Your Resident’s Tenancy is Coming to an End, Now What?

There is more to wrapping up a tenancy than just taking back the keys from your tenant. Many things go into the move-out process and you want to make sure that you are aware of what your obligations as a landlord are.

Move-Out Process

You need to make sure that you properly notify your tenant(s) regarding the end of their tenancy. There are a number of ways in which a tenancy is terminated. The circumstances as well as the type of agreement you have with them will determine the proper type of notice that you should issue. These circumstances will determine the proper notice that should be issued.

  • Move-Out Reminder
  • 20 Day Notice to Terminate Tenancy
  • 20 Day Notice to Terminate Tenancy – City of Seattle
  • Intent to Vacate Notice (Provided by Tenant)
  • Early Termination Agreement
  • Abandonment Notice

You can explain your expectations for cleaning, yard maintenance, utility bills, etc. Encourage your tenant to review the Property Condition Checklist. Let them know this is what you will be using to assess the unit’s condition. Explain to your tenant the process for handling the Deposit Refund Statement. Let them know that any refund from their deposit will be mailed to Residents at their last known address within 14 days of vacancy of the premises (RCW 59.18.280). When determining charges for your “Deposit Refund Statement” some of the things you need to consider:

  • What your lease indicated the deposit can be used for
  • Did the Resident comply with all of the conditions of the Agreement?
  • Resident handed over all keys to Owner
  • Has the unit been left in acceptable condition as referenced in the Property Condition Checklist?

Turnover Techniques

Now that the unit has been vacated and is back in your possession, what comes next? The key is to get your unit ready to rent as quickly as possible without losing too much rent. On the other hand you don’t want to rush the turnover process too much or you’ll surely miss something important and your unit won’t be ready to rent when you are. Things to consider when turning a unit:

  • Schedule your lease agreements so that unit turnovers are spread out during the months when re-renting is easiest; general June – August.
  • Enter the unit as soon as possible after receiving/issuing a Termination of Tenancy Notice (48 hours to inspect, 24 hours to show a unit) with the appropriate Entry to Premises Notice and perform a pre-move-out inspection. Make a list of what will need to be done when the tenant vacates.
  • Upon receipt / issuance of a Termination of Tenancy Notice, provide the tenant with a Move-Out Checklist detailing all cleaning and repairs they must perform to ensure they get their full security deposit returned.
  • Schedule open houses to maximize foot traffic (competition) for the unit and add value to each request to enter a unit you issue to a tenant.
  • Anticipate that turnover of a unit cannot be done in one day. If a tenant vacates on the last day of a month, don’t sign a new lease with a new renter which commences on the first day of the following month.

Handling Security Deposits

The security deposit—a rental housing owner’s last vestige of comfort when renting out a property worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. The scenarios of how to handle a security deposit, what it’s intended to be used for, and how to successfully complete the move-out process are limitless. Here are the correct steps for handling the security deposit.

  • The name of the deposit matters. A damage deposit can only be used by the landlord to cover damages, not rent or other owed amounts. Calling a deposit a “security deposit” is recommended as it can then be used to cover any amounts owed by the tenant.
  • Deposits are 100% fully refundable. Non-refundable fees cannot be taken from a deposit and should be charged as a separate amount under the lease or rental agreement, with the purpose for the non-refundable charge clearly specified, ie non-refundable carpet cleaning fee.
  • A “Property Condition Checklist” is required to collect and withhold money from a deposit. Under RCW 59.18.260, “No deposit may be collected by a landlord unless the rental agreement is in writing and a written checklist or statement specifically describing the condition and cleanliness…is provided by the landlord to the tenant at the commencement of the tenancy.”
  • Normal wear and tear costs cannot be charged to a deposit. Wear and tear is a cost of doing business, and those charges cannot be assessed to a tenant’s deposit.
  • Deposit refund statements must be postmarked within 14 days after the tenant vacates the unit. Timeliness is key when going thru the deposit refund process. A final Statement of Deposit Refund must be postmarked within 14 days of the tenant vacating and sent to their most recently provided address. Under RCW 59.18.280, a failure to do so results in the full deposit having to be refunded to the tenant.