Having a new tenant move into your property can be stressful for both the tenant and landlord. Having a checklist of items that must be addressed before the tenant moves in can help make the transition easier and ensure you do not miss any important steps. Here are ten things you should address prior to having a new tenant move into your rental.
1. Repair Any Damage or Health and Safety Issues
A landlord is obligated to maintain the rental property. Before a tenant moves in, you will want to repair any existing damage, health, or safety issues at the property.
- Damage could include a hole in the wall or a broken window lock.
- Safety issues include verifying that there are two forms of exit from the unit and that all carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are working.
- Health issues include checking for signs of mold and making sure there are no lead-based paint hazards for buildings constructed before 1978.
2. Clean the Property
Cleaning is especially important if you are doing an apartment turnover, which means there was a previous tenant living in the unit. You will want to make sure the unit is thoroughly cleaned, especially areas such as the tub, toilet, stove, and refrigerator. Vacuum or sweep to remove any additional debris.
You should also have the property exterminated before tenant move-in even if there is no noticeable problem.
3. Look for Issues With Heat, Plumbing, or Electrical
Before a tenant moves in, you must make sure all utilities are working. You will want to make sure the heat works in all rooms, that there are no clogs or leaks in the plumbing, and that the outlets and overhead lights in every room are operational. These are necessities that a tenant needs to maintain their quality of life.
4. Review and Sign Lease With Tenant
You should go over the lease agreement with the tenant—section by section—so that they completely understand what they are agreeing to. Once you have gone over the entire agreement with the tenant and answered any questions, you and the tenant should sign and date the lease agreement.
5. Collect First Month’s Rent and Security Deposit
You should always collect the first month’s rent and the entire security deposit before the tenant moves into the unit. The exception to collecting the first month's rent prior to move in would be if the tenant is receiving government assistance, such as Section 8. Section 8 will send you the check after the tenant has moved into the unit.
Section 8 tenants are still responsible for paying their own security deposit. You should still collect this deposit prior to the tenant's move-in.
6. Have Necessary Property Inspections Completed
Depending on your town’s laws, the unit may have to be inspected by a home inspector before a tenant can move in. This inspection is done so the town can issue you a Certificate of Habitability (also known as a Certificate of Occupancy). Some towns only require this inspection the first time the unit is rented, some towns require it every five years and some require it every time a new tenant moves into the unit. Make sure you know your town’s rules.
If you are renting to a Section 8 tenant, the apartment will have to be inspected by a Section 8 inspector to make sure it meets their health and safety standards. Section 8 requires the unit to be inspected every year that the Section 8 tenant lives there.
7. Change Locks
Before a new tenant moves in, you should always change the locks on the doors. This is done for the safety of the tenant and to protect you from liability.
You do not want an old tenant to have the keys to the new tenant’s apartment. Spend the $20 on a new lock to avoid any issues.
8. Go Through the Move-In Checklist
On the tenant’s actual move-in day, you should go over the move-in checklist which describes the condition of the property as a whole and of each room in detail. You should have the tenant sign and date this checklist. The move-in checklist is important as it allows you to compare the condition of the property when the tenant moves in, to the condition of the property when the tenant moves out.
9. Provide Tenant With Your Contact Information
You should provide the tenant with your contact information. This is how the tenant should reach you if they have a question or complaint. It can be a phone number or an email address, but make sure they know to only contact you during normal business hours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., unless it is an absolute emergency.
10. Go Through Any Specific Tenant Requests or Conditions
There are situations where a tenant may have a specific request or special requirements that are not typical. Some examples could be:
- Having the apartment painted a certain color
- Installing a washer/dryer prior to move-in
- Receiving a government assistance housing voucher
- A disability which requires a service animal
In situations such as government assistance and service dogs, you are legally responsible to take the appropriate steps to accommodate the tenant.
In the situations that are more desires than necessities, it is up to you to decide if you would like to honor the request. You should make sure to add any special requests as a clause in your lease agreement. For example, if you are going to charge the tenant $500 to paint the apartment, you need to include this in your lease so that you have written proof that the tenant has agreed to these terms.