What Are Tenants’ Responsibilities for Repairs Before Move-Out?
Imagine this: You’re looking around your empty home before move-out, wondering if you’re missing anything, perhaps counting all the boxes you have packed to transport to your new place. Suddenly, you notice the crayon marks on your white walls after your child was pretending to be an artist.
As a tenant, you have the responsibility to leave your former home in an acceptable condition to either get back your security deposit or simply get a good reference from your landlord. In other words, cleaning and repairing your home before moving out is not only a primary responsibility for tenants, but it is also a courtesy.
Typically, the landlord is responsible for repairs and maintaining functionalities such as electricity, water, plumbing, and heating. However, landlords are not obligated to fix any issues the tenant caused by misuse.
You, as the tenant, are responsible for maintaining your living space in a presentable condition. This may include repairing holes, stains, cracks, dents, and any other damages you may have accidentally caused to the carpet, appliances, walls, or ceilings.
You'd be surprised by how many common repairs you can tackle to get your security deposit back and ultimately save more money for setting up your new home. Below, learn more about how to perform 5 top move-out repairs like a pro.
1. Fix Holes and Dents in Drywall
Dents, scratches, or holes in drywall are very common issues tenants have to deal with when moving out. Causes could be from furniture, doorknobs, water damage, or even poorly installed drywall.
When fixing a few inches of drywall dents, all you need is a powder that you can mix up yourself or putty you buy at the store. Depending on the size of your drywall hole, premixed putty comes in a small container or bucket for about $6.
You’ll also need a 3 to 4 inch putty knife to scrape the putty and fill in your damaged drywall. Make sure that you fill it in with a generous amount of putty so it will be steady and strong once it dries. Once the putty is dry, smooth it out with sandpaper and paint over the area if needed.
2. Repair Damaged Baseboards
It’s common for baseboards to get chipped and scuffed over time. Luckily, it’s much simpler to patch baseboard imperfections than to replace the entire segment.
To repair damaged baseboards, you’ll need a putty knife, spackling paste, sandpaper, a paintbrush, and trim paint. You don’t have to be a professional, you just need a few tools and a couple of hours.
First, any loose paint and caulk lines should be gently scraped away using your putty knife. Then, start spreading the spackle paste in a moderate, smooth motion until the defect is completely filled in. It’s important to do this with thin layers for even and clean coats. Before the spackle dries, use a damp cloth to carefully get rid of any excess paste.
The next step is to lightly sand the dried spackle. Keep in mind that a fast-drying spackle may take about 3-5 minutes, but to be wise, wait at least 30 minutes to an hour for the spackle paste to fully dry out. You’ll know it’s completely dry when you lightly touch it and no fingerprints are left behind.
You may need to add more coats, especially to any particular damaged spots. Lastly, grab your brush and paint to freshen up your work. It is advised to use tape to protect your walls and floor before painting the baseboard.
3. Deep Clean the Carpets
Dirt, soil, and odors accumulate in your carpets over time and can damage the carpet fibers.
To lengthen the life of your carpet, it’s recommended to vacuum at least once a week, especially if you have kids and/or pets. Now that you’re preparing to move out, you can’t go back in time to follow this advice. Fortunately, there are ways to make your carpet look as good as new.
You can always hire a professional cleaning service to deep clean your carpets — or, if you have the time and cleaning equipment, you can do it yourself.
To remove dust and dirt from your carpet, carefully move your furniture and other large items out of the way. Grab your vacuum and set it to the highest level of suction. Start vacuuming slowly, going over the same area several times. You can also use a lint roller to remove stubborn crumbs or pet hair.
To get rid of stains from dropped food, liquids, or solid mud, use a dull knife to carefully eliminate residue in an upward motion. Do not rub the stains, as they will just get buried deeper into the carpet fibers.
For remaining wine, coffee, and other stains on your carpet, you can make your own cleaning solution by diluting one part of clear dishwashing liquid with two parts of hydrogen peroxide. Apply the solution onto the stain, leave it for 7 to 10 minutes, then grab a clean cloth dipped in water and blot the area until the carpet is clean.
PRO TIP: Accidents happen all the time, so next time you spill coffee or wine onto your carpet, grab some paper towels, let it soak up the liquid, and sprinkle salt over the stain. The salt will help absorb the stain and can be easily vacuumed up.
4. Assess Heating, Vents, and AC (HVAC)
Your HVAC system is likely filled with cobwebs, dust, dirt, and pollen, so it’s important to ensure it’s inspected regularly for any inefficiencies.
You can even check and clean the HVAC system yourself. Use a screwdriver to unscrew the grille and duct covers, then use a damp cloth or paper towel to clean off any dirt. You can also use your regular vacuum or handheld vacuum to suck up any small particles that have accumulated over time. Use a broom or vacuum to clean vents on the ceiling.
To inspect and clean dryer vents, turn off and disconnect the power first to avoid the risk of fire. Keep in mind, dryers that are run by gas should only be cleaned by a professional HVAC inspector.
Additionally, a damaged furnace or air filter can be replaced for around $20 at your nearest big box store. To replace the filter, turn off the furnace, then remove the service panel. Next, locate the existing filter near the intake or outtake blower fan. After the current filter is separated, slide in the new filter.
Once you have checked and cleaned your air ducts, vents, and filters, you’ll be one step closer to moving to your new home. If you’re having trouble cleaning your HVAC system or find a defect or unfamiliar damage, call for a professional cleaner or inspector service.
5. Fix Minor Plumbing Issues
Most of the time, landlords will accommodate and call for a professional plumbing service for plumbing issues for free. That said, when you’re moving out and want to lessen your move-out expenses, there are several minor plumbing problems you can fix yourself.
To fix a leaky faucet, shut off the water supply first by twisting the valve under your sink. If there isn’t one under your sink, you might need to turn off the water supply for your entire house. Next, empty the line pipe by turning on the faucet and allowing the remaining water to flow into the sink.
After shutting off the water and emptying the pipe, you may remove the faucet handle. Depending on the type of faucet handle, you may need an Allen wrench, flat head screwdriver, or Phillips head screwdriver.
Once the faucet handle is removed, you’ll see an O-ring and washer, which are likely the cause of the leak. In this case, go to your nearest hardware store and look for a new set of O-rings and washers that fit your faucet properly. When reassembling, make sure that each item is tightened properly to prevent any further drips.
To unclog your drain, grab a wire hanger, straighten it out to the best of your ability, and bend one end to create a small hook. Insert the hook side of the wire into the drain and start fishing out the trapped hair and debris that’s causing the clog. Next, turn on the hot water to further clear the drain and pipes.
For more difficult clogs, mix ⅓ cup of baking soda with ⅓ cup of vinegar in a container. The mixture will quickly fizz up, so pour it down the clogged drain as fast as possible. Let it sit for a few hours or overnight, then flush it with hot or boiling water.
What to Do Before Completing Move-Out Repairs
As a tenant, make sure to report all maintenance problems as soon as you find out about them. Waiting and leaving it alone until you move out will likely make the situation worse. If you are unsure about the process and regulations for reporting maintenance and repairs, it is best to check with your landlord.
Equally important, inspecting, cleaning, and conducting basic move-out repairs will save you from possible issues with your landlord, especially when it comes to getting your security deposit back.
That said, before doing any repairs yourself, it is best to contact a professional for any tips, to prevent any harm, and to find out exactly how much you are saving by doing the move-out repairs yourself.
For more move-out tips, check out our other resources.
Article written by Mia Sofia Pimentel