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Preparing to Move Out of a Rental Home

If you have to move out, do it the right way. You don’t want a bad move out to leave a black mark on an otherwise good rental experience. So, when preparing to move out of your rental home, follow these steps to make it go as well as possible.

Give notice properly

Look to your lease to determine what you need to do. Most of the time, this involves sending a letter to management at least 30 days ahead of when you intend to move out (here's a great sample letter). Follow what it says exactly and prepare to pay any associated fees if you’re moving out early.

Fully clean the apartment

You need to return the apartment to the way it was when you got there. Go through and clean the place completely - you may even want to consider hiring a professional cleaning service - and get things as close as you can to how it was. If there’s any repair work you need to do before moving out, this is the time.

The kitchen:

  • The oven - Depending on how often you cleaned it, if at all, this can be the hardest of your move-out chores. Use oven cleaner, following directions carefully. Use surface cleaner on the stove, paying special attention to burners.
  • The refrigerator – Wash bins with hot, soapy water. Use vinegar or a surface cleaner on shelves and doors.
  • Shelves and pantry – Remove all food and wash or remove shelf paper.
  • Floor – Sweep and mop.

The bathroom:

  • Wash tile and tub with an appropriate cleaner or a combination of baking soda and vinegar.
  • Wipe counters and cabinets with a surface cleaner. Scrub sink with scouring powder or baking soda and vinegar.
  • Clean toilet bowl with an appropriate cleanser, and brush and wipe down the outside surfaces.
  • Sweep and mop the floor.

All rooms:

  • Remove all nails, tacks and hooks from walls and doors. Spackle any holes.
  • Remove stains from carpet with spot-cleaner or a rented steam cleaner. Vacuum all floors, and mop tile or linoleum.
  • Clear closets, cupboards and drawers, and wipe down surfaces.
  • Wipe blinds or shades.
  • Wipe down ceiling fans.

Remove everything that’s yours

As much as you think the landlord or next tenant might want your table or set of pots and pans, they really won’t. Don’t leave anything behind that didn’t come with the rental. If you need to get rid of some things, that’s what eBay, Craigslist, and Goodwill are there for.

Document the condition of the place

Do a final walk through with your landlord or manager, taking pictures of the current state of the apartment as you go. You’ll get your security deposit back based on how things are now, so this will serve as evidence if there’s a dispute over how much of that you should get back.

Shut off the utilities

You really don’t want to pay for the next tenant’s electric bill, do you? Contact the utility companies at least two weeks ahead and arrange to shut them off on the day that you’re moving out. This can be a surprisingly easy (and costly) thing to forget to do.

Return your keys and wrap up other loose ends

On the day you move out, there are a few loose ends to wrap up. Hand your keys back to the landlord or manager, give them your new forwarding address (in addition to giving it to the post office), and check that there’s nothing left that you need to do.

There’s a lot to do when moving out - we didn’t even cover the packing and moving process itself! But following these steps and properly preparing can help to cover a lot of easily forgotten or missed steps in the process.

Categories: Renters

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About the Author
The managing editor of Apartment Guide and rent.com, Brian Carberry has more than 10 years’ experience as a content creator and award-winning journalist. Brian’s work has been featured on CNN, Search Engine Land, Randstad and a number of other organizations around the world. In his free time, Brian enjoys sports, cooking and debating the correct pronunciation of “gif.”