Every property manager has heard this phrase many times. If said during a property management gathering, it usually elicits laughs or groans. As a property owner, you may have experienced these words first-hand from a resident yourself. No one really wants to hear this statement from any tenant.
Three scenarios can lead to this cliche. First, there are times when tenants actually do deliver a property in better condition even though the property was clean when they took possession. They are simply meticulous people - this does happen. Second, the majority who make this statement are trying to put you on the defensive because they want their security deposit back in full and they know it is not as clean as when they moved in. The third and last scenario is that it is actually is cleaner because the property was not in good condition than when they moved in.
The first scenario is the one you wish will happen; the second is manageable with good documentation and common sense to dispute the tenant's claim. The last one, that the property is actually cleaner because it was dirty when they moved in, is not a good thing.
Why is it so important to have the property in the best condition when a tenant takes possession? Habit two of Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, puts it into perspective, "begin with the end in mind". If you think about it, you want the best possible exit or ending with that tenant. You want a long-term tenancy but the reality is that they all do move eventually.
By having the property in clean condition, you have the best chance of attracting the right tenancy. The residents you want in your property are those who are more particular because this is how they want to live - in a well-maintained clean property.
When the property is clean when they move in, you send a message that this is what you expect when they move out. You immediately set the stage for a good landlord/tenant relationship. Otherwise, residents begin dissatisfied and the tenancy can deteriorate from there.
As your management company, we want to avoid unpleasant and costly problems for your investment, so we have certain requirements when properties transition between tenants.
- We have the same "clean" standards for all properties and require vendors to follow these standards. This applies to both inside and outside of the unit.
- If necessary, we have a professional housekeeping team clean the property. A move-in checklist and photo CD document the condition of the property when tenants take possession.
- We use reliable vendors to complete the professional cleaning.
- We document the condition of the property before the tenant moves in, and again when the tenant moves out.
- We notify tenants when they move in what the expectations of cleanliness are when they move out.
What you don't want is a security deposit dispute when they move out, particularly one that can lead to legal issues. There is a simple answer to this - have the property clean when residents move in. Then you are on solid ground when the tenants move out.