Multimedia, Property Management

Rental Turnover, Preparation, and Upkeep: Video Extra

In this video, Chris Lee and Eli Secor, founders of Landlord Gurus, discuss rental turnover. This includes prepping your unit for new tenants, as well as upkeep in general.

Topics in this video include:

  • Cleaning before new tenants [0:25]
  • Checking for damages [2:13]
  • Move-in inspection [5:09]
  • Addressing maintenance issues [7:06]
  • Things to do before listing again [8:55]


Chris Lee: Hi, this is Chris and Eli with Landlord Gurus. Today in this video we are gonna talk about what happens when your tenant moves out and it’s time to start getting the unit ready for advertising and finding your next tenant. It’s the end of the month, and I know this is probably happening for a lot of people, it’s happening for me at the moment. So Eli, when you get the notice that someone’s moving out, what do you do? 

Eli Secor: Yeah, I’m going through this right now. The first thing that I do once I know that somebody is moving out is to prepare them for the process of getting out of the apartment, leaving it in good shape, and getting ready. Some of it is setting expectations. I’m gonna want it really clean.

One thing I do is to suggest right up front that we bring in a professional cleaner. I pitch it with “It’s gonna be easier for you. You’re gonna be busy moving and I’m really going to need it clean to pass off to the next tenant just like I did with you. So how about I coordinate having a cleaner come in once you’re out and make both of our lives easy.” I find that most times, people go with it. Oftentimes it means that they don’t go through a bunch of trouble to clean themselves and then get charged for it as well.

CL: Right. So then the expectation is that the cleaning fee would be taken out of their security deposit. 

ES: Yeah. I don’t take a non-refundable cleaning fee the way some people do. It’s increasingly harder to do that with the localities, setting limits on how much you can charge and combine fees and deposits. And renters like it when you tell them upfront that all of this is refundable. It generally serves them best to get a reasonable cleaner and just get it done. 

CL: So then they move out, they’ve got all of their stuff cleaned up, packed up, and they’re gone. Then what do you do? I generally schedule a time to meet them, get the keys back, do a walkthrough inspection. What does that entail on your end? 

ES: I don’t do that, actually. I don’t like discussing whether or not there is something that I’m gonna charge them for or not. I think it’s probably a good idea, but to be frank, I don’t do that and generally, it works just fine. Right after they’ve moved out, I go in and I carefully assess the condition of the place. I take the condition report that they filled out on the way in noting any existing issues and I complete that on my end to note what the condition is after they’ve moved out. I look at cabinets and drawers and sinks, often, that are not very clean. Refrigerators, where the top of the refrigerator is all dusty. Any one of those triggers, if I haven’t already brought in a professional cleaner, cause it’s just not ready.

CL: Then you check for damages and we have to differentiate between what is normal wear and tear and what is actual damage. What do you look for? 

ES: Well, the most common things are picture-hanging nail holes, which I don’t charge for. That’s part of living in a space and I tell people that upfront when they move in. More and more commonly I’m finding anchors, where people have hung TVs and that type of thing on the wall. It usually requires a plastic anchor that creates a quarter-inch hole, and the worst part is that it sticks out.

Often, people have spackled over that and it makes a lump. So, I look for that, and actually a trick that I try to tell tenants when they’re moving out, is when they spackle that they come back with a wet rag and remove all of the extra spackle around the hole. If there’s any texture and they put new spackle on, it just smooths all that out and it leaves this glaring smooth spot that stands out. Anyway, I look for that, I look for any kind of dents or big scratches in the wall and I take photos. Scratches on the floor, et cetera. Which are hard to charge for because sometimes the only thing you can do is replace it. But you have to quantify it in some way. 

CL: Right. You mentioned photos, and this is something that I think we should talk about when we move on to the next stages, when you have someone moving in. But a good practice when you do have someone move in is to take pictures at the move-in inspection. So then when they move out, you’ve got pictures that you can compare with from when they moved in till now. You’re taking pictures again that you can then show them. If there is anything that they question, you can show them the pictures from before and after.

ES: Yeah. There’s actually a real opportunity for landlords and software developers alike for an inspection app. zInspector I used once and it’s basically a condition report that you fill out in the app and it allows you to take pictures. It wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be yet and I’m keeping an eye out for a product that really does that nicely. Anyway, very good idea, and I’m hoping it’ll get even easier with technology coming along, you know? 

CL: Once you have done the inspection and you bring in your cleaners or make any repairs, anything like that, then it comes time, depending on where you live, there are certain rules about how that deposit gets returned. In some places, that has to be done within 14 days or 21 days or whatever. It depends on where you are. If you are taking anything out of their deposit to account for those repairs or cleaning, certain places require you to send them an itemized accounting of all those charges. That’s something to consider. 

internal link Also Read: Everything Property Owners Should Know About Security Deposits

ES: I think that tenants are owed that. They should know what they’re paying for and you should show them where the money was spent. Let me back up just a sec, Chris. Another thing I do with tenants that are going out is to ask them whether or not there are any maintenance issues that I should know about, so that I can take care of it between the tenants. Before I’m trying to rent it. I try to address those ideally before the cleaner comes in, so that the handyman doesn’t muck things up.

I have a list of things that I’ve just learned over the years that commonly need to be done. Changing the drip pans, I just change drip pans between every tenant, unless they’ve coated them in foil. I charge the tenants for that.  Caulking at sinks and tubs and that type of thing often is kind of grungy. So, I’ll often have that replaced or touched up. Light bulbs, and you can charge tenants for that if they’re out or somebody’s put a red, random light bulb in. And clean the fan grates.

Smoke detector and detector batteries, which you’re required to do. I mention to new tenants that they’re responsible for replacing them and not taking them out and leaving them hanging. Those are some things that I commonly do before I bring the cleaners in. Those all need to be accounted for, as you mentioned, when you return the deposit.

internal link Also Read: Prioritizing Property Maintenance: Tips for Independent Landlords

CL: You’ve got the unit cleaned, repaired, and ready to turn around. We’ll talk about what comes next as far as listing and advertising in a different video. Is there anything else that you might include prior to that step? 

ES: Prior to listing, take good photos for your listing once you got it all tuned up. 

CL: Yeah, that’s a great time to do it. Do a 3D tour or video or whatever. While it’s in its prime condition.

ES: There are all kinds of things to talk about on those subjects. We’ll come back and do that in a another episode. 

CL: Yup. Look for that in the future. We’ll wrap that up for now. Again, if you like this video, please like it, subscribe, and send it to people. We will catch you all next time. Thanks a lot. 

ES: Thanks so much. Bye. 

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and Landlord Gurus may earn a commission. Our mission remains to provide valuable resources and information that helps landlords manage their rental properties efficiently and profitably. We link to these companies and their products because of their quality, not because of the commission.

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About Landlord Gurus

Here at Landlord Gurus, our commitment is to provide expert advice on the complex and important issues faced by landlords and property managers. Together we have over 30 years of experience in residential property ownership and management. In addition to sharing our own expertise and experiences, we call on specialists in fields including maintenance, law, tenant management, and more. Where we see topics that require more in-depth discussion, we create insightful articles that provide valuable information and guidance.
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