The Landlord’s Ultimate 34-Step Property Management Checklist


Hi, all! I am back this week (Liz – Matt’s wife/partner) to talk about buy/hold investor’s favorite subject: managing tenants and properties.

Over the past 10 years of managing properties, we have learned a lot, had successes, and have made mistakes along the way. Over the last three years, we have grown significantly and have gone from managing 30 units to managing 100 units. Along with the growth of adding units, we have added team members.

There are many people who help in the property management side of our business. As a result of having multiple people working in this process, we have realized the importance of tightening up our property management systems. For the last few months, I have been neck deep in reviewing how we currently manage properties. I have been helping make improvements and changes where needed.

Specifically, I have been working on the following areas:

  • Processes/procedures
  • Forms/checklists to support processes
  • Proper training & inspection to ensure these new processes are happening

Ultimately, I am creating a “property management manual” that will include all of our processes, checklists, and training procedures. I thought it would be helpful to share with you the “tenant life cycle” flow chart that we use.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 4.10.18 PM

Below I have listed all the steps needed for each of these areas. I hope the following checklist helps you improve your internal processes of managing property; that way, you’ll have the right systems in place to support your growth.

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The Ultimate 34-Step Property Management Checklist

Attracting Tenants

1. Determine ahead of time your “rental rates” (establish high and low rates).

2. Create an unique rental ad that stands out.

3. Take pictures with a great camera (not just with your phone).

4. Create flyers with unit information and your contact information.

5. Market your unit online (Craigslist, Postlets, vFlyer, local area websites).

6. Market your unit offline (“For Rent” signs, etc.).

7. Schedule showings or open houses (we have traditionally scheduled one on one showings, but we are moving away from this strategy and implementing open houses instead).

Related: 5 Things a Landlord May Not Want Their Tenants to Know

Screening Tenants

8. Complete phone screen questionnaire (prescreen BEFORE showing unit).

9. Complete showing of unit.

10. Follow up with interested parties.

11. Have prospective tenants complete Rental Application (we charge $35 to cover our cost).

12. Process a criminal, credit, and background check.

13. Reach out to previous landlord to ask questions about prospective tenant.

14. If landlord will not answer questions over the phone, send a landlord verification form for them to fill out and fax back to you.

15. Make decision based on your rental standards (be consistent).

16. If accepted, reach out to new tenant to schedule move in date/lease signing meeting.

17. If declined, send a standard letter declining them. File the application and denial letter in a safe place in case they ever apply again (which does happen!).

New Tenant Orientation

18. Meet with new tenant to complete the Lease Signing Checklist, which includes:

  • The lease: signed & initialed on each page (always a good idea to have two people reviewing this document to ensure nothing has been missed)
  • A copy of Driver’s Licenses of all occupants of the unit
  • Security Deposit (we typically collect one and half month’s rent)
  • First month’s rent
  • Signing of the “Utility Transfer Agreement” (tenant agrees to move over the utilities before move-in)
  • Providing a “Truth in Renting” book to tenants (we do this in NJ and have them initial that they received it from us; this probably varies by each state)
  • Initialing a “Lead Based Paint Notification” & providing a “Lead Based Paint Booklet” to tenant
  • Initialing “Move Out Charges” document
  • Filling out a “Tenant Emergency Contact Information” document
  • Signing a “Pet Agreement” if applicable
  • Providing “Property Management Team” contact information
  • Signing W-9 form (form that is sent to bank along with security deposit)
  • Handing over keys

19. Office process & checklist:

  • Enter all tenant information into your rental management system (we use Rent Manager) — i.e. tenant contact information, security deposit, rent, etc.
  • Make a copy of all Lease Signing Documents and mail to tenant within a week, so they have a copy of everything they initialed and signed
  • We create a tenant file in the office, as well; that way, we have a file on each tenant, both physically and electronically

20. Reaching out to new tenant:

  • One week follow up call to tenant to see how things are going and to manage any issues
  • Three week follow up letter to serve as a reminder about transferring utilities and other rules

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Tenant Screening

Retaining Tenants

21. Tenant appreciation program: We created a contest where we enter all tenants who have paid their rent on time for three months in a row. If their name gets pulled, they win a gift card. End of the year, we enter all tenants who have paid their rent for an entire year on time, and the winner gets a flat screen TV.

Related: 5 Ways Landlords Can Achieve Better Tenant Stability

22. Property maintenance and repairs: Every time a tenant calls in with an issue, we create a work order to take care of the issue. Work order has a priority assigned to it. It is all done through our rental management program.

23. Conduct preventative maintenance: Every quarter, we conduct a “walk through” to check on the unit and see if there are any issues and/or problems that need to be addressed. We then create work orders if work is needed to be done.

24. Collection of rent & eviction process: Establish your rules up front, and the best advice is to STICK BY THEM no matter what!

25. Tenant renewal process: We are starting to send “renewal letters” out 90 days before their lease ends; that way, we are ahead of the curve if the unit is vacant.

