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Home · Property Management · Remodel and Repair : How to Avoid the #1 Move-In Mistake

 Landlords expect their tenants to leave a rental in the same condition on move-out as it was on move-in. That’s what the security deposit is for, after all.

But can a landlord expect a tenant to return the rental in better shape than when they originally moved in?

It’s not uncommon to want to keep a rental occupied 365 days a year. But it’s a mistake to move a tenant in before all the repairs and cleaning have been done.

Let’s say you have a verbal agreement with the new tenant to have the place fixed up a week after move in, and you’ll install that new garbage disposal you promised as soon as your staff gets around to it. Meanwhile, the new tenant is filming your mistakes with their smart phone.

When it’s time to move out, you’ll have a tough time applying any security deposit deductions, because the tenant may claim that the unit was never in good shape to begin with. It’s going to be hard to convince a judge that the tenant didn’t return a clean unit when there is a video showing what shape the unit was at move- in.

Another problem with rushing the move-in is that a poorly maintained unit may be hazardous, which will only increase landlord liabilities.

What’s more, the new tenant will think the bar is set very low. That will set the stage for problems throughout the lease term. Tenants will believe that the landlord doesn’t care, so they shouldn’t either. They won’t do their best to keep the property clean, or to pay rent on time.

Take the time to properly turn the rental unit before moving in the new tenant.

That includes any needed painting, deep cleaning, and making sure all appliances are in good working condition, and completing any work orders that came up during the last walk-through.

It should only take a few days or so to turn most rental units. If it routinely taking you longer, that could mean your property, and your profits, are taking a beating.

If you are having trouble turning apartments in time, you may want to take a look at your staff. Some landlords may not realize that they can create habitability issues with something as simple as painting the window sills so thick that the window cannot be opened. Obviously, this is the maintenance crew’s responsibility, but it is the landlord’s responsibility to hire competent maintenance staff.

Make sure your maintenance staff is jumping on repairs throughout the lease term and not leaving everything until the end. Can you trust the repairs are being done with any level of quality? Have systems and checklists in place in order to streamline your turnaround procedures.

The same can be done if you are the “staff” — you can still reduce turnaround time by keeping up with maintenance during the previous lease term, and following a checklist to remind you what needs to be done each time your prepare the unit for a new tenant.

Moving a tenant in before the unit is completely ready is not the answer, and that could end up costing more than the few days the unit is out of service.

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