In an earlier post, we said that one of the foremost things on the minds of outgoing tenants – even before they ask themselves how to get that giant sofa around a narrow doorway – is if and when the landlord is going to return the security deposit.
Given such an appreciable amount of money security deposits can be in tandem with the red-hot market of Bay Area rent prices, it’s no surprise that disputes over security deposits are the top reason rental property owners find themselves in Small Claims Court.
Landlords can be relieved to know that as a full-service property management company, Bay Property Group handles every phase of the tenancy, from start to finish, and while we love welcoming tenants to their new surroundings, we also ensure an orderly transition when they move on.
Overseeing move-outs is part communication, part accounting, and part knowledge of the law and looming over it all is the dreaded move-out inspection, but let’s rewind.
The circle of life in a tenancy
Upon inception of the rental relationship, Bay Property Group conducts a move-in inspection to have a dated reference for any damages incurred down the road that “exceed normal wear and tear.”.
As sticklers for documentation and taking copious notes, we use an inspection checklist and record/photograph the condition of the property to avoid any confusion down the road and reduce the likelihood of friction over security deposit refunds.
This initial assessment of the property is logged, signed and dated to indicate a mutual agreement on its condition prior to handing over the keys. Fast forward to the move-out inspection, and we now have a clear “before and after” picture.
Move-out inspections are not only a good practice – it’s the law.
Although it can be waived, the tenant has the right to ask the landlord to inspect the rental unit before the tenancy ends, so that the landlord (or his or her agent) can identify defects and afford the tenant the opportunity to do the identified cleaning or repairs in order to avoid deductions from the security deposit. During this initial inspection, the tenant is entitled to be present.
These rights must be communicated, however, through written notice. There are many legal nuances, but our clients can trust that the notices we give are compliant with the law and that our Broker of Record, Daniel Bornstein, is also a prominent Bay Area attorney specializing in managing landlord-tenant relationships who routinely imparts informed advice if there are any curve balls thrown at us.
Scheduling the initial inspection
When the tenant requests an initial inspection, Bay Property Group will arrange for a mutually convenient date and time, scheduled no earlier than two weeks before the end of the tenancy or lease term. We certainly give the tenants ample time to rectify any defects and allow them to recoup the full amount of the security deposit.
As prescribed by law, Bay Property Group provides at least 48 hours’ advance written notice of the date and time of the inspection. Exceptions apply but, once again, you can rely on us to handle any arcane details if the situation warrants.
There are many things we look for in the move-out inspection, and inevitably the question arises, “what is normal wear and tear?”. This can be a subjective term, but Daniel Bornstein has prepared a good infographic to provide some contextual framework.
When it’s time to close the curtains on a tenancy and usher a new resident in, move-out inspections can be awkward, especially if you have built rapport with the tenant. In this pressure-cooked moment, your every move may be watched and it’s not uncommon for tenants to use cosmetic means to cover up serious issues. These delicate farewells, then, may be best approached with a third-party who has a fiduciary obligation to protect your rental business while being fair to tenants – you can rely on the steady hands of Bay Property Group.
Another potential pitfall is the landlord prematurely promising the tenants that they will get back their full security deposit, after succumbing to pressure. Landlords should not make emphatic statements like this until a thorough inspection has been conducted, all I’s are dotted, and T’s are crossed.
Like most other landlords matters, we’ve only scratched the surface here with much more to be said about move-out inspections, but you can leave the rest to us. At Bay Property Group, we handle your rental business from start to finish so that you can focus on enjoying your continuous income.