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move outTired of cleaning your rental units, or losing sleep over security deposit disputes?

Unfortunately even the best tenants can screw up in the last few hours before they vacate. In the long-run, it’s the landlord who winds up losing time and money.

But you can tame move-out madness by following these suggestions.

Update Your Move-out Checklist Move-out time for tenants can breed temporary insanity.

In their quest to placate friends with strong arms or a pickup truck by plying them with beer and pizza, details get ignored. Items get left behind. Other tenants get annoyed.  And the landlord gets stuck prepping the unit for the next tenant with only hours to spare.

A move-out checklist is the key to keeping the tenant focused, maintaining harmony, and getting your property back on time and in good condition. Make sure yours is up-to-date and covers the bases:

Move-out Information A written checklist of procedures is the best bet to getting the results you want. Give the tenant the move-out checklist at lease signing, and go over it again when a tenant gives notice.  Repeat the time lines. When, exactly, does the tenant have to be out? List the steps they need to accomplish to get their deposit back.

Forwarding Address

Dont ever let the tenant get away without leaving a forwarding address. Be sure to note that address for future reference. That can make or break later attempts at debt collection.

Provide a Cleaning Checklist As many landlords can attest,  “clean” seems to be subject to interpretation.  Supply a cleaning checklist for each room. If you are expecting the tenant to wash the windows, baseboards or clean underneath the refrigerator, you should say so. If you dont want them plugging nail holes with toothpaste, especially the green and red minty kind, then say so.  If you can estimate the time it may take to complete each task, that will encourage the tenant to start earlier.

Dont have a cleaning checklist? Check out for room by room tasks and helpful cleaning tips: for example, dust before you vacuum, remove scuff marks on linoleum with a pencil eraser.

Modern Materials, Modern Solutions

Abrasive cleaners wreak havoc on granite. So can the popular citrus-y ones. Common grocery store wood floor cleaners can leave a waxy buildup. Some stain bamboo. Does the ceramic tile cleaner the tenant is using clean the grout in between? Your best bet for all of your floors may be diluted vinegar and warm water.  But how much vinegar?

Tell your tenant how to protect your special finishes, or supply the cleaners, labeled with instructions when the tenant moves in.

Provide oven liners, a cheap way to avoid the hardest item to clean “ the oven. The extra time savings can be applied to cleaning other areas.

Dont Forget the Exterior Mowing and weeding are easy to neglect, but untidy landscaping or a dirty front door are the first things the new tenant will see.

Provide Phone Numbers for Services

Dont want the couch or eighty bags of trash left on the curbside? Leave the numbers to call for special trash pickup. Have a special relationship with a carpet cleaner? Your tenant is tired, stressed and buzzing from caffeine. Leave them the phone numbers of providers so they can get the job done on time.

Gone Keyless?

Update your checklist to reflect your upgrade to keyless entry. Youll avoid the cost of re-keying the locks and the headache of having your keys delivered at 2:00 a.m. by installing a keyless sytem. But set up another way to assure your tenant will touch base with you before they leave.

Be a Help, Not a Hindrance

Encourage questions. Be available to help solve problems. Work together. Consider a small moving out gift. Good communication leads to a good relationship; the tenant will want to leave the place clean.  And in the long run, that will save you money.  Maybe theyll even send you a referral or two– and that’s a whole lot better than suing you over the security deposit!


With AAOA, landlords have resources at their fingertips. Check out our Landlord Forms page. American Apartment Owners Association offers discounts on products and services for landlords related to your rental housing investment, including rental forms, tenant debt collection, tenant background checks, insurance and financing. Find out more at

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