Moving can be one of the most stressful and hectic things we have to deal with on what can be an all too frequent basis. It’s natural to want to get the process over and done with as quickly as possible, especially as a renter when you often have only a day or two to move into a new place and out of an old one. Unfortunately, this frenzy can set you up to fall victim to a slew of sneaky landlord charges that can really cost you in the long run. There are a few REALLY important steps you can take to protect yourself from both your previous and future landlords and most importantly, keep your hard earned money.
According the the Kansas Residential Landlords and Tenants Act, “58-2548. Inventory of premises by landlord and tenant, when; copies. Within five (5) days of the initial date of occupancy or upon delivery of possession, the landlord, or such landlord's designated representative, and the tenant shall jointly inventory the premises. A written record detailing the condition of the premises and any furnishings or appliances provided shall be completed. Duplicate copies of the record shall be signed by the landlord and the tenant as an indication the inventory was completed. The tenant shall be given a copy of the inventory.”
However, most landlords will simply give you a generic checklist to fill out on your own, and specify in the lease that you have 48 hours to complete it from the time you’re given possession of the property. While this technically doesn’t adhere to the letter of the law, it does allow you, the renter, to go through the property free of intimidation or rushing from a property management representative. You can use this to your advantage by taking the following steps!
- Do your inspection BEFORE you start moving anything in. You want to able to see everything in the apartment, without any boxes or furniture getting in the way.
- Be METICULOUS! These checklists are generic and intentionally vague, often as only having places to mark Clean, Dirty, or Damaged, but there’s absolutely nothing stopping you from writing in more details or even adding extra pages. This is your opportunity to pinpoint anything that looks less that immaculate, and ensure that you won’t be charged for pre-existing “damages” in the future.
- Take pictures! Even though you’re going to write down everything that you see, take pictures as well. Most leases specify that you’ll be charged for leaving the apartment unclean or with any damages beyond the “normal wear and tear” of living in a place. So make sure you document any stains, chips, cracks, holes, or other damages in the appliances, floors, walls, windows, blinds, ceilings, light fixtures, tubs, toilets, doors, etc, and backup the photos in an online album.
- Don’t forget to turn in the checklist ON TIME and keep, make, or get a copy for your records!
- Double and triple check your lease for any specific cleaning or maintenance requirements. Many places will have clauses about moving out in the lease that are designed to allow them to keep as much of your deposit as possible, but if you’re careful and document things, you’ll get more of your money back.
- Some leases require you to have the carpets professionally cleaned when you move out, AND that you turn in the receipt for the cleaning. If you don’t turn in the receipt, whether you had the carpet cleaned or not, they’ll charge you to have it cleaned (even though they may not actually have it done).
- Some leases also state that there are specific charges for little things like nail holes left in the walls. If this is the case for your lease and you signed it, you’ve agreed to pay this amount for any holes you leave. However, you can patch the holes yourself before moving out with a little bit of mud.
- If you’re renting a house, there may also be a clause about how you have to leave the lawn upon move-out to avoid being charged for mowing or other services.
- You can request to do a walk through with management before you actually relinquish ownership of the apartment to have them point out any issues they think need attention from you. These aren’t always the most helpful, as they’ll refuse to give you a straight answer most times about whether or not you’ll be charged for something, BUT it can be useful if they’re willing to point out something you may have missed.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for paint! If you have scratched up the walls or spilled something that left a stain, you can ask your leasing company for paint to touch it up. Even though they almost always paint between tenants, they will certainly capitalize on the opportunity to charge you for any obvious marks.
- Take pictures again! These will work in your favor if the property tries claim damages that don’t exist. You do have the right to fight for your deposit back in the event that it is withheld without reason, and good documentation will help your case!