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Cleaning Your Rental: A Checklist

Cleaning Your Rental: A Checklist

5 min read
Mindy Jensen

Mindy Jensen has been buying and selling homes for more than 20 years. Her preferred method of investing is the ̶...

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Charlie Munger is perhaps the most brilliant investing mind alive. If his name doesn’t immediately inspire awe, check out his Wikipedia page to learn more. Let’s just say I think he’s awesome in every conceivable way.

He believes in checklists. In fact, in a speech he gave to the University of Southern California Law School, he said

Checklist routines avoid a lot of errors. You should have all this elementary [worldly] wisdom and then you should go through a mental checklist in order to use it. There is no other procedure in the world that will work as well.”

Look, if it’s good enough for Charlie Munger – a man who is only NOT a Billionaire because he is 94 years old and has given away most of his money – it is most certainly good enough for me. Still not convinced? That last airplane you rode in only went up in the air because the pilots checked everything off their checklist.

Have you ever packed for a trip and NOT used a checklist? First stop after you landed was the drug store for the toothbrush you forgot, wasn’t it?

Presenting a clean rental property to potential tenants projects a subtle yet strong image – I take care of and value my property, and I expect you to do the same.

So without further ado, here is my checklist for cleaning a rental property so you can show it and rent it to new tenants.

clean-rental

Bedrooms/Living Spaces

So let’s hope that you did proper screening on the tenant that just moved out, and they left the property in ‘broom-clean’ condition. This means different things to different people, but for the sake of this post, let’s assume they didn’t trash your property.

  1. Remove everything they left behind. Double check closets/closet shelves.
  2. Clean ceilings and corners. Wrap a couple of paper towels around the business end of a broom and sweep around ceilings and down the corners where the walls meet.
  3. Remove markings from walls.
    To remove pencil, simply wash walls with dish soap and water.
    Removing ink requires alcohol. Either spray or dab rubbing alcohol onto ink spot, or use hand sanitizer. Dab, do not rub, to remove the stain.
    Crayon may be removed by Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser. ***Note: The Mr. Clean Magic Eraser may discolor the paint, so test in an inconspicuous location before using.
  4. Wash walls with dish soap and warm water.
  5. Wipe lightswitch plate and door handles with cleaning wipes.
  6. Use a microfiber cloth to remove dust from the ceiling fan blades. Don’t forget the top of the blades or else your new tenant may curse you when he turns on the fan for the first time in years and is showered by dust!
  7. Use a microfiber cloth to remove dust from door, window and floor trim. Once removed, rub trim with a dryer sheet to ‘coat’ the trim and prevent dust from collecting in the future.
  8. Wash the windows. Use a side-to-side motion to clean the inside of the window, and a top-to-bottom motion to clean the outside, if possible. If any streaks remain, it is easy to tell which side of the window they are on.
  9. Vacuum the carpets, sweep the floors, mop if necessary. If the carpets are really dirty, consider renting a carpet cleaner. They are cheap to rent for the day from your local grocery store.
  10. Replace the batteries in the smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector.
  11. Replace any burned out lightbulbs.

clean-rental-property

Bathroom

  1. Turn the sink and tub/shower faucet to the hottest setting and run for one minute.
  2. Put a generous amount of toilet cleaner into toilet bowl. Let sit while you clean the drains.
  3. Pour 1/2 cup baking soda down each drain. Follow with 1/2 cup white vinegar. ***Note: This will bubble up ferociously, so do one drain first to see the reaction. This is completely normal and will help remove buildup in the sinks which can lead to clogs. Let sit 5 minutes then run hottest water again for 30 seconds to completely clear out drain.
  4. Clean toilet with toilet brush. ***Note: Ikea sells toilet brushes for $.99.
  5. Spray shower with surface cleaner.
  6. Spray mirror with glass cleaner. Wipe down immediately.
  7. Wipe down shower, paying attention to any mold or mildew that does not easily remove. If caulk is in poor condition, now is the time to redo it.
  8. Wipe down outside of toilet with cleaning wipes, making sure to get top, around edge of bowl, and along the sides.
  9. Clean faucet and sink.
  10. Wash walls with dish soap and water.
  11. Wipe lightswitch plate and door handles with cleaning wipes.
  12. Use a microfiber cloth to remove dust from door, window and floor trim. Once removed, rub trim with a dryer sheet to ‘coat’ the trim and prevent dust from collecting in the future.
  13. Sweep floor.
  14. Replace any burned out lightbulbs.

Kitchen

  1. Remove all items from cabinets/refrigerator/freezer.
  2. Vacuum cabinets.
  3. Wipe down interior/exterior of refrigerator/freezer. Make sure you clean the coils to save on repairs later.
  4. Clean/dust top of refrigerator.
  5. Wipe down cabinet fronts.
  6. Clean stovetop.
  7. Clean oven.
  8. Clean microwave. Soak a sponge and put it in the microwave on high for one minute. Wipe down sides and top of microwave.
  9. Turn the sink faucet to the hottest setting and run for one minute. Pour 1/2 cup baking soda down each drain. Follow with 1/2 cup white vinegar. Let sit 5 minutes then run hottest water again for 30 seconds to completely clear out drain.
  10. Clean faucet and sink.
  11. Clean countertops.
  12. Wash walls with dish soap and water.
  13. Use a microfiber cloth to remove dust from door, window and floor trim. Once removed, rub trim with a dryer sheet to ‘coat’ the trim and prevent dust from collecting in the future.
  14. Wipe lightswitch plate and door handles with cleaning wipes.
  15. Replace any burned out lightbulbs.
  16. Wipe down backsplash.
  17. Sweep/mop floor.
  18. Turn on all the appliances to double check that they are all in working order.

Exterior

  1. Mow lawn.
  2. Pull Weeds.
  3. Trim bushes/trees.
  4. Tidy flower beds.
  5. Sweep the walkways/porch/driveway/sidewalk.
  6. Replace any burned out lightbulbs.

Other

  1. Check non-living areas like the basement, attic and garage to make sure the tenants didn’t leave any surprises behind.
  2. Check the garage door opener.
  3. Check the sump pump.
  4. Check to make sure the furnace and air conditioner are in good working order. Replace the furnace filter.
  5. Check water spigots. If they aren’t the cold weather type and a hose has been left on all winter, these frequently break.
  6. Check the sprinkler system.
  7. Take a look at the roof, making sure shingles are in good condition.
  8. Make sure all gutters are clean and gutter extensions are in place. Water draining right next to the home is a quick recipe for a wet basement.

Once the entire property is clean, assess the condition of the walls and flooring to see if repairs are necessary. Touch-up paint is normal, and if you have the same color as you originally painted it, try covering up just the spots that need it. Sometimes the paint will blend right in and you won’t even be able to see it. (Note, this rarely happens.) If the paint spots look obvious or if there is a large area to repaint, you may have to paint the entire wall.

Now that your property is ultra clean and painted, take a video to document the condition the property is in. Start with a clear shot of that day’s newspaper to establish the date of the video, then walk through the entire home, pointing out the condition of everything you are recording. Another option is to record the day you hand the keys over to the tenant, so not only are they on the video, but you can record them acknowledging the condition of the property.

You are now ready to show it to potential tenants. By presenting a clean, well-kept property, you are projecting to your tenants that you care about your property, and you expect them to keep it in the same condition. How do you get your property ready for the next tenant?