Law Offices of Heist, Weisse, and Wolk, P.A.
Are you on our
Legal Update List?
Subscribe Button


A common request by the vacating resident is that she accompany you during the move-out inspection. Sounds reasonable enough, but the practice of walking a unit with the resident upon move–out is fraught with problems.

Why is the Resident Making This Request?

There is a good chance that a previous manager of the resident took all or part of the resident’s security deposit in a prior tenancy, and the resident is now expecting that you will do the same. The resident is afraid that you may charge her for something for which she is not responsible, or damage which she did not do. This should be your first clue that the resident is suspect. The resident may be hiding something, and if he accompanies you on the walk-through, he may be successful. The resident may be intimidating, and he knows that you may not charge him for something due to the intimidation factor. Finally, the resident may just be an honest person who feels that it is best that she do the walk-through with you, so she can show you how nice everything was left. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

The Typical Accompanied Walk-Through Scenario

Here you are, walking through a home with the resident behind you. There is a hint of Fabreze in the air. You feel a bit uncomfortable and maybe even a little intimidated. Will you look carefully inside the oven? Will you inspect the bathroom? Open drawers? Smell the carpet? Most likely not. You smell some cigarette odor but really don’t want to mention it. The walls look yellow, but you are not sure if they were this color at move-in. You will not want to engage in any controversy or altercation with the resident, and even if you think there may be a charge for some damage, you avoid bringing the issue up. Probably you will want to get the inspection over with as soon as possible and will be asked the usual question, “When will we be receiving the security deposit back?” You tell the resident that everything looks fine, and that she will get her deposit back within a couple weeks. This is a huge mistake. She will hang on these words and not let you forget them.

Fast Forward One Week

Your maintenance person has headed over to the unit to do the usual cleaning, touch up and the like. Upon entering the hot unit, as the electric has been turned off, he immediately detects an odor of pet urine and smoke. Walking around the unit, the pet urine odor become stronger, and he kneels down in a corner and smells the carpet, only to come to the conclusion that it is cat urine. Standing up, he sees fleas jumping on his pant legs. This is interesting. The resident was not supposed to have any pets, and no cat was present during the walk-through inspection. Walking through the house, he lifts up a throw rug; under the rug is a large bleach stain on the carpet. The walls seem to have been touched up, and it is quite evident, as the paint is bubbling up in each spot where the new paint was applied. Your maintenance person heads out back and sees a huge oil stain on the floor of the driveway, and behind a newly planted bush in the patio area, he notices that the vinyl siding is warped from a “grill gone wild”. But wait. You told the resident everything looked fine and that she would be getting back her deposit.

The Problem

By initially telling the resident that everything looked fine, you created an expectation on the resident’s part that the security deposit would be returned. This will be used against you in the event that you make a claim on the deposit. Once the resident receives your claim, she will be sure to dispute the claim, and if you were to go to court, you would need to explain to the Judge why you said what you said, and why you made a claim contrary to those statements. Often there is undiscovered damage which becomes evident only later when the property is properly inspected at your leisure by you or your staff. Proper inspection is the key here, and no property can be properly inspected with the resident in tow.

Proper Procedure

You need to develop a firm policy and procedure on inspecting the premises upon move-out. This will mean that never will you inspect a property upon move- out with the resident present. Immediate inspection upon move-out, without the resident, is a must, but more importantly, a later inspection when the air conditioning may be off is in order, so previously masked odors can be detected. All throw rugs should be moved and inspections made of all the appliances, closets, garage, storage areas and every other area which may not be immediately apparent. The next time residents ask or demand that they be present with you on the move-out inspection, simply tell them that it is not your company policy to allow this, and if they are afraid you will treat them unfairly, they should take their own photographs of the premises.


  • The Curable Noncompliance Examined PART 1