Whether it’s a celebratory time, like you just bought a house, or a sad one, like your rent went up too high to stay, one thing’s for sure: moving out of an apartment is stressful. Regardless of your reasons, we’re here to make your life easier with our apartment move-out checklist.
The most important thing to be aware of is policies regarding your lease and security deposit, but there are plenty of other items to consider. If you’re overwhelmed by everything to remember before returning your keys to your landlord, we’re here to help. This apartment move-out checklist will help you prioritize tasks and retrieve your deposit.
Helpful Apartment Move Out Checklist: 18 Things You Must Do Before Leaving
Two months in advance
1. Check-in on your finances.
Before you even consider moving out of your apartment, be sure you have the money to fund such a move.
How much money should you have saved before moving out? This varies greatly depending on your situation and risk tolerance. But here are some questions that can help guide you:
- Are you making 3x the monthly rent each month? Apartment complexes and landlords generally want to see potential tenants making 3x the rent. Bear this in mind as you go apartment hunting.
- Do you have three to six months’ worth of savings in your emergency fund? Financial experts typically recommend at least a three-month emergency fund. You only touch this fund during true emergencies, such as if you lost your job and need to pay rent.
- Is your job situation pretty stable, or is it unpredictable? If you have a stable job, you might be able to stomach more risk and move out with only a three-month emergency fund. However, if your job and financial situation feel unpredictable, better to be safe with at least a six-month emergency fund.
2. Review your lease.
As soon as you think about moving from your apartment, it’s time to visit your leasing company or landlord and ask about move-out guidelines in your lease. Ask for a copy of the lease and review the specifics regarding how much notice you give, who is responsible for cleaning, and other essential protocol items.
3. Assess any existing damage and make a repair plan.
Prepare a list of what areas of the apartment need repair or fixing before your landlord walks through your apartment for the final inspection. For instance, now is the time to repair and patch up walls, as well as touch base with the superintendent or landlord for items they will fix, such as plumbing, electrical, heating, and air conditioning, and general maintenance repairs.
One Month in Advance
4. Give written notice to your landlord or leasing company.
Once you’re sure about moving out, write a letter to your leasing company with the exact date you’ll vacate your apartment. If they require a longer timeframe, follow their rules, or you may not get your deposit back.
5. Plan for your move using this moving checklist.
Assuming you are just moving locally, think about who will be moving—if you will be moving with the help of friends or if you will be hiring a moving company. Either way, you will want to notify your friends or book a moving company for the day(s) you wish to move.
What supplies do you need when moving out?
When considering what to do before moving out of an apartment, don’t forget the essential supplies you’ll need to buy or borrow. These include:
- Boxes. You can’t get enough of these! Ask friends and neighbors for cardboard boxes they’re not using.
- Moving blankets. These are special blankets that protect furniture from scratches during the moving process.
- Cleaning supplies. You’ll use that broom, vacuum, mop, and rags often while cleaning your old apartment before moving out.
- Patching plaster and putty knife. Before you leave, if you want that security deposit back, patch any holes in the wall.
- Paint. If your lease requires it, paint the walls back to their original color (be sure to ask what the exact shade of paint color was).
6. Cancel or change your renter’s insurance.
If you have renter’s insurance, contact your insurance company to advise them where you will be moving and to get the policy effectively transferred the day before you move out and into your next place. Start collecting boxes, tape, newspaper, bubble wrap, and other essentials to start packing your belongings.
Three Weeks in Advance
7. Start decluttering and packing up your apartment.
Now it’s time to start purging and organizing so that you are only packing essential items to use at your next home. Hold a garage sale, give items to charity or your church, or donate to other tenants in your apartment complex. Other tenants may love your old couch.
When should you start packing to move apartments? Generally, do not wait any longer than two weeks before moving day to start packing up your apartment. That’s because so much more goes into the process than merely putting items in boxes. You’ll need to declutter by taking a complete inventory of your belongings and deciding what to keep, sell, and give away. On top of that, if you plan on hiring movers, you need to give them advance notice because they may not be available on the day you’re aiming for, so you need to coordinate with them. This is especially true during peak season (summer).
How far in advance do people book movers? Try to book at least two months in advance. The sooner, the better. Do not wait less than two weeks before moving day to book movers (and even then, it’s risky because they might not be able to accommodate such a quick turnaround).
