An equally important part of the management process is the move-out. The chapter of the state law related to residential tenancies has a lot to say about the move-out process. Legislators obviously have had a lot of complaints from renters over the years, because numerous provisions of the law govern and relate to tenants moving out, charges for damages, and security deposits. Here is a description of the process.
Normal Scheduled Move-Outs
Once the tenants give us notice to move we will communicate with them, and with you, right up to the day of the move-out inspection to make sure they keep utilities on; return keys, garage door openers, community keys and passes; and remove all personal property. We give the tenants lists of things to think about so they can avoid fines and earn back their security deposit. Our priority is to get the property back in rent-producing, occupant-ready condition. Most renters want their security deposit back and pay close attention to our guidance.
We do not perform move-out inspections with the tenant present, as their presence often turns the process into a highly combative event. They usually want to argue about the damages for which we are charging them, claiming the issues were there when they moved in. We will charge for all damages unless we see it on the move-in inspection or it is normal wear and tear. We conduct a detailed inspection of the home that includes photos. This procedure puts us in a good position to defend any necessary charges and protects the owner from excessive conflict, which could worsen into a lawsuit. The move-out inspection in most cases will take less than 2 hours, depending on how much damage needs to be recorded.
Photos and Videos
Photos have been the de facto standard for documenting tenant damage to the property for years. This isn’t really changing, regardless of what others may say. We take a lot of photos during our move-out inspection to document the condition of a home. Some may say they’re switching to video or adding video to their process, it’s purely a marketing gimmick. Video adds nothing to this process but a cool new buzzword. Can you imagine standing in front of a judge trying to pull up a YouTube video on your phone as evidence? They’d laugh you out of the courtroom.
Normal Wear and Tear
Landlord Tenant laws prevent landlords from charging renters for “normal wear and tear” that occurs during a lease-occupancy period. Upon renting, the law recognizes the property as a business and requires the Owner to expect some expenses for cleaning and maintenance as “normal wear and tear” while operating a rental property. Most of the conflict comes from this principle. This is very subjective and we know for a fact that different property managers will come up with uniquely different assessments looking at the same property. We do this with one eye on explaining it to you (and if needed, the judge) if the tenant disputes the charges, as the judge has the final say as to charging damages to the tenant. We have over 30 years of experience in dealing with this. We know how best to handle the condition dispute process and will do so in the best possible manner to minimize conflict.
After the Move-Out
Texas law gives landlords thirty days, from the time of surrender, to identify charges and get the information to the tenant for review. Refunding the balance of their security deposit, or sending them a bill with the detailed charges satisfies this requirement. Texas Law also requires that we disburse the security deposit within 30 days of lease end. We will send the tenant a document detailing all the charges they owe, including unpaid rent, late fees, NSF charges, and damages to the property.
Staying in the Vacancy
On multiple occasions, we’ve had a property owner come into town to visit their property while it’s vacant. Usually, they feel it’s a good idea to handle the needed maintenance themselves in order to save a few bucks. And, while in town (and saving some money) they want to stay in the property. While it’s your property and we all love to save some money, this is a much better idea in concept than reality. While this is happening, the property can’t be shown, so we’re losing valuable market time and opportunities. Our vendors are faster and can typically get some of the most frequently done jobs in a matter of days, instead of weeks. In order to save a few bucks on a paint job, are you willing to make an extra mortgage payment with no cash flow? That’s what usually ends up happening.
Disbursing the Security Deposit
If the tenant disputes any charges, we work aggressively to substantiate deductions by providing them the information we have gathered with pictures, vendor receipts, quotes, and or estimates for work that needs to be done. We will only deduct from the tenant’s security deposit work that is completed and invoiced, so time is of the essence. We must abide by the 30-day requirement to notify the tenant in writing what charges were incurred and refund any balances left in their account. No owner wants to get served papers for a lawsuit at their residence or place of work for a few hundred dollars – so we are very aware of this when recommending a deposit refund or any withholdings.