Atlanta Property Management Blog

Move Out Inspection - What Landlords Should Be Looking For

System - Wednesday, January 12, 2022

When it comes to owning investment properties in the Atlanta area, every landlord knows that when a tenant moves out, they are going to be eager to have their security deposit returned to them.

Before a landlord returns a tenant security deposit, they should inspect the rental property thoroughly to determine if there are any damages, or repairs, that should be deducted from the security deposit

The best way for a landlord to know what damages need to be repaired in the rental property is to conduct a move out inspection.

Move Out Inspection Tips

Some of the key things that landlords should look for when inspecting their rental property after the tenant moves out includes the following:

Cigarette Burns - In 2022, more people smoke cigarettes and recreational marijuana the ever before, so it's important for the landlords to look for signs of cigarette Burns in the rental property because these burns obviously have to be repaired before the next tenant can move in.

Window Covering Damage - After searching for cigarette Burns, landlords should also inspect the window coverings on the property to determine if they've been damaged, need to be prepared, replaced, or cleaned.

Broken Appliances And Fixtures - Another important thing that landlords should do during the move out inspection process is to inspect the property for broken appliances or broken light fixtures.


A Manager can make a Tenant pay for damages if the Tenant helped the aging process along or didn’t use the home in a normal way. A carpet worn from people walking on it is something you have to expect. But a Tenant who cuts a hole in the carpet or spills paint on it may be held responsible for the damage.

How can you tell what is and isn’t ordinary wear and tear? There are three basic types of damages caused by a Tenant that aren’t considered ordinary wear and tear. 

1. Negligence. If a Tenant does something carelessly that the Tenant should have known would cause damage or if the Tenant failed to do something that the Tenant reasonably should have done to prevent damage, that’s negligence.

In short, did the Tenant act prudently to preserve the property? – Failure to warn. Another form of negligence is where the Tenant fails to take steps that could prevent damage to the property. Even the reasonable wear and tear exception shouldn’t insulate a Tenant from responsibility if the Tenant fails to let the Property Manager know when something goes wrong in the home that might later result in worse damage.

For example, if a window pane is cracked because of a faulty foundation, that’s not the Tenant’s fault. But if the Tenant doesn’t tell the Manager that the crack is letting in water and the carpet below the window gets water damaged, then the Manager may be able to argue that this extra damage was caused by the Tenant’s failure to inform the Manager of the problem.

2. Abuse/misuse. If the Tenant knowingly or deliberately mistreats the property, or uses it for the wrong purposes, the damage the Tenant causes isn’t ordinary wear and tear – it’s abuse or misuse.

For example, did the Tenant slide furniture over an unprotected floor, causing gouges? Or did the Tenant discolor the bathtub by using it to dye fabrics? Was the Tenant an artist who failed to cover the floor as the Tenant painted, leaving permanent stains on the carpet? Did the Tenant paint the walls of the home without the permission of the Manager, or fail to paint them back if instructed?

One court decision said a Tenant had to pay for leaving an apartment carpet mutilated in an area around a wet bar, damaged by rust and mildew stains from plant containers, and covered with cigarette burns – some clear through the pad.

3. Accident. Sometimes damage occurs by mistake. The Tenant’s party guest drops a drink on the new carpet, staining it. Or, the Tenant drops a heavy planter and cracks the tile floor. Or the Tenant’s cleaning the light and the fixture falls and breaks. Or the Tenant accidentally leaves the bathtub faucet on, flooding part of the home and staining wood floors and carpeting.

Even though the Tenant didn’t purposely damage your property, the Manager will be able to withhold the cost of repair from the security deposit.

Other Factors

In evaluating whether property damage exceeds ordinary wear and tear, there are some other factors to keep in mind. 

  • Extent of damage. The exact type of damage may be as important as the extent of the damage when evaluating whether it’s ordinary wear and tear or not.
     For example, two or three small nail holes in a wall may be considered ordinary wear and tear. But dozens of nail holes may be considered abuse. A light scratch on a wood floor may be unavoidable. But a missing wood plank is negligence or abuse.
  • Length of residence. Certain things wear out over time. But over how long? The ordinary wear and tear on a home from a Tenant who’s lived there only a short time should be considerably less than that of a Tenant who’s lived there for a long time. Say you installed new carpet before renting a property. It may be reasonable to expect that if a Tenant lives there 10 years before moving out, everyday usage would leave it somewhat damaged.
     But if a Tenant moves out after only three months and the carpet is ripped and stained, that’s unreasonable, and the Manager can charge the Tenant for the damage.
  • Character and construction of building. An older building may be expected to undergo greater and more rapid deterioration than a newer building.
     For example, wooden windowsills in an older building may dry out, rot, or crack over time through no fault of the Tenant. But if the building is new, it unlikely that the windowsills would crack with-out some carelessness on the Tenant’s part (e.g., standing on the windowsill to put up drapes)
  • Broken light fixtures
  • Stains or chips on the floor covering
  • Broken windows or doors

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