Why a Move-In Property Condition Checklist Is Important


A move-in checklist is important for rental property owners. Not only does it document the condition of your property and help you prepare it for your tenant, it also sets a strong foundation for the move-out process a year or two years or five years from the move-in date.

Inspecting your property condition before a tenant moves in is critical to protecting your investment and holding tenants accountable for any damage during the lease period. A move-in checklist ensures everyone is on the same page in terms of the property’s condition. You’ll effectively and accurately document the condition of your rental home.

The type of move-in experience you provide will also impact your tenant relationship. When you show up on moving day with an organized checklist, an orientation to the home, and an invitation to talk about the property, your tenants will understand that you care about the home. They’ll also feel good about entering into a lease with you.

Ensure that the move-in process is efficient, easy to understand, and simple. It’s better for you and it’s better for your property.

Documenting property conditions is the most important part of the move-in process. Your job is to turn over a home that's a clean, functional home that’s ready for occupancy. You’re going to expect the property to come back in the same condition, minus the expected wear and tear.

How can you make accurate and detailed notes about what your property looks like before tenants take possession? You can use a move-in property condition checklist.

Putting together a checklist doesn’t have to be difficult. If you’re working with a property manager in the East Valley, they’ll likely have one ready.

Here’s what the checklist should include.

New Locks on Your East Valley Rental Home

The first and most obvious thing you’ll want to do is change the locks.

Before you conduct your final move-in inspection and hand over the keys to your new tenant, you’ll want to rekey the home. You have no idea how many people your former tenants invited into the home. They may have given extra keys to significant others, close friends, family members, cleaners, and others.

The new key will protect your property and help your new tenants feel secure. Make sure you keep a copy of the key for yourself and any vendors you may send over to the home.

Take a look at digital locks, which are becoming more popular. When you invest in this type of technology, you’ll find you won’t have to rekey the home between every tenant. Tenants can open the door with their phones or with a code rather than an old fashioned key.

Checklist Items: Does Everything Work?

Your move-in checklist is meant to confirm that everything has been checked, tested, and marked as working. Don’t leave a single system, function, or kitchen drawer behind.

Conduct a complete inspection, checklist in hand, to ensure everything is ready for the tenant. Your checklist should include:

  • Checking that the heat and the air conditioning turn on and the air filters are clean.

  • Inspecting each light bulb to make sure they work.

  • Locking and unlocking, opening and closing all doors and windows.

  • Checking cabinets, drawers, and closet doors to ensure everything opens and closes.

  • Run every faucet and wait for the hot water to show up.

  • Flush every toilet.

  • Look under sinks and behind toilets and tubs for leaks or soft spots in the ground.

  • Test every outlet.

These aren’t just nice things you’re doing for your new tenant; they’re habitability issues. You are legally required to fix anything that’s broken, especially when we’re talking about supplying water and electricity or heat and safety.

Make Rental Property Safety a Priority During the Move-In Inspection

Obviously, you want your tenants to be safe. Make sure your inspection checklist has a section for safety issues like smoke detectors, door locks, and landscaping.

Repair any safety issues before you let your tenant move in. They cannot safely live in a home that doesn’t have locking windows. If the carpet is pulling up in corners, replace it. When the linoleum starts to buckle in a bathroom, make sure it’s addressed. You don’t want anyone falling because of a wobbly handrail.

Generally, the safety matters you may need to take care of won’t be major. Make the repairs yourself if they’re minor or call out professional vendors if you have smoke coming out of outlets or water dripping from pipes.

Your move-in checklist might include leaving tenants instructions on how to keep themselves safe while living in your home. Tell them where the circuit breakers are and the nearest fire extinguisher. Let them know how to shut off the water. If there’s a pool, make sure it’s fenced and secure.

Inspect the Outside of Your Rental Home

Tenants mostly live inside the home, and that’s where much of your inspection will take place, but don’t forget to walk around the exterior as well.

Your checklist should include landscaping, roofing, and general curb appeal. You don’t want any trash or debris on the front lawn, and cobwebs should be cleared away from the front door and the mailbox.

Do you have residents moving in with pets? Make sure you have communicated to them what your pet policy entails, and what you’ll expect from them in terms of clean-up and animal behavior.

Here's what a typical exterior property move-in condition inspection checklist includes for a single-family home, condo, or townhouse:

  • Foundation.

  • Ventilation.

  • Insulation.

  • Roof.

  • Yard and landscaping.

  • Gutters and downspouts.

  • Driveways, walkways, sidewalks.

  • Decks, patios, porches, balconies.

  • Wall, sidings, trim, paint, and caulking

  • Exterior windows and doors, including their frames and hinges

Any good inspection report will include photos of the home’s exterior. You’ll want an idea of how the home looks from the street or from the yard, so you can have a complete overview. Then, zero in on the details such as the front of the property, the windows, and the backyard. If damage is done to your landscaping by a pet or because cars were parked on the lawn, you’ll want to be able to document that at the end of the lease term.

The climate in Phoenix, Mesa, and the East Valley can be pretty intense. You want to make sure your rental home can withstand the sun and the heat.

Checklist Item: Professional Property Cleaning

Finally, you have to make sure the home is clean.

Clean your property thoroughly before your new tenant takes possession of it. This is an important checklist item whether you’re turning over a home between tenants or renting your property out for the first time.

Unless you’re really fond of scrubbing floors and polishing toilets, hire professional cleaners so you can be sure attention to detail has been part of the process. Professional cleaners will do more than mop and vacuum. They’ll dust ceiling fans and baseboards. They’ll pull appliances out to sweep around them. They’ll make sure your tubs and toilets shine.

When you present a perfectly clean home to new tenants, you’re showing them that you expect the property to be returned to them in a similar condition at the end of the lease term. There’s going to be general wear and tear - there always is. However, if your standards are high, your tenants will know what you expect.

Review the Checklist with Your Tenants

Your tenants have the right to make their own notes on the checklist. You hope they’ll agree that the property is in the condition you say it’s in. However, you still need to give them the opportunity to walk through the property themselves. Let your new residents conduct their own move-in inspection and note any issues that may need attention when they move in.

The move-in checklist property condition report will be used at the end of the lease term. It documents the condition of the home during the move-in period, and after your tenants leave, you’ll conduct another inspection that reflects the condition of the home after the tenants move out. This will influence whether you deduct any funds from the security deposit to pay for damage.

Your tenants need to make a note of anything that they notice so they won’t be charged for those things after moving out.

The move-in process can be stressful for both owners and tenants. We know that moving is stressful, and there are a lot of lingering details and last minute actions. Working with a property manager can take a lot of the stress off your plate. Property managers understand the value of a great move-in experience. Tenants will remember that the process was thorough, transparent, and well-documented. Not only will you have a more cooperative relationship with your renters, you’re also more likely to retain them. It doesn’t hurt that the condition of your property is also protected with such a thorough inspection of it.

If a move-in inspection checklist seems like more than what you can do as an owner, we can help you. Please contact us at TCT Property Management Services. We manage homes in the East Valley, including Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler, Scottsdale, and Phoenix.