Filling a vacancy can feel like a major accomplishment and it is. The marketing, showings, and screening process can be challenging and exhausting. Now that you have finished with that and you have a tenant, you’re ready to get started on being a great landlord.
But, what’s next?
Are you ready to have your tenant move into your property?
There are a few steps that you have to take before you hand over the keys and begin collecting rent checks every month. Today, we’re talking about what those things are and how to prepare for them.
The first thing you need to do is create a move-in checklist. All of these things have to be done before your tenant moves in. Once you’ve checked off all the items on this list, you’re prepared and ready to be a landlord.
Move-In Checklist Item No. 1: Health and Safety Issues
The first item on your list is to check for health and safety issues at the property. If you find anything that may be hazardous to your tenants or their guests, address those issues right away. This could be something as simple as a loose handrail on steps or an electrical outlet that smokes when you plug something into it. If the flooring is buckling or carpet is pulling up and creating a trip hazard, you’ll want to take care of that before anyone moves in.
In some cities, heating and air conditioning (HVAC) units are mandatory, in other cities, they are not. Be sure to know and understand where your rental property stands within these guidelines. If an HVAC unit is necessary, be sure to regularly check and maintain the unit, especially before a new tenant move in. Not only could your unit become uncomfortable to the new residents if the unit is working properly , you may be violating state/city laws!
Look for any signs of mold in the property. Check under your sinks and identify any soft spots or discoloration in walls and ceilings that may indicate there’s a plumbing leak that isn’t immediately evident. Water can be especially damaging to property and if it’s left untreated, it can lead to rot and mold. This may cause health issues to your tenants, so you want to get out ahead of it.
It’s also important to check and test the smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. It’s imperative they work and that they’re in places where they’re needed. If your property was constructed before 1978, it’s a good idea to check for lead paint as well. Don’t forget to provide tenants with a copy of all the legally required disclosures, especially concerning lead paint.
Move-In Checklist Item No. 2: Cleaning
The second task on your checklist is cleaning. You need to clean your property well. This is critical if you’re turning a unit or renting your property out for the first time. Unless you’re a really detailed cleaner, it’s a good idea to hire a professional cleaning team to be sure it’s thoroughly cleaned. You’ll need to be detail-oriented before the tenants move in.
1. Clean behind the stove and under the stove.
2. Pull out the fridge and clean behind that.
3. Clean inside the appliances as well. Everything has to look new.
4. Wipe down and clean the windows and blinds
5. Vacuum and wipe the heaters and vents
6. Clean all closet shelves and floors
Whether it’s a small unit or a large house - clean it well. Most of this should have been done by the previous resident during their move-out process. But, this does not necessarily mean it DID get done properly! You will always need to double check and ensure the house is clean for the next tenant.
After you’ve cleaned the kitchen extremely well, turn your attention to the bathrooms. You want to really scrub the toilet, tub, and tiles. Handing over a property that isn’t perfectly clean will damage the relationship with your tenant before it even starts. You want a happy tenant from day one, so make sure the place is as clean as it can be.
Part of your cleaning process should include checking for pests. Have the property exterminated or treated so there aren’t any pests or insects. This is critical because you don’t want your tenants complaining about bugs or rodents right after moving in. It doesn’t set a great tone for the tenancy.
Move-In Checklist No. 3: Systems and Functions
Next on your checklist is to evaluate the systems and functions in your property. Most important are things like heat and plumbing and electricity. These are habitability issues, and so there’s a legal element to checking them as well as a move-in checklist element. You want to be sure that there’s heat and electricity. Check all of the faucets and sinks and make sure the water is running and accessible too. A tenant cannot move into your home if any of these things are not working properly.
All of the utilities have to be set up and turned on as well. This might be your responsibility if you include utilities in the rent. It might also be your tenant who is responsible for establishing and maintaining utility accounts.
However you have it set up in your lease, make sure the heat comes on in all the rooms. Look for any leaks or drips in the plumbing. Check each outlet in every room and make sure the electricity works every time something is plugged in.
This might sound tedious, but it is an important part of the tenant move-in. If the rental unit is not functioning properly, you will likely take more time during the first few weeks of the new tenants lease to fix everything that could have been dealt with during the move-in checklist process.
Move-In Checklist No. 4: Lease Signing
The next step is to review the lease agreement in detail and have the tenant sign it.
A lot of things can be automated during the leasing and management process, but we believe that it’s always nice to review the agreement in person with your tenant. It allows you to meet one-on-one and discuss expectations and responsibilities. It will really cut down on misunderstandings and give each party a better idea of who they are working with.
We recommend that you go over each line item issue by issue. Take your time and answer any questions. Once you have gone over the entire lease agreement and answered all the questions your tenants may have, both parties need to sign and date it in person.
Move-In Checklist No. 5: Move-In Funds
Collect the first month’s rent and the security deposit. Each state has its own security deposit laws.
For example in California, you can only charge up to two times the monthly rent for your deposit. In Arizona, you can only charge one-and-a-half times the monthly rent when you’re collecting a deposit.
It’s important that you comply with state laws regarding security deposits. This is an area that can create and cause a lot of disputes between landlords and tenants.
If you’re not sure what the law is when it comes to how much you collect and where you hold it, contact your local property management company or another expert in the field. You really want to avoid the expensive mistakes that can be made in the process of collecting, holding, and returning a tenant’s security deposit.
Move-In Checklist No. 6: Inspections and Locks
The next item on your checklist is to have your rental property inspected if that’s required by your local laws. You may need to schedule a third-party inspector to come out and make sure the property is up to code.
If any violations are noted, you’ll need to make those corrections and schedule a follow-up inspection as soon as possible. Make sure you’re prepared. If you’re not sure whether an inspection is required, you’ll want to find that out as soon as possible.
Always change the locks to your unit between tenants or consider using smart locks. In places like Texas, this is a legal requirement according to the property code. But, you should do it whether it’s required by law or not.
Changing the locks is important because it ensures the safety of your tenants. You don’t know how many keys the previous tenant gave out, so you don’t know who may have them. With a new lock, only you and your new tenants will have the keys.
This will also protect you from liability that you could face if someone were to gain access to the house.
Move-In Checklist Item No. 7: Contact and Communication
Finally, you need to provide your tenant with all your contact information. This is critical if you don’t have a property manager. When you work with a management company, they will be the point of contact for your tenants. But, if you’re self-managing, you’ll need to be available to your tenant at all times. Share your phone numbers and your email address and any other way you want your tenant to reach you.
It’s acceptable for you to set boundaries for when they can contact you. For example, if you don’t want to be bothered before 9:00 a.m. or after 7:00 p.m., just tell your tenants that. However, if there’s an emergency at the property, you’ll have to be willing to respond at all hours. Your tenants and your property need you to be available 24 hours a day if something goes wrong. It's all about expectation setting during the tenants move in, and you as the landlord need to be the one setting these.
We know that you want to have a great rental experience and you want to provide a great rental experience for your tenant. This move-in checklist can put you on the right path. It will help you stay organized and be prepared for the full tenancy.
If you have any questions about the move-in process or anything pertaining to property management, please contact us at Mynd Property Management. We love being a resource and a source of information for landlords and investors all over the country.