Planning a home handover

The lease is signed, the boxes are packed and you are all set to move. But before you do, you still need to deal with your home handover – where you officially gain access to the property and pick up the keys. And in all your excitement at moving to your new home, you must not forget your old one: this has to be returned to your former landlord following the due process. To save yourself unnecessary hassle, you should plan and prepare for both home handovers carefully.

The home handover for your new home: what to consider

At the start of your tenancy, you should create a handover report with your new landlord. Make sure that the property’s condition is recorded as accurately as possible. Any defects should be documented in the handover report, with photos as supporting evidence if desired. That protects you as a tenant from liability for damage caused by the previous tenant when you move out. Any disagreements between the landlord and tenant should also be recorded. The more precise the report, the better.

In principle, the handover report should include the following key information:

  • Any defects in the home
  • Any disagreements between the tenant and the landlord
  • Condition of the walls, windows and doors
  • Gas, water and electricity meter readings
  • Number of keys handed over

Use our handover report to avoid a lack of clarity and fraught conversations with your landlord.

If you are taking over something from the previous tenant, you should consider that the landlord may ask you to return the apartment to its original condition when you move out. This can be an unpleasant business; for instance, if the previous tenant has painted the walls brown or glued or nailed carpets down.

The same applies in this situation: Record in writing in the report who is responsible to the landlord for what and have this signed by all involved (i.e. previous and new tenant and landlord).

Always remember: the condition of the property when you accept the home handover is the condition for which you will subsequently be responsible and liable. Accordingly, it is worth taking a close look and documenting or dealing with damage.

Defects in the new home: what should you do?

Damage that you notice during the handover should be recorded in the handover report immediately. However, it often happens that tenants notice things only when they are already living in the property. Depending on your lease, you have 10 to 30 days after the handover to report damage you notice. This must be reported to the landlord in writing by registered post.

The landlord must deal with moderate and severe defects. These may include:

  • Non-functioning appliances
  • Peeling carpets
  • Vermin

Homes with significant mould and properties that do not become warmer than 17°C in winter with the heating on are deemed uninhabitable. The tenant should agree a deadline for dealing with these defects in writing with the landlord.

If the landlord does not comply with this schedule, set another deadline in writing by registered post. At the same time, you can request a rent reduction and announce that you will deposit the rent with the arbitration body after the grace period has expired. However, you should not make any arbitrary deductions. In case of doubt, contact a tenants’ association or arbitration body.

The home handover for your old apartment

After you have moved into your new home, you still need to hand over your former property to the landlord. You should clarify and be aware of the following data and information:

  • Final cleaning date
  • Date of home handover with former landlord (usually the last day of the tenancy period)
  • Details of the lease for your former home

Read your old lease very carefully to prepare. It usually states how the property should be returned. However, in principle, the home should be returned in the state in which you received it.

Defects in your former home: what do I have to deal with as a tenant?

Home is where people live their lives. That means parquet flooring will wear out, walls will have holes in them and carpets will not be quite as clean as they used to be. However, one thing is often unclear: what does the tenant have to deal with when they move out, and what is the landlord’s responsibility?

In principle, the tenant is liable for all damage and defects caused by excess wear and tear in accordance with the service life table. ‘Excess wear and tear’ in this context refers to use that goes beyond normal life in the home.

The distinction between normal and excess wear and tear is of course not that simple, and regularly leads to conflict between landlords and tenants.

The following rule of thumb can help: whenever something happens where you think ‘oops, something went wrong, I’ve had a little accident’, that’s probably excess wear and tear. Examples of defects the tenant must deal with include:

  • Sauce stains on kitchen wall
  • Broken toothbrush holders
  • Missing/broken kitchen tray
  • Missing/broken cutlery holder in dishwasher
  • Blocked drain trap
  • Limescale on taps
  • Major scratches or damage to flooring

You can do small repairs yourself, but for larger-scale work, you should hire a tradesperson. However, this may also be covered in the lease.

The final clean: what’s involved?

Before your home handover takes place, you must clean your former property. Often, the lease stipulates that the property must be returned in spotless condition. Unfortunately, that does not mean just removing any stains or spots. It’s also worth looking at the lease in this instance to see what was agreed at the beginning of the tenancy.

Our checklist gives you an overview of the tasks generally involved in the final clean:

  • Thoroughly vacuum and wet-mop floors
  • Clean out built-in cupboards
  • Thoroughly clean out kitchen cupboards
  • Clean oven and replace missing trays
  • Clean or replace dust extractor in kitchen
  • Clean hob
  • Find instruction booklets for all kitchen appliances and put them together in one place
  • Clean washing machine and dryer
  • Remove limescale in bathroom
  • Remove any sink or drain blockages
  • Remove limescale deposits in water tap filters
  • Clean windows
  • Clean blinds and shutters
  • Clean windowsills inside and out
  • Do not forget outdoor spaces: the terrace, garage and basement must be clean too
  • Remove adhesive hooks, adhesive remnants and pictures
  • Seal holes
  • Supply all keys (including copies)

Our tip: Nowadays, it’s common for the tenant to hire a cleaning company to do the final clean of their former property. You should choose a quote with a flat rate and acceptance guarantee. That means the company guarantees the apartment will be accepted by the landlord. If the landlord has complaints, the cleaning company must rectify them at no additional charge.

Our cleaning tips should help the final clean go smoothly. 

The handover for your old property: how it works

When your home has been cleaned and you have found all the keys, the handover with the landlord can take place. If your home was cleaned by a company, a representative from the cleaning company should also be present at the handover.

As with the handover for your new home, a handover report should be produced for the return of your previous property. Of course, this time, your landlord has an established interest in ensuring that all defects and damage that have occurred during your tenancy are well documented.

When you have gone through the apartment with your landlord and any damage has been recorded in the handover report, both parties will sign the report.

Our tip: Sign the handover report only when everything is understood. By signing the document, you agree to all the recorded defects and damage and will have to deal with them in case of doubt.

If you are unsure, do not sign the document, or do so only with clear reservations. In that event, you must also make a complaint regarding the items you do not agree to by registered post and contact the local tenants’ association if necessary. Keep a copy of the handover report dated and signed by you and the landlord and a copy of your letter with proof of postage.

When the handover report has been signed, the keys are handed over and the deposit is repaid.