When one set of tenants moves out, it’s time for new tenants to move in — hopefully without too much of a gap in between. Managing the turnover of tenants is one of the most important and time-consuming parts of being a landlord. You should have three objectives in mind.
Firstly, you want to close out the outgoing tenancy in a tidy and professional way. Secondly, you should make use of any time between tenancies as a rare and valuable opportunity to inspect the property, make repairs and generally perform work that is easiest to do when the property is empty. Finally, you want to welcome in your new tenants and set up your tenancy on the best footing possible.
Part One: End of Tenancy
The end of the tenancy begins once a move-out date has been agreed by both parties. Once you know when your existing tenants will leave, you can start to plan the order in which you’ll tick off the items on your move-out checklist.
The check out is the last time you will (if everything goes smoothly) see the tenants in the property. It is your most natural chance to collect their keys, take any meter readings and see that the tenant has not left anything of their own in the property. It is also a great time to explain to them what will happen next, including the time frame of the deposit return.
The inventory and check out are often performed at the same time, but are distinct events. The inventory is the final property inspection, where the condition of the property and any furnishings are noted.
You can order professional inventory clerks to perform this work or do it yourself. Ideally, your inventory would produce a schedule of condition that the tenant signs to show they agree it is accurate. But most tenants would not sign such a document at this point in the tenancy.
It is best to have the inventory performed on the last day of the tenancy, or just after the tenants move out. This means that any damage recorded in the inventory must have occurred while the tenants occupied the property. The inventory is crucial to the deposit return stage, below.
Rent balance check
Before moving onto the deposit return, it’s always sensible to perform a thorough check of all the rent payments owed and received over the course of the whole tenancy. You may discover that something has slipped through the cracks and you are owed an outstanding amount. This is especially true if you have agreed temporary rent reductions or arrears repayment plans over the course of the tenancy.
If you use OpenRent to set up your tenancy, we can collect the rent on your behalf and keep a running record of payments throughout your tenancy, making it easy to see what is owed when the tenants move out. Even better, we remind tenants to pay each month, reducing the chance of arrears.
OpenRent can manage your rent collection and much more.Learn more
The final part of the end of tenancy checklist is returning the tenancy deposit to the tenants. You can make deductions for rent arrears and for damage to the property and furnishings. You can make the claims via the deposit scheme’s website, and the majority of the time, this is the end of the matter. If the tenant challenges any of the proposed deductions, however, you will need to be able to evidence them.
If you can’t come to an agreement on what should be deducted, then you or the tenant can appeal to the deposit scheme’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service. The deposit money is legally the tenant’s throughout the tenancy, and so the landlord must prove that damage has been done. Both parties are invited to submit evidence to an independent arbiter, who will make a final decision and pay out the money accordingly.
Part Two: Empty Property
In general, landlords want their properties to have tenants in them. That means the rent is coming in and someone is inside the property, looking after it. Every now and then, however, an empty property is a useful opportunity to perform work that is easiest done with no tenants around. The tenant turnover is the perfect time to do this.
Repairs, Maintenance and Redecoration
Landlords must, of course, keep their properties in good repair. But there are some larger jobs which are best done without tenants in the property. Major plumbing works, the painting of multiple rooms, new flooring and the like — all of these kinds of jobs are easiest when the property is free of tenants and their effects.
You can also use this time to perform any certificates you need to update, such as your annual Gas Safety certificate, EPC and EICR. Tenants, in general, don’t like giving access to their property for these things, even though they are legally required, so if you can fit them in before they move in, all the better.
Inspecting your property
For 99% of the time, you won’t be able to access your rented property. Use the tenant turnover as an opportunity to thoroughly inspect the property. This isn’t just another version of the inventory — this is for you.
Remind yourself of the rooms, the decor and the feel of the place. Is it cold? Is there noise? Is there a draft? Are all the taps nice to use and do the toilets flush well? The inventory won’t tell you these things.
If you want to stay on top of what it’s actually like to live in your property, spend a few hours testing the appliances and getting into the mindset of the incoming tenants. Would you like to cook on those hobs every night? Spending some time on this now may help you spot a problem and fix it before it becomes a sticking point.
Part Three: New Tenant
We have lots of advice on finding new tenants and how to make sure the best tenants end up in your property. We also have this full landlord checklist for new tenants. This article will just focus on a few of the most important items.
The most important thing to remember, and which so many landlords forget, is to give the incoming tenants a copy of an updated inventory. Give them a week to check that it is an accurate description of the property, and invite them to amend it (with photographic evidence) if anything is wrong or missing.
Then ask them to sign the inventory, showing they agree to its accuracy. This will make it much easier to demonstrate any damage to the property or missing furnishings at the end of the tenancy. And as we have seen, is essential for making deposit deductions.
Let tenants know the best way to be in touch with you throughout the tenancy. It may be email, by phone, or, increasingly popular, a WhatsApp group. You should encourage them to report any repair issues to you as soon as they notice them, emphasising that this is so you can fix them quickly before they get worse, rather than because you will be angry.
Tenants also need an emergency contact for if things go wrong ‘out of hours’, e.g. a pipe bursting at 10pm. This may be your personal phone number, or you could give them the contacts of a company you know will be able to help in emergencies, no matter what the problem. Many larger companies offer same-day emergency services for urgent problems, like a broken window, insecure external door, or bad leaks.