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Tenant Turnover in COVID Times: Real Estate Experts Weigh in on How to Adapt

Nathan Miller
3 min read
Tenant Turnover in COVID Times: Real Estate Experts Weigh in on How to Adapt

Housing is a fundamental human need. People need a roof over their heads. Even as many industries ground to a halt during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, real estate continued its tentative march forward—partially because of this basic truth. Under this umbrella, the rental market has continued to function and adapt to the situation at hand to provide housing to the nation’s renter population.

Landlords and property managers are finding their way toward “the new normal” with creative ways to handle everyday routines and necessary tasks like rent collection, maintenance, tenant communication, property marketing, leasing, and tenant turnover. In most of the country, moving is considered an essential business. Property managers and landlords are still able to facilitate moves, market vacant properties, and sign new lease agreements while following appropriate safety measures.

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Some are using new digital means to meet these needs. Shawn Breyer of Atlanta House Buyers said, “Our normal business model is to meet with potential renters face to face and hold open houses for them to see the property. Now, we have begun to do virtual tours on our rental properties. These virtual tours allow renters to filter through properties without having to spend time going to them and risking exposure.”

Other considerations when it comes to tenant turnover are the practical, operational steps that must be taken to prepare the property for a new person. These can include things such as inspecting the property, deep cleaning, repairs, and eventually re-leasing the property. Professionals have had to make adjustments to almost all of these processes to keep their employees and their tenants safe in light of COVID-19.

Related: Rental Showings & Social Distancing: Creative Ways to Fill Your Vacant Units

Best Practices for Tenant Turnover During the Pandemic

How are landlords managing their tenant turnover operating procedures during these unprecedented times? What precautions are they taking to ensure safety?

Laura Fenkel of Market Real Estate said, “One thing we have been doing is using lockboxes so that we did not have to meet anyone in person. Prior to the tenant moving out, we set up a lockbox for them to put their keys in. We had the cleaning company come after the tenant had moved out and also use the lockbox so they wouldn’t need to meet anyone. For the actual move-in, we did not meet the new tenant in person, but used the lockbox so that there was no need to meet.”

In general, landlords and property managers are using a variety of practices to make the move-in and move-out process safer for all involved. Here’s how:

  • Virtual property tours and meetings to avoid unnecessary in-person interaction
  • Electronic applications, lease signatures, and rent payments
  • Heightened cleaning and sanitizing measures
  • Communicating with tenants via video or text to address maintenance and other important issues

Related: Landlords: Here’s How to Recoup Your Losses If Tenants Missed Rent Due to COVID-19

Then, there is the challenge of finding a new tenant that is well qualified to rent the property. In general, landlords and property managers usually screen for things like rental history, income level and credit score, and criminal history. This can be more tricky than it sounds during these turbulent times, especially as many states have laws that limit a landlord’s actions when it comes to evictions, late fees, and other safety measures that are usually at their disposal.


Brian Davis of SparkRental.com says he’s being very careful about tenant screening during this time. He said, “I’m triple-checking each applicant’s odds of continued employment in the midst of the pandemic. The last thing I want to do is rent to someone who loses their job a week later and lives for free in my property for the next six months.”

When it comes to the tenant application process itself, many have taken steps to eliminate risk. “We have had to change our showing and application process. We have stopped giving out any paper applications. If they would like an application, we will email them one and they must return the application electronically,” said Nick Disney of Sell My San Antonio House.

The Bottom Line

Property managers and landlords have had to make fast adjustments to standard procedures to ensure their employees and tenants remain safe. As time goes on and the pandemic continues to evolve, it will be interesting to see which practices stick around and which practices revert back to how things were done previously. Tenants and landlords alike may prefer the ease of newly implemented virtual practices and online tools, so we may see some of these changes continue for the foreseeable future.

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What adjustments have you made to your processes as a landlord?

Comment below.

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.