You’ve found a good tenant for your rental and you are excited to meet him/her and sign the lease. The date and time are set and the only thing left to do now is grab the lease and head out the door, right? Wrong.
At least in WA state, the law says you cannot hold a security deposit of the tenant without a move-in checklist! Imagine having a “security” deposit that provides no security at all because you are missing this one essential document. It means returning the entire deposit to the tenant regardless of the condition the property was left in.
So you go back and grab the move-in checklist at the same time as you grab the lease. You head over to meet your new tenant. You’re running a little short of time. After all, you just want to grab the money, give them the keys, and be done with this nonsense. So you draw a line down the move-in checklist under the ‘Good’ column and figure that overs you, right? Wrong.
You need to put a check next to each item or the checklist is invalid. This one is the judge’s call whether they will accept it or not, but imagine having a move-in checklist and still being ordered to return the full amount.
All right. So you have a move-in checklist and each item is checked off. Three years have passed and it is time for the tenant to move out. Do you have notes on the move-in checklist so you can determine which repair items are chargeable to the tenant and which ones to the owner? Good notes — and even photographs — help insure fairness for all parties. If you don’t know then how can you charge fairly?
The move-in checklist (and its counterpart, the move-out checklist) are critical legal documents to a lease.