What to Do When Tenants Leave Your Rental

by | BiggerPockets.com

Early last week I got the call that no landlord looks forward to. It wasn’t that my tenant had destroyed the property or that she couldn’t pay rent, but my tenant told me she was going to move soon because she was buying a house.

The truth is, even though I hate to see her go I was happy for her. She has been with me about 5 years and has been ideal in every way. She has always paid the rent on time and is one of the cleanest people I have ever met.

Planning for Tenant Move-Out

Now that I know she’ll be gone in a month it’s time to start preparing for her departure and getting ready for a new tenant. First, I sent her the reminder sheet of what she needs to do before move out. This includes getting the carpet professionally cleaned and making sure the house is in broom clean condition. Next, I set up the date when we will do the final walk-through inspection of the house.

Important Notes on Your Final Inspection and Security Deposit

There’s one quick note I want to mention about this final inspection. There’s little doubt in my mind that the property will be in good condition and the tenant will get back her entire security deposit. However, I never, ever give a security deposit back that day. Most states give you 30-45 days to return the deposit and I recommend taking your time.

Why? Because you don’t want to find something a week later that is wrong that the tenant covered up, or that you just didn’t happen to notice until then. And, if you’ve already given the tenant back their money, it’s going to be pretty difficult to get them to pay for any damages you notice after the fact.

Finding a New Tenant

In addition to working with the current tenant, you need to start looking for a new tenant. If you manage the property yourself start placing ads in local newspapers, craigslist, and a sign in the front yard. Also, let your current tenant know that you’ll be bringing people by. Of course, you give the current tenant plenty of notice before you stop by to show the property.

If you don’t want to deal at all with finding a new tenant, then have a property management company do it for you. I would call them the moment you find out a tenant is planning on moving so they can start their marketing practices and hopefully have someone lined up for your place when the tenant moves out.

The bottom line is, the coming and going of tenants is simply a part of the landlording process. To make sure that everything goes smoothly, plan ahead, get everything in writing and most importantly take your time finding a new tenant for your property. Any successful landlord will tell you that they’ll let a property sit vacant for as long as it takes to find a quality tenant, instead of letting the first person with a pulse and a check into their property.

Photo: Alan Cleaver

About Author

Jason R. Hanson is the founder of National Real Estate Investor Month and the author of “How to Build a Real Estate Empire”. Jason specializes in purchasing properties “subject-to” and has purchased millions of dollars worth of property using none of his own cash or credit.


  1. Joey Fontenot on

    Hey Jason

    How do you handle the security deposit when their are things wrong with the property via the tenant? Do you get the work done and include the bill with the remainder of the security deposit?


  2. Bjorn Button on

    I have a friend who works in investment property management in California. They also do property management and deal with difficult tenants often. They have adopted a policy of evicting people after a warning and another offense against the complex. They work with other property management companies to find replacements for difficult tenants.
    Is it right to evict people if they are having a negative effect on the complex?

  3. As a tenant you do not have to clean the carpet when you leave. Carpet cleaning is up to the landlord to clean. Unless there are pet stains or major damage to the carpet it is considered “wear and tear” and tenant is not responsible to clean it. Especially since in florida landlords have to replace the carpets every 3 years.

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