Using a Move-in Checklist for Landlords and Tenants

landlord move-in checklist

Just like any other relationship, the one between landlord and tenant should be based on trust and clear, open communication. A move-in checklist is a great tool for setting the stage for a successful tenant-landlord relationship at the outset.

Let’s face it, opinions often differ and human memory is far from perfect, so relying on a detailed documentation of your leased property’s condition will go a long way towards preventing disputes down the line.

Imagine one very common scenario – you rent out your carpeted property for a year or two and conduct infrequent routine maintenance during that time. Upon move-out, you inspect the property and find that the carpet has a few stains that you don’t remember seeing before.

Your tenant, however, claims that the stains were already there when they moved in. The carpet obviously needs to be deep cleaned or replaced – but who’s responsibility is it?

A detailed move-in checklist complete with clear photos of problematic areas would come in extremely handy in this case and will serve to protect both landlord and renter.

What is a Move-in Checklist

A move-in checklist is a document that is used as a guideline for the initial walk-through inspection of a newly leased property.

The walk-through should ideally be done by the landlord or the property manager and tenant together. This would be the easiest way to ensure that both parties can agree on the property’s condition.

Sign and date the checklist to make it official.

However, if you are a DIY landlord managing your own properties remotely, you can send the move-in checklist to your tenants prior to move-in and ask them to fill it out and document using photos and videos as they move along.

Review the filled checklist and, if needed, ask for additional documentation prior to signing it. After you sign the checklist, ask your renters to sign and date the same copy and store it safely.

Why Should You Use a Move-in Checklist?

The primary reason for using a move-in checklist is to prevent disputes relating to damaged property and the use of the security deposit.

Since the move-in checklist is a document that is agreed to by landlord and tenant, it serves as evidence of the “before” picture, eliminating the he-said-she-said arguments that would otherwise prevail.

What is Covered by a Move-in Checklist?

A good move-in checklist is detailed and provides room to note the condition of specific items and areas on arrival and on departure, as well as the estimated cost of repair or replacement.

A rating system for the condition of items also makes it easier to fill the checklist during the walk-through:

  • G = Good
  • F = Fair
  • P = Poor
  • R/C = Needs to be repaired or cleaned
  • N/A = Not Applicable

A thorough move-in checklist should cover the following general areas, with additional lines for specific items:

  • Living room
  • Kitchen
  • Dining room
  • Bathroom
  • Bedroom
  • Other areas

For example, under “living room” you can include lines for “floors”, “drapes & window covering”, and “walls & ceilings” so that you can specify the condition of each of these items.

Focus on problematic areas that are most susceptible to wear and tear such as appliances or existing signs of use as these are often the subject of dispute.

If you are not sure what to look for – feel free to use Zuby’s detailed check-list:

Using Photos and Video

As the old saying goes – a picture is worth 1,000 words. Documenting the walk-through with well-taken photos and videos makes the exercise much more useful down the line.

Giving the gas range a grade of “fair” is a great starting point, but taking a picture of the range will remove all doubt as to what the grade actually means.

The photos and videos should be shared by landlords and tenants. Using a property management app like Zuby makes this easier than ever, as landlords upload documents to stay organized and choose which documents to share with tenants.