Thoroughly clean the unit
Hire a professional or rent a carpet cleaner for this crucial step. It'll remove stains and odors, but more importantly, carpet cleaning eliminates dust mites, pet dander, cockroach allergens, and other trapped pollutants. Further, it can prevent mold or fungus from growing. Especially if your renter has allergies -- or your previous tenant had a pet -- this step is a must.
Even if your prior tenant made an effort to clean the unit before leaving, be sure to check some areas that renters often overlook, like dryer and HVAC vents, window treatments, light fixtures, baseboards, and fan blades. When in doubt, hire a professional cleaner and have them do a deep clean. Also, don't forget to tidy up the outdoor space, if there is one; or, if needed, do some yard work or pressure washing to provide your new tenants with a clean slate.
Walls looking dingy? Don't think your Magic Eraser can actually work magic. Adding a fresh coat of paint to a unit helps with first impressions and also has functional benefits, including keeping moisture out, thus preventing mold and mildew growth. If the previous tenant tried and failed in this area, it's worth a redo.
Check that everything is functional
Tenants expect rental properties to be move-in ready, and that includes appliances. Test everything from the refrigerator, range, and dishwasher to the washer and dryer and HVAC unit to ensure they're in good working order. Try to give yourself time to bring in a service tech if repairs are needed; if you can handle regular maintenance yourself (e.g., changing filters), do so.
Thoroughly inspect the unit for any kind of damage, whether due to regular use or a destructive tenant, as well as warnings of future problems. Check around sinks, tubs, showers, and toilets for water leaks. If you've had issues in the unit before, double-check that area in case the problem has cropped up again, like a faulty circuit breaker.
Walk every square foot of the rental property, testing railings, floorboards, and steps; handles and doorknobs; and light switches and control panels. If the tenant is going to use it, you should use it, too. And don't forget to scan the unit from the outside for signs of trouble as well (e.g., broken or missing shingles).
The Millionacres bottom line
When you’re preparing a property for a new tenant, be comprehensive and think about what you’d expect when moving into a new unit. Everything should be safe, from creating new keys and passcodes to preparing the proper paperwork to inspecting for mold. It goes without saying that the rental property should also be clean, especially the carpet and even areas you might not normally check, like inside light fixtures. Finally, thoroughly check for damage, whether it’s a loose railing on a deck or signs of leaks. This proactive step will not only protect your tenant but will help avoid problems with your property down the road.