Tenant Move in tips for renters, to make sure the transition goes as smoothly as possible and expectations are understood. Moving and beginning with a new lease can be overwhelming, especially if you aren't used to moving, or renting.
Once you have found a new home, agreed to and signed a set of terms (lease) and have a move-in date, then what? PLAN FOR THE MOVE-IN! Plan? Yes, plan ahead! Typically, the day before your lease begins, you'll meet at the rental property with your new landlord (or property manager). You'll hand over your security deposit money, and they'll hand you the keys. But there are a few things you should be aware of, and should do, while you have the opportunity. Follow these tips and you'll also be helping yourself by protecting your security deposit money!!
It's better to do your move-in with your landlord or property manager. There are situations where they may arrange for you to drop off your move-in money, and pick up your keys. But that's not advisable if you can avoid it. Instead, you should schedule your move-in prior to the day your lease starts, with your landlord or property manager. You'll meet at the property. You'll bring the money you owe. Make sure the money you bring is how it's been requested (most often move-in money needs to be in the form of a cashier's check or money orders... ie cleared funds). The money will be exchanged for a set of keys. But you should also have a list of questions for them, if those questions aren't already answered in the lease. For instance, questions about pest control or lawn maintenance? What about utilities. Are there any gas appliances or are any of the appliances leased? Is there anything quirky that the landlord wants to point out? Ask all of your questions BEFORE you move in. For instance:
Changing the AC filter should be done ONCE PER MONTH. Why? Dust, pollen, dog hair etc builds up in the air. It all goes through the AC filter. The AC filter gets dirty. If left for more than a month, it will get VERY dirty. It becomes BAD FOR YOUR HEALTH, bad for the healthy of your children or roommates, and ESPECIALLY bad for those who suffer from asthma or related breathing problems.
When you move in, you want to make sure there is a CLEAN AC FILTER. Ask them to show you how to replace the AC filter. Make note of the size of the filter. Are they handing over the property to you with a CLEAN AC FILTER and/or are there new filters there for you to install when you move in? If there are no new filters for you to start your tenancy off right with... or the filter is filthy, you should note it on your lease and have the landlord initial that this condition was present at the time of move-in. Why? Because with most move-outs, a landlord/property manager will check the AC filter and claim an expense from your security deposit if you leave it dirty.
IF it's dirty, ask them to tell you when the last coil cleaning was done. Why? A very dirty AC filter is a good indication of a lack of maintenance. If the coil is filthy, your air quality is bad. And chances are, if the coil is filthy, eventually you'll experience the AC freezing up or not cooling at all. The dust build up can cause the drain line to clog, resulting in the AC not cooling. The landlord/property manager could try to blame you. So move-ins should DEFINITELY cover the AC system.
Top of the Tenant Move In Tips list should also be: ask for a demonstration in changing or maintaining any special systems or elements the rental property may come with!
HAVE THEM SHOW YOU HOW TO WORK THINGS! WHY? If the property has a pool, whether or not pool maintenance is included in your rent... it's a good idea to have a general idea of how the pool is maintained, what the equipment is for, and any expectations the landlord has of you.
Septic system? It's VERY important that the landlord shows you where the drain field is, so you can look out for any warning signs that may indicate that it needs a pump out BEFORE any real problems happen. You'll want to know where it is, also because you can't park on top of it, or put anything heavy there. Ask for any other advice or instruction on how they expect you to help maintain a healthy septic system.
Gas appliances? Ask for them to point out where the gas line is. If you are responsible for paying for your own gas, you'll want to know where the gas/utility company will need access to. And often, gas appliances are leased. If this is the case, does the landlord want you to contact the leasing company directly in the event the appliance isn't working correctly?
Whether or not you are directly responsible for these elements in the rental property, you COULD lose security or more IF they find that you've been negligent and your negligence has caused the landlord any amount of expense.
Often forgotten, but REALLY important part of the Tenant Move In Tips: TAKE MOVE-IN PHOTOS AT YOUR MOVE-IN!
Your landlord may fill out a move-in checklist. They may give you a checklist for you to sign and/or fill out as well. This checklist may or may not ask you to write in the condition of each of the line items. For instance: Flooring [several broken tiles in kitchen and bathroom]. These are good things to have in writing, itemizing things that were wrong with the property BEFORE you moved in. This is protecting your security deposit. You don't want to get blamed for pre-existing issues that you had nothing to do with.
What's better than a written checklist? PHOTOS!!! Turn on the time stamp (it's a setting on your phone's camera). This will show the day/date on the bottom of each photo taken. You want it to show the day/date of your move-in or just before you've moved in. NOT after you've moved in. Remember, document everything wrong with the property that wasn't your fault! Broken tiles, spots on the carpet, a dirty AC filter, marks on the walls, holes in the walls. Take photos of all of these things. Keep it for your records. Ask the landlord if he'd like for you to provide a copy to him via email.
Your move in photos are the best way to help you protect your security deposit.
The property should be handed over to you clean. And the expectation is that occupants must keep the property in the same clean condition throughout the tenancy. There is a big misconception among many tenants that because you don't own the place, you don't need to clean the place.
An obvious but often overlooked but IMPORTANT part of a good Tenant Move In Tips list involves CLEANING! Don't wait until move-out a year later to clean. Seriously. We've seen it done and it NEVER turns out well. Tenants are expected to return rental units back to their landlords after the lease term ends... CLEAN! Legally, the unit must be returned in "broom swept" clean condition. This means you don't have to have the floors polished and the walls painted. But it DOES MEAN the the unit needs to be CLEAN.
There should NEVER be an accumulation of dust in AC closets, on fan blades, under the refrigerator, on baseboards. Dust on these things indicates to the owner/property manager that you haven't kept the property in good condition and cleaned regularly. This could COST YOU. There should never be lint in the dryer and AC filters should be replaced as soon as they start looking a little dark. Floors should be swept and mopped regularly. Cleaning REGULARLY will save you a lot of time, frustration and probably money once you move out. - if you don't know how to clean or don't have the time HIRE SOMEONE!! Check your local Flyer or Angie's List... you can find a good reputable company to clean for you for as little as $75 for three hours!!
Clean weekly/monthly. It's good for you and the health of your family, it helps to protect your security deposit... and when a landlord/property manager sees that your unit always looks clean and well kept, it will help you with renewals, your security deposit and future landlord references.