Your Tenant Is Moving Out. What’s the Plan Now?

Everything was humming along until you got that dreaded email: your tenant is moving out.

Seems like it was just a few months ago, you spent all that energy getting the unit cleaned and rented out.  Not to mention going through screening tenants.

However, now it’s time to put in place your next process.  You have one… Right?

In this article, we’ll examine what steps a landlord should take after the tenant gives termination notice to turnaround the rental as quickly as possible.

1. Know Your Rights as a Landlord

While there’s nothing you can do to prevent a tenant from moving out, you need to know your rights as a landlord.

One of those rights has to do with the tenant giving you proper notices.  In every province, tenants must provide a reasonable termination date.

If a tenant doesn’t, you may be entitled to charge the tenant rent until the date the lease agreement is valid until.

In most provinces, tenants must give between 30 and 60 days notice.  Check your local tenancy laws.

2. Advertise the Rental Immediately After the Tenant Gives Notice

Bear in mind that the national rental vacancy rate hovers at 2.7%, with some areas experiencing higher turnover times.  You need to do everything you can to minimize vacancy time.

Since attracting potential tenants takes time, why not get the rental advertized immediately?

Gone are the days of posting your unit on second-hand sites.  Rentals.ca and TorontoRentals.com are where serious tenants are searching for apartments these days.  Listings for individual landlords are free and they generate more leads than the alternative.

Tips For Advertising a Rental That Currently Has a Tenant In It

Pull the old photos you used when you previously listed the apartment.  Those will work for now. That is, unless the unit underwent major renovations.

If you want to go the extra mile, get feedback from existing tenant.   Ask them what they liked about the place, what attracted them to the area?

You can use this information to tailor your listing.  This may help attract a similar tenant to the one you already have.

Come to an Understanding with Your Current Tenant

You’ll want to make sure you let the current tenant know you’re about to advertise the property.  If your listing is attractive, you may get some visits while the current tenant still lives there.

After all, no one wants strangers barging in for a visit during dinner time!

Ask your current tenant what the best times for showings are.

Extending the courtesy by asking the current tenant’s schedule may make him or her keep the property cleaner.  At the very least, the tenant may reciprocate by keeping the rental organized.

While you may be limited to when you can show the property to prospective tenants, you can at least get a head start on advertising the property.

3. Checks to Do Before the Tenant’s Moving Day

As soon as possible, organize a time for you to conduct a legal entry of the rental.

The goal of this visit is to identify any issues with the unit the current tenant needs to rectify before moving day.  It’s also a good time for you to log any damages that need repairs or that the tenant can be charged for.

Here’s a quick list of items you want to check:

  • Appliances in good working order.
  • Furnace, hot water tank and A/C are functional.
  • Wall paint color back to white (or another color you and the tenant may have previously agreed upon).
  • Excessive damage to the drywall, doors and baseboards.
  • Damages to flooring: move furniture around to make sure it hasn’t been covered up.

In case of damages, inform the tenant and seek involvement.  Depending on your lease agreement, the tenant may be obligated to repair some of the damages.

4. Here’s What to Do the Day the Tenant Moves Out

It’s moving day and if all went well, the tenant left on time.

As the tenant is finishing up, go over the following points:

  • Get back keys to unit, mailbox and storage locker.  If the unit is in a condo building, get the fob back.
  • Go over the inventory of items.
  • Quickly ensure the tenant has emptied storage spaces (cabinets, cupboards, vanity)
  • Tenant has removed all personal belongings and trash.
  • The unit is broom cleaned and reasonably clean.

This is a good time to go over what the tenant liked or disliked about the unit.  Feedback is important as it’ll help you improve your rental and potentially get you higher rent with future tenants.

It’s also a great way to find points to include in your listing you may not have thought of.

Once the tenant leaves, inspect the following systems to make sure they all work well:

  • Test electrical outlets with a safe and reliable kit (consult an electrician if you’re unsure what to do).
  • Sinks drain properly.
  • Toilets flush and refill well.
  • Appliances are in working order.
  • Fire alarm and carbon monoxide sensors work.
  • Blinds and windows open and close properly.
  • Doors jambs open and close, door knobs turn.
  • Thermostats register temperature.

5. What Happens Right After the Tenant Leaves?

Right after the tenant leaves, you’ll have to switch over the utilities to your name (if they weren’t included in the rent).

Check with your local utilities delivery company as to what steps to take.  Every area is a bit different.

Now it’s time for the bad news:

It’s time to clean and renovate!  Not what you wanted to hear right?

Any wear and tear by the previous tenant needs to be patched up or painted.  With the unit being empty, those damages will be obvious to visitors.

As for for cleanliness, the previous tenant should have left it broom clean.

However, there’s a few spots that need special attention.  That’s because prospective tenants usually pay more attention in those areas:

  • Kitchen: the refrigerator should be free of smells and stains.  Cabinets (inside and out) should be wiped down. The oven needs to be somewhat clean, but the stove top needs to be spotless.
  • Bathroom: the toilet should obviously be clean.  Any stains in the tub or shower need to be gone. Pay attention to the mirrors.  They should be streak and spot-free.
  • Storage areas: ever notice how visitors always pokes their heads inside closets and storage units?  Clean any dust on shelves or on the ground.
  • Overall floors: they don’t have to be polished, but clean and mop them.

You need to show potential tenants that the unit is well-maintained and that you’re a pro-active tenant.  Showing a dirty or bruised apartment sends the opposite signal

6. What If the Rental Stays on the Market Empty?

If your unit remains empty for a period of time you deem too long for the market you’re in, you’ll have to spend a few minutes evaluating your listing.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are the pictures appealing?
  • Does the listing describe the unit?
  • Is your listing too wordy?
  • Do you have lists or and does it contain only large paragraph?
  • Does it describe the neighborhood and its amenities?

You can also show your listing to friends and family and get some honest feedback.

If you’re in a higher rental income area or find yourself competing with other landlords, you may want to stage your rental and hire a semi-professional or professional photographer.

This strategy can give you the edge over the competition at a reasonable price.

Wrapping This Up

As you can see, there’s a few steps that can be missed when preparing your property once a tenant moves out.  However, you can use this article as a checklist to make the process straightforward.

Glenn Carter

Glenn is a real estate writer and investor. Getting his start in single-family home and condo investing, Glenn has since moved on to multi-family investing in the Ottawa area. As a side hustle to his real estate investing, Glenn loves writing about his experience as a landlord overseeing his rental properties and has been featured on VentureBeat, BiggerPockets, Get Paid For Your Pad, and Breakthrough Real Estate Podcast.