Are Move Out Inspections With The Tenant Required in New York?

by Keith OToole on January 14, 2013

The Law:

No.  New York law does not require move out inspections. If one is conducted, the tenant is not required to be present.

The Tenant Attorney’s View:

Tenant advocates encourage tenants to conduct a move out inspection with the landlord. At the inspection, the hope is that the landlord and tenant will identify damage, document it, and then, hopefully, settle on the amount that should be deducted from the tenant’s security deposit.

The Tenant’s View:

The Tenants want their security deposit back. They want it now and they want it all.

My View:

While I encourage Move Out Inspections, I don’t believe the tenant should be present for the inspection. If you point out damage to the tenant, it can trigger an argument or an ugly confrontation.

A few other things to consider:

  • Inspect Only When Vacant: An apartment must be vacant when a move out inspection is conducted. If the tenant’s furniture and possessions are covering walls and floors, it isn’t possible to identify all the potential damage.
  • Turning the Apartment: A successful landlord knows that an empty apartment gathers no rent. A move out inspection is important because it creates a punch list of items to be fixed so you can move in a new tenant without delay.
  • Time: Its not practical to perform a move out inspection with the old tenants breathing down your neck. You need time to do a thorough examination. It can take a couple of trips.
  • Preparing for Court: Documenting damage helps protect you in court. If there is damage, take photographs. Consider having a witness look at the damage and keep a record of the date the witness viewed the damage.
  • Move Out Checklists: Move out Checklists are a great data collection tool. However, if the tenant is present for the move out inspection, do not sign it. If you discover damage in a follow up inspection, that checklist will be used against you by the tenant.

On The Other Hand…:

Some landlords like to do Move Out Inspections with the tenants present. Once they get the keys, they schedule an appointment to meet with the tenants. Maybe they perform a thorough inspection before the tenants arrive and then they point out the issues to the tenants when the tenants arrives.

For the landlord, the team approach works well. The landlord takes photographs of damage. The maintenance man documents the issues on the Move Out checklist. When the tenants arrive, if the tenants want a confrontation, having a witness can discourage that. If the tenants argue about the security deposit in court, then the maintenance man is also the landlord’s witness in court.

Special Rules For DHS/DSS:

In Monroe County, New York, if you have a Landlord Tenant Agreement with the Monroe County Department of Human Services (formerly known as DSS), then a move out inspection may be required if a landlord wants compensation for tenant damages.

Be Consistent:

In order to avoid discrimination claims, be consistent about whether the tenants are present for a move out inspection.

If you are a Landlord and have a legal question, don’t hesitate to call me at 585.352.7300.

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