The advent of spring may bring thoughts of warmer weather and ditching the heavy coats. But for many property managers, it means just one thing: Student move-out season is nearly upon us.
Whether they’re graduating or simply feeling the need for a change of address, students across the country tend to wrap up their leases in April and May. That adds up to a large concentration of empty units all at once.
As a property manager, you may be tempted to focus on filling those apartments ASAP, rather than lending a hand to existing residents who have already given notice. But bear in mind that taking the time to help students move out properly will actually save you time—and money—in the long-run, while making it easier to fill vacancies.
Consider the risks of leaving student renters to their own devices when it comes time to move out:
- Overstaying their welcome. Most students are still quite young and are easily distracted by the stresses of packing up and moving out. Without the proper guidance, they might not vacate on time, which will cause problems if you’ve already rented their unit to the next tenants.
- Helping themselves. Whether through ill intent or simply carelessness, student tenants may walk off with items that don’t belong to them. You need to make it clear what stays behind when they leave.
- Feeling right at home. Your student tenants may have gotten so comfortable on your property that they’re waiting for mom or dad to swoop in and tidy up their messes. That leaves you in the position of having to spend time or money arranging for their cleanup.
Tenant security deposits could cover some of the costs that arise from sticky move-outs, but depending on the damage, that may not be enough. And some renters get upset if they don’t get their entire deposit back, which could escalate to small claims court if they decide to challenge it.
The best way to avoid any headaches during student move-outs is to make it crystal clear what you expect of them and what they must do if they want to reclaim their entire security deposit. To make that happen, we recommend a two-pronged approach that starts during move-in and ends at the move-out.
The Best Defence is a Good Offence
A good move-out process begins at the move-in. Arrange to walk through the apartment with your new tenant so you can establish a baseline and agree on the unit’s condition, avoiding future disagreements. It’s a good idea to document any damage, both in writing and with photos.
You should also send your new renters an online renter’s handbook via your tenant portal. Ensure that the handbook outlines your expectations for care of the property; if you want them to clean carpets and floors, or wash out the refrigerator before moving out, list those items in the handbook. Identify what you think goes beyond standard wear and tear (e.g. dented walls) and let your resident know the cost you’ll deduct from their security deposit in the event that they inflict damage on the property, so they aren’t surprised later.
Any Given Move-Out Day
When your student renters send their notice, remind them of the renter’s handbook. Even though you went over it at move-in, don’t assume they’ll have perfect recall; with all the excitement of moving out, their responsibilities to the property owner probably won’t be top of mind.
You can also use your tenant portal to send out a simple checklist of what they must do to get their unit move-out ready. Try to include tips that will help you (e.g. leaving their utilities in their name until the final day of their lease) and them (e.g. redirecting their mail).
Arrange a final walk-through with your departing student to identify any damages they must repair or pay for. And schedule the key drop-off; not only does this ensure that you get the key back, but it also clarifies the precise day you can start renting to a new tenant.
Try to get your student tenant’s current cell phone number so you can reach them in case you need to follow up after they’ve moved out.
Get Schooled on the Move
By planning ahead and taking a few precautionary measures, you can help ensure a seamless student move-out that will make things easier for everyone involved—the student, your new resident and of course your property management firm.
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