If you live in the US, you will do this 11.7 times in your lifetime. Usually once every 5 years.
A mini moment of truth
Again, In the United States, Census Bureau estimates that 15% of American families move every single year.
During moves, property owners fear the worst damage will be uncovered. Conversely, the Tenant fears charges for which they did not cause. Property owners consider how to reduce the transition period between moves. Tenant’s concerns focus on moving their effects, and returning back the unit, receiving their security deposit, and moving on with life.
Since moving occurs regularly, the frequency of being a tenant, or a property owner/manager managing a tenant is not uncommon. The purpose of this article is to provide a few tips for both groups to demystify convention and in the process making the process smoothing out the process. Because it is both exciting and deeply personal moving is a mini moment of truth.
Knowledge of ‘The End’ is an often overlooked revelation.
When lease terminates on schedule, this makes everyone happy. Tenants and Landlords appreciate wiggle room allowing them to move up (or down) the final date if it is in their interests. Start preparing 45-60 days before you depart.
-Arrange for all effects to be out, 24 to 48 hours before the deadline. You will feel better. Allows you not to rush.
-Cancel all utilities, forward-cancel mail.
-Provide the property manager more than one day/time for a final inspection. Obtain a written verification of the final state of property on move-out-day (& keep this for your records)
-*Bonus: Request repairs of the property manager of items 45-60 days before departure. They will (usually) not refuse., and it keeps these shortfalls from reducing your security deposit repayment. Also, requesting self-applying touch-up paint for those wall-hangings may be advantageous for all parties.
-If the lease has a termination date, no need to notify tenant. However, if you’re envisioning a rent increase, or new residency rules/requirements, a lease extension & 30-day notice (in most US jurisdictions) is required.
-Terminating Tenant’s utilities should transfer to you at lease end. This includes notifying Home Owner’s Associations if this applies.
-Provide the tenant a copy of the ‘room-by-room’ check-in sheet 45-60 days before lease termination. This allows both parties to be ready for the final inspection. Be ready to negotiate. Don’t sweat the small repairs/stains.
-*If your tenant agrees, arrange for them to conduct ‘ next tenant. Also if your tenant agrees, have workers begin assessing and performing ‘make-ready’ work.
The cocoon phase
Just because the house is vacant and dark, it doesn’t mean anything is happening. Landlords make preparations (& upgrades) long before the next occupant signs a lease. Renters should also begin looking for a new place, months before they start loading up their belongings. As someone who has moved dozens of time myself, including overseas, here are a few helpful hints.
-Marry the location before looking at the value proposition. Start in out-of-reach neighborhoods/locations first. You never know until you ask.
-Online resources are great, but no substitute for personal viewing. Of course, for shorter stays of one week or less, viewing property/room photos may be practical feasibility. After looking at the best and worst social media reviews, take an outing to place you will live. You won’t regret it. (Among other benefits, a tour introduces you to your landlord, and allows you to determine if your furniture will really fit into and match future room spaces)
-Be prepared to walk away from a property. Also, be ready to make an offer. Having options gives you an advantage. If you do not like what you see, it’s okay to count a personal visit as a ‘learning experience.’ However, it may be that the place is indeed perfect. If so, impress the manager by:
a. bringing references;
b. Touting credit scores;
c. Dressing conservatively (Sorry. Am I right?);
d. Letting the manager know you (may) take the unit as-is, and can move in sooner rather than later (manager’s generally like to hear these words);
e. Follow up with a nice text/email.
-*Bonus. If the unit especially pleases you, ask for a longer lease term. This nifty earworm, if used, sets you apart from other tenants, letting the manager know you are serious prospects.
—Double Bonus. Ask whether the unit qualifies for a month free after 12 months. (the closes mouth never gets fed)
-Perform the needed, time intensive, upgrades to the unit. Do them simultaneously limiting the downtime.
-Buy/ Renew a home warranty &/or termite-, lawn service. especially if you manage remotely.
-View online resources showing rental estimates in your area
-Talk to neighbors living near your house, use them to keep an eye on your place while it is vacant (and also occupied, sorry tenants). Provide them your contact info.
-*Bonus-experienced landlords -after functioning appliances, focus on the floors and walls. If you allow pets, replacing carpet and deep cleaning tiles is a must. Consider a separate pet deposit. Window coverings can be quickly installed, and window re-screening takes about one week at local hardware stores.
-*Double Bonus-With SmartHomes now out in the wild consider including basic internet letting the residents configure their own passwords—for liability reasons. Among the many benefits, it provides them text/email capabilities, any provides unimpeded operation of smart locks, thermostats and window blinds.
Decision Day. Do these early, and often.
In the past, managers and tenants completed the rigors of credit reports, criminal history, rental history, and income verification before committing to a lease term. Airbnb (and other services) substantially streamlined this still-used process by pre-screening, obtaining upfront funds, and allowing the parties to view the other’s rental history. Regardless, both landlords and residents should know the following lease signing.
-You should consider low-cost rental insurance. It protects your effects, and may also protect you from paying from liability from accidents during your rental period.
-Complete and return the ‘check-in’ sheet early. If it is a short-term rental, notify the owner of all defects immediately.
-The first 30 days should go smoothly, but may also require some maintenance request. Observe how responsive this first request is resolved. Be flexible. Provide yourself and the LL options in case it does not go as smoothly as it ‘could.’ If it is resolved quickly and amicably, thank the LL for his response. (This will go a long way when the next request comes.)
-*Bonus. No matter how ‘perfect’ the place is, you will likely have a few suggestions after you move in. Upgrades that will give you a spark of joy, and can be undone upon your departure, are worthwhile. Unless the lease specifically precludes otherwise, by all means, embark on these (if they do not leave permanent marks)—making certain you let the LL know, and undo them to the satisfaction of both parties). It’s your place. You should feel at home.
-If you rented to someone one month, hesitate to perform your ‘inspections’ the next month. If you have a ‘reason’ for an inspection, it’s best to limit them unless absolutely necessary. If your presumption is wrong, the now-wary tenant will no longer be on your side, and not appreciate the ‘intrusion.’ Instead of an inspection, send them a friendly one-sentence hint/suggestion when giving them a receipt for the rent. Give as much notice to the tenant when you make inspections, offering them a choice of days/times.
-The house will be modified by your tenant, even if you rented to what you believed were ‘ideal’ tenants, and there may be a reason for this modification. Get over it. Instead, save the conversation for the final move-out negotiation. (or better yet, acknowledge it, and ask for tenant concessions elsewhere — especially allowing future tenant viewings or repair work while the unit is occupied).
-Your goal is to have the tenant resign a second year. Most property managers break even after the first year and only reach profit after month 10. Your make-ready costs for repairs and the ‘down-time’ between rentals will easily devour the cost of small repairs. *Bonus: In the worst case scenario amortize a large repair over the next 12 months.
-Bonus: Nothing prevents you from not renewing with an existing tenant at lease termination. If you are friendly during the final 60 days, it will save you in the long run.
—Double Bonus: Evictions are hugely inconvenient. If the tenant won’t pay (the usual cause). You’ll need to keep good records, hire an eviction attorney, and be prepared to have them remain in your house for months longer than wanted. Instead of fighting them, another strategy is to ‘forgive’ all/or some of their late rent in exchange for leaving the premises. Yes, these situations involve you taking a personal loss. However, if they go under these circumstances, it is often a win-win. You receive your unit in better condition and can begin to view a horizon where the cash flow is positive again. **If your tenant is going through unexpected financial difficulties, they probably feel bad. Any small gesture may make you feel good about yourself.