurate record of costs. If you are going to charge the tenant’s security deposit, you’ll need to document what those costs were.
Have all maintenance taken care of, and then have the property professionally cleaned. Once that’s done, you’re ready to get your marketing game going. Finding a new tenant quickly becomes your priority.
6. Return the Tenant’s Security Deposit
In Arizona, you have a mere 14 days from the time the tenant moves out to return the security deposit.
If you end up keeping your tenant’s deposit or any portion of it, you’ll have to provide an itemized list of what was deducted and why it was necessary. With that list, you should return the balance of the deposit owed to the tenant.
Send the deposit as well as the itemized list and copies of invoices to the forwarding address your tenant provided. Sometimes tenants neglect to leave this information. If that happens, you’ll have to send the deposit to the last known address, which is likely your rental property. Hopefully, the tenant is having their mail forwarded and the deposit will reach them.
The move-out process does not need to be overly complicated, but every time a tenant is moving in or out, there tend to be a lot of details that need attention. When you provide clear instructions and direction to your tenant, you’re likely to have a more efficient and effective move-out.
We can help you get everything in order as one tenant is moving out and you’re preparing to have another tenant move in. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at TCT Property Management Services. We manage homes in the East and West Valley, including Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler, Scottsdale, and Phoenix.