What do you do when a tenant moves out? Each week veteran landlord and property manager Hank Rossi answers questions from other landlords and property managers around the country about their rentals. Here is this week’s question:

Dear Landlord Hank:

When a tenant moves out what do you do?


Dear Landlady Dorothy,

When a tenant moves out the first thing I do is collect keys.

And I make sure by asking them if they are completely moved out and have removed all of their belongings.

Then I ask again if they’ve left anything behind?  Such as furniture, etc or anything they didn’t want.

When a tenant moves questions through email so you have a record

I try to do this through email so I have a written record of their answer.

I also ask them if there is anything that needs maintenance that they didn’t tell me about, or that just occurred.

Then I go to the unit with the initial walk through inspection in hand and inspect. I am also looking at what needs to be done prior to next tenant moving in.

If there has been any damage that I’m going to charge tenant for, I take a photo or two of the damage. Then I get an estimate of repair cost and include that on exit walk through inspection report.

Check your local laws on tenant security deposit return

Check your local real estate laws about tenant’s security deposit and make sure you follow them to the letter.

Here in Florida, we have up to 30 days to refund a deposit if we are going to have any deductions. If you are refunding entire deposit then you must do so within 15 days.

We send deposits back via certified mail so we can prove that we were timely.

I include the inspection report with the check, detail any deductions, cost for repair and photos of the issue.

Tenants can leave things behind unintentionally

Also, I’ve come across things from time to time that are valuable or were not meant to be left behind. These have included jewelry, speakers, cookware in bottoms of stove, etc.

I contact tenants about these things.

Anyway, I try to be fair when assessing a property.

I expect normal wear and tear

  • I expect to see some small nail holes in the walls from hanging pictures.
  • Maybe a small ding or two in the walls from someone living in the property for a year.
  • I don’t expect big holes in walls from wall mounted TV’s, etc.

When doing the walk through I check the property just like I was inspecting for purchase.

I try to check everything. I make sure water is not leaking under sinks. I make sure that all parts are intact and there for appliances. I make sure that the appliances work properly. Also I check that no water intrusion is taking place. And I check that  doors and windows lock, etc.

My tip on locks and tenants

It’s also a good idea to change locks.

I recycle locks from one property to another so I don’t have to pay for re-keying or new locks annually.

You can change a dead bolt and passage lock in 10 minutes – so easy and safe for the next tenant.

What about utilities?

You want your clean-up crew and painters, carpet cleaners and others to be able to work so make sure utilities are back on.

My utility companies have a landlord agreement. When a tenant moves out (for sure-and not just quits paying the bill), they restore power immediately and start billing me.

I can begin restoration of a property immediately then.

Also see Hank’s recent post: Dear Landlord Hank: Does A Landlord Have to Give Copy Of Entry Checklist To Tenant?

About the author:

“I started in real estate as a child watching my father take care of our family rentals- maintenance, tenant relations, etc , in small town Ohio. As I grew, I was occasionally Dad’s assistant. In the mid-90s I decided to get into the rental business on my own, as a sideline. In 2001, I retired from my profession and only managed my own investments, for the next 10 years. Six years ago, my sister, working as a rental agent/property manager in Sarasota, Florida convinced me to try the Florida lifestyle. I gave it a try and never looked back. A few years ago we started our own real estate brokerage. We focus on property management and leasing. I continue to manage my real estate portfolio here in Florida and Atlanta.“ Visit Hank’s website here.