Steps for a Successful Move Out Process | Roanoke Property Management - Article Banner

Are you prepared for how to handle move-outs at your Roanoke rental property? This is a busy time for both you and your tenants. When your tenants decide not to renew their lease agreement, you’ll have to provide them with your move-out process. A documented checklist will help your tenants meet your expectations and allow you to turn your property over quickly, so you can prepare for new residents to move in. 

When you receive a notice to vacate from your tenants, deliver a list of move-out tasks that they’ll have 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.

Providing a handy list of guidelines that you expect tenants to follow keeps all parties organized. 

Here are some of the steps we recommend as you’re putting together a successful process for moving out of your home. 

Step 1: Establish the Move Out Date


First, you’ll want to know exactly when your tenants are leaving. This 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. If it’s not listed in the notice to vacate that your tenants provided, make sure you get an exact date. It’s not uncommon to set a time by which the tenants need to leave. For example, if the move-out date is March 1, you can tell them that the property has to be completely empty by noon on that day.

Step 2: Provide a Cleaning Checklist


At the beginning of the lease, you provided your tenants with a property that was clean and functioning. Your expectation is that they will return the property in similar condition. The first item on the list you send your tenants should be cleaning. You’ll expect them to do everything they can to return the property to its original proper, clean condition. 

  • Instruct them to move everything out of the property. You don’t want to walk into the home after they’ve left and find a lot of trash left behind, or a sofa that was too heavy to carry out. Be specific. Tell your tenants, in their move-out checklist, to check all closets, cupboards, cabinets, drawers, and outdoor spaces. Let them know that anything left behind will be removed and the removal fee will be charged to their security deposit.
  • Next, have them make sure the appliances are also empty. It’s easy to forget dishes in the dishwasher or food in the freezer. Ask tenants to clean the microwave and inside the fridge. Have them run the dishwasher so it gets cleaned out. They should remove dust and grease from the range and range hood.
  • Remind tenants to wipe out sinks, cabinets, and drawers. They should wipe down the faucets and knobs, and make sure everything is empty. Hard surface floors should be swept and then washed, and if you have carpets in the home, your lease agreement may require tenants to have them professionally steam-cleaned before the end of the lease term. You can ask for a receipt to provide so their deposit doesn’t get charged for this service. 

Address potential pet damage if your tenants have dogs and cats. Messes should be cleaned up. If the tenant was responsible for lawn care while living in your property, ask them to mow the lawn one last time before leaving. Make sure they plan to have the trash picked up or dumped out before the service is discontinued. You don’t want to see any trash bins or recycling containers in the driveway or on the street after they’ve left. 


Step 3: Collect the Keys 


You can provide instructions on how the tenants should return keys and other items too you, such as garage door openers or pool and gym keys if your property is in a community with those amenities. 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. 


Step 4: Change the Utility Accounts


Your tenants will likely turn the utilities off when accounts are in their name. You’ll want to make sure that you get them turned back on or that the account is transferred to yourself. Don’t leave the lights off and the water off for an extended period of time. You’ll need lights and water when you’re making repairs during the turnover period. You’ll also want a bright and functioning house when you begin to show it to new tenants. 


Step 5: Conduct an Inspection 


Once the tenants have moved out completely, you’ll be free to go inside and conduct an inspection. This is where you’ll determine what kind of work needs to be done to rent the property out again. You’ll need to know the difference between wear and tear and tenant damage. 

Wear and tear is your responsibility, and you cannot hold the tenant responsible for paying to make those repairs and replacements. 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, it’s likely 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.  

Tenants should be charged for any damage beyond normal wear and tear. Anything that results from a tenant’s abuse, misuse, or neglect will result in a charge against the security deposit. If there’s something a tenant should have done to prevent the home from getting damaged, you can charge the deposit.   

Sometimes it’s hard to judge the difference between wear and tear and damage. If you did a thorough move-in inspection, you should get some help determining what you’re looking at. The move-in report documented the condition of your home before the tenants took possession. So, compare the condition then to the condition now. Inspect the photos and take new photos. What do they show?

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. 


Step 6: Schedule Vendors and Begin Work


Once you have completed your inspection and you have documented the condition of the home, get your vendors into the property to make repairs as quickly as possible. You’re moving fast because you want to re-rent the home as quickly as possible. You also want to have an accurate record of costs, so that if you’re charging the security deposit, you can establish what exactly your 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. 


Step 7: Return the Security Deposit

Return Security DepositIn Virginia, you have 45 days from the time the tenant moved 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. 

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 includes a lot of details and moving parts. You have to move quickly for many reasons, and you also want to maintain good communication and a positive relationship with your departing tenant. If they push back against a security deposit charge, be willing to talk to them. Otherwise, your tenants could take you to court, and that’s an ordeal you don’t want to deal with, especially if the conflict is over a $100 cleaning charge. 

Please contact us at Lawson Realty Group when you’re putting together a plan for moving tenants out of your Roanoke investment property. We manage properties in Southwest Virginia throughout the Roanoke Valley, including Salem, Cave Spring, Hollins, Vinton, Glenvar, and Southwest Roanoke County.