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It's the new year (finally), which means that many renters' annual leases are up and landlords are seeking new tenants to occupy their vacant properties.
But before you welcome a new occupant into your rental, make sure the unit is safe, clean, and in proper working order. (This is where having a property manager comes in handy, if you can afford one.) This proactive approach not only ensures the tenant's health and safety and may prevent maintenance issues down the line, but it makes a good impression that can lead to a healthy landlord-tenant relationship -- and a potential lease renewal in the future.
Here are nine areas every landlord should consider to prepare a rental property for a new tenant.
Ensure the rental property is safe
First things first: Once your prior tenant has left the unit for the last time, immediately have the locks changed. Even if the old tenant turned in their keys, they could have made copies you didn't know about. Make a new set of keys for yourself, your property manager (if you have one), and each tenant. If you have a smart home, change your codes or PINs to prevent unwanted access to doors, systems, etc.
Protect yourself from problematic renters by screening them to verify their identity, check for criminal history, and ensure they have the financial stability to pay their rent. Then, craft a fair and thorough rental agreement so all parties are protected. Additional documents may be required, such as a cosigner agreement, a consent to sublease, a landlord's notice to enter, or a landlord's notice of nonrenewal. If you're unsure about your contract, consult a real estate attorney.
Alarms and detectors
Next, test any safety devices, including smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and security alarms, to make sure they're in working order and have fresh batteries, if needed. Again, change the security alarm code for each new renter.
Mold and fungus
Don't rely on your eye (or nose) for this one. Hire a professional to test the unit for mold and fungus issues, especially in the bathrooms, kitchens, walls, and ceiling. Remediate if necessary.
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.
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