8. Notify your utility companies.
Change your utility services well in advance. This includes telephone and Internet providers, electricity and gas providers, and water and other household services. If possible, turn on the utilities in your next home before your move. This step will ensure you aren’t unpacking at your new home in the dark!
9. Submit a Change of Address with the USPS.
This is easy to forget: You must ensure your mail gets to your new address! You can submit a Change of Address form to the U.S. Postal Service up to 90 days before the effective date.
10. Tie up other loose ends.
Start preparing for moving day by asking for time off from work, and if you have pets, arrange for their transportation.
Two Weeks in Advance
11. Confirm the plan for moving day.
Call your moving company and follow up on any other essential reservations you made to ensure your move is on the books. Confirm times, dates, and addresses with the movers. Find out when they will arrive and ask for an estimate of how long it will take.
12. Talk to your landlord about moving truck access.
Ask your landlord if it’s okay for moving trucks to be in the parking lot or street during your move. Many cities require proper notification in advance. If your apartment complex has an elevator, you may need to check with the management company about using it during your move.
13. Finish packing and make a moving essentials tote.
Finish packing all items except the clothes, toiletries, and food you will need for two weeks. As moving day gets closer, try to live out of a suitcase rather than your dresser drawers and closet. Clean out your refrigerator and pantry, and if your move is local, consider using a cooler on the day of the move.
One Week in Advance
14. Start the cleaning and repair process.
On this last week, start cleaning your apartment and emptying rooms as much as possible. Consider moving all your labeled boxes into one area of the room, away from the walls. Removing items will ensure you can paint, vacuum, patch up any holes, etc., before the move.
15. Complete a final walkthrough inspection with your landlord.
Ask your landlord when they will do the walkthrough inspection, and then attend to any issues found during the walkthrough. You might take pictures of the apartment to document the condition you’re leaving it in.
16. Ask your landlord about getting your security deposit back.
Confirm if you will be getting your deposit back and confirm the address where you’d like the check to be mailed to or electronically deposited. Sometimes a landlord may opt to use the security deposit as last month’s rent instead of returning it, so be sure to confirm. Ask about any deductions if necessary.
17. Get ready for the stress of moving day.
On the day of moving, wake up early before the movers. Have a good breakfast because it’s going to be a long day! Here are some other items to check off your list on moving day:
- Take out the trash.
- Fill your cooler with the remaining items from the refrigerator.
- Spot-clean the refrigerator if your landlord requests it.
- Carry packaging tape in the car with you for any last-minute opening and reclosing of boxes. (It always happens!)
- After everything is moved, sweep all the floors.
18. Complete another walkthrough after moving is complete, then return your keys.
Do a final walkthrough of your apartment to ensure everything is gone and all damage has been remedied. Let your landlord know the apartment is vacant and return the keys. Double-check that they have your address and phone number for any follow-up conversations you may have.
How do I prepare my apartment before moving in?
Now that we’ve covered the apartment move-out checklist, you’re probably wondering what to do before moving into your new apartment. As always, we’ve got you covered!
- Make sure utilities are turned on. You don’t want to arrive in a dark apartment! Arrange ahead of time to ensure the utility company turns on the electricity before you move in. For Wi-Fi, the internet company might need to come and install it once you arrive, so be prepared to be without Wi-Fi for a bit.
- Check-in with your apartment complex or landlord. This is when you’ll pick up the keys and maybe an apartment inspection checklist, also known as a move-in/move-out report. You’ll use this form to document any damage to the apartment that existed before you moved in, and it helps you get your security deposit back (as long as you don’t do any damage to the unit).
- Do a walkthrough and make a note of any damages or flaws. Inspect the apartment thoroughly before you start moving your stuff in. Record any damages, flaws, or anything that’s not working correctly, and be sure to alert your landlord or property manager immediately.
- Check smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. For safety reasons, these should all be in working order.
- Grab a broom or vacuum, mop, and garbage bags. Before you unpack those boxes, thoroughly clean the apartment so you’re starting from a clean slate.
Once you’ve completed these steps from this straightforward apartment move-out checklist, you’ll be ready to enter your new home with your old apartment’s security deposit intact. Good luck! Have any other tips that helped you when you moved out of an apartment? Let us know in the comments.
This post originally appeared on the Life Storage Blog 8/5/15 and was updated 9/19/18 & 5/26/23 with new information.