Why a Move-in Property Condition Checklist is Important | Advice from a Boston Property Manager - Article Banner

Tenants are likely to complain about two things when they don’t have a good rental experience. The first is rental property maintenance. The second is a chaotic and confusing move-in process. You can address that frustration and create the foundation for a great relationship with your new residents by ensuring the move-in process is efficient, easy to understand, and simple.

You also want to provide them with a clean, functional home that’s ready for occupancy.

Don’t let your tenants move into a home that has window locks that don’t work or paint on the floors. You want to make sure it’s the home they expected to rent.

A move-in property condition checklist is your best tool in accomplishing this.

When a tenant is preparing to move into your Boston rental property, you want to welcome those residents into their new home and ensure the process is as stress-free as possible.

Pay attention to these important steps that are necessary before you hand over the keys and begin collecting rent checks every month.

Change the Locks on Your Boston Rental Property

Before you launch your final move-in inspection, you need to change the locks before a new tenant moves into your home. This needs to be at the top of your checklist. After all the vendors have come and gone to complete the work in preparing the property, get a new lock.

You never know who a prior tenant gave keys to, and you don’t want to put your property or your renters at risk. Make sure you keep a copy of the key and give the new tenants one or two sets of those keys. Be clear about who is permitted to access the property and when.

Is Everything Working at Your Boston Rental Property?

Once the locks are changed, the first checklist item should be functionality. You can’t have tenants moving into a home that doesn’t have electrical, plumbing, heating, and cooling systems that work. Conduct a complete inspection, even if you did one before marketing and showing the home. You don’t want to overlook a single detail.

Prioritize the most important work. If a tenant is moving into your Boston rental home in the middle of February, for example, you’ll want to make sure the heat is working properly. Turn it on while you’re expecting the property, and make sure there’s hot water as well. Look under sinks to ensure there aren’t any surprise leaks. Do all the outlets work?

These are habitability issues, which means you’re legally required to attend to them. Don’t wait for your tenants to call for repairs a day or two after they’ve moved in. It’s better to get out ahead of any potential problems before your tenants can complain.

Utilities have to be set up and turned on as well. You cannot inspect a property in the dark. Typically, a tenant moving into a single-family home will set up their own utility accounts and be responsible for paying those bills. But, their service likely does not begin until the day they move in.

If you are covering the utilities and including them in the rental payment, make sure everything is turned on and functioning.

Establish that your Boston Rental Property is Safe

Your Boston rental property needs to meet all safety and habitability standards before a tenant moves in.

If you find any situation that may be hazardous to your tenants or their guests, address those issues right away. A loose handrail on steps can cause a fall. An electrical outlet giving off sparks can lead to a burn or even a fire. Check the flooring. If the carpet is pulling up in the corners, you’re looking at potential trips and injuries.

These minor issues can happen without anyone noticing during the turnover process, so it’s always necessary to conduct a final walk-through with your checklist in hand before the move-in date. Check behind your toilets and tubs to identify any soft spots or discoloration in walls and ceilings that may indicate there’s a plumbing leak. Make sure there isn’t any mold in the home. Water can be especially damaging to property and if it’s left untreated, it can lead to rot and mold. This may cause health issues to your tenants, so you want to get out ahead of it.

It’s also important to check and test the smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. You want to make sure that they’re working and also that they’re in places where they’re most needed. If your property was constructed before 1978, it’s a good idea to check for lead paint as well. Don’t forget to provide tenants with a copy of all the legally required disclosures, especially concerning lead paint.

Move-In Checklist Item: Property Exterior

Property condition includes the exterior of your rental home as well as the interior. This is a good time to make sure your landscaping is in good condition and that the outdoor space is safe and appealing for your tenants.

If it’s spring or summer, a green and well-maintained lawn is an important way to start the tenancy off right. Make sure it’s mowed and the bushes and trees are trimmed. You want to create a welcoming and attractive environment.

Before moving in, your tenants should be aware of who is responsible for mowing the lawn and keeping it watered. You may want to do it yourself or hire a company to take care of this. You can usually include the cost in the rent. Whatever you decide, make sure the lease reflects who is responsible for maintaining that outdoor space. If you’re renting out a single-family home, landscaping will be required. If you’re renting out a duplex or a unit in a multi-family home, professional services are almost always best.

When tenants are moving in during the winter, make sure that the snow has been shoveled from any driveways, sidewalks, steps, or walkways. You don’t want slippery conditions that can cause harm, especially during the moving process.

Professionally Clean Your Boston Investment Property

The last task on your checklist is cleaning. You need to clean your property thoroughly before someone takes possession of it. This is an important checklist item whether you’re turning over a home between tenants or renting your property out for the first time. Hire professional cleaners so you can be sure attention to detail has been part of the process. Professional cleaners will do more than mop and vacuum. They’ll dust ceiling fans and baseboards. They’ll pull appliances out to sweep around them. They’ll make sure your tubs and toilets shine.

Everyone has different standards for cleanliness. But, when you present a perfectly clean home to new tenants, you’re showing them that you expect the property to be returned to them in a similar condition at the end of the lease term. There’s going to be general wear and tear – there always is. However, if your standards are high, your tenants will know what you expect.

Signing the Property Condition Checklist

Once you’re done, you have a complete record that documents the condition of your Boston rental property. Take a lot of pictures. Videos can help, too. You want to be as detailed as possible so there’s no room for dispute if there’s a conflict later over the security deposit or what the property looked like before move-in.

Tenants should have the opportunity to conduct their own move-in inspection and note any issues that may need attention when they move in.

The move-in checklist property condition report will be used at the end of the lease term. It documents the condition of the home during the move-in period, and after your tenants leave, you’ll conduct another inspection that reflects the condition of the home after the tenants move out. This will influence whether you deduct any funds from the security deposit to pay for the damage.

Your tenants need to make a note of anything that they notice so they won’t be charged for those things after moving out.

Leave the condition report with them for one or two days. If they make notes of things that need to be fixed, make those repairs. Have your tenants sign the report and file it until it’s time to conduct your move-out inspection.

Most of the Boston landlords we work with want to have a profitable investment experience, and they want to provide a good rental experience for their tenants. A move-in checklist that’s included as part of your property condition report will almost certainly put you on the right path. It will help you stay organized and be prepared for the full tenancy.

If you have any questions about how to put together a good move-in checklist or if you’d like some help with your own process of preparing a home for a new tenant, please let us know. You can contact us at Platinum Realty Group for all your Boston property management needs.