26. Tenant communication: We document everything (calls, letters, etc) and put these communications in their electronic file; that way, if you ever have to go to court, you will have everything you did in writing.

27. Create template letters: Create a library of letters you can use as templates; that way, you don’t have to “reinvent the wheel” every time [i.e. lock out, lost keys, noise violations, tenant renewals (90, 60, 30 days), etc.].

Move Out Process

28. Fill out a thorough Move Out Inspection, and then create a “scope of work” on what will be needed to turn around the unit. Take pictures during the walk through. We are looking into automating this process of inspections by purchasing an “app” through Rent Manager.

29. After assessing repairs, determine what normal “wear and tear” is and what will be charged to the tenant and subtracted from their Security Deposit.

30. Mail security deposit check and letter to forwarding address within 30 days of move out.

Unit Turn Around Process

31. Once the “scope of work” and work orders have been created, set a schedule and get your team (in house or sub-contractors) quickly turning around the property.

32. Once complete, have someone clean the unit and do a “final walk-through.”

33. Once “tenant ready,” we take pictures to use for marketing purposes, put baking soda in refrigerator, and put an air freshener in the main room.

34. Now you are back to the “Attracting Tenants” part of this process!

Just like everyone else in this crazy business, we continue to make things better and are working hard to create more automation and simplicity in our business. I am sure I am missing something!

Please share any thoughts or other “must haves” for this checklist!

Thanks for reading and happy investing! And of course, don’t forget to leave me a comment below!

About Author

Matt Faircloth

In 2005, Matt founded The DeRosa Group along with his wife, Elizabeth. At the time, the two person company owned and managed two assets – a single family home and a duplex. Over the last nine years, they have grown the company to a 12 person team owning and managing over five million dollars in residential and commercial assets throughout the central NJ and Philadelphia area. One of DeRosa’s mantras is “to make money while making a difference.”


  1. Gerald K.

    Good list. We do many of the same things. Instead of pre-screening tenants over the phone, we have them send an email listed in the ad, which sends them an auto-reply with pre-application questions for them to answer and email back – this streamlines the process and avoids a lot of wasted time on the phone with those that don’t qualify.

    • Kevin Ross

      I’ve been using MS OneNote. the idea is it’s basically like an electronic notebook. I’ve stated storing my property descriptions, introduction emails, and some notices in there. Then when it’s time to list, open up OneNote, select the correct property description, and post it. When people say they want to come look, I copy and paste my “11 Questions at first contact”. If they might fit, I then send them the “application process” info and schedule a time. I just started using this system this year, and it’s been so helpful in “pre-screening” so I’m not wasting time typing individual emails and showing to people that don’t fit the criteria.

  2. Enrique Jevons

    Great post.

    Can you tell me about having the tenant sign a W-9 Form? I use W-9 forms for all my vendors and owners that I manage for, but have never had a tenant sign a W-9 and have never had a bank ask for them. Would it be in the event you need to refund more than $600 to them? I can understand that, but what would a bank want with a W-9 if none of the tenant’s names are on the trust account.

    • Elizabeth Faircloth

      Hi Enrique:
      Sure. We reason for having each tenant fill out a W-9 form is due to the fact it is required by the bank we hold their security deposit with. The reason the bank might ask for the W-9 is because we open an interest bearing account at the bank. We then pass this interest along to the tenant at move out (if they end up getting back any part of their security deposit of course).
      Not sure if this helps or not?
      Let me know!

  3. Richard G.

    Wow! Another amazing article, I really am not sure if you missed anything though – sounds solid. Will definitely print and post near my desk. Your change to #7 is key and I have heard this from many people as this comes down to time management and safety I think – good call! #14 – is the landlord verification form used to just verify they were tenants or will it show rent history? Just wondering — , #18 is thorough, clear and to the point, I like the details you put into this – Awesome! #20 is something I never thought about but I know that it comes down to the red carpet treatment and showing your tenants you care – got it! Now #21 is that in the original lease agreement as an incentive -or- is that kind of a surprise throughout the year and during the holidays? I like #25 or hopefully they will beat you to it and come back to you first to renew the lease!!! #27 I would “love” to get some of those templates. I am sure there are solid! And #34 is the best — because then you have another tenant starting the process all over again – cash flow$$! Thank you again!! Tell Matt I said Hi —

    • Elizabeth Faircloth

      Hi Richard,
      Thanks for your kind words! So glad that the post was helpful! Here are some further thoughts:
      #14 – Yes, the landlord verification form is a form that the previous landlord would fill out to confirm that the tenant did live at their apartment building/unit, and it also asks some questions about the type of tenant they were while they lived there. Some landlords won’t fill this out, but it does not hurt to ask!
      #21 – Yes, we explain the “tenant appreciation program” when a person becomes a tenant that way it creates an incentive from the beginning!
      #25 – You would think people would be more on top of this , but most are not, that is why as the landlord we need to be on top of it!
      #27 – We have a lot of templates and are in the process of creating more. Happy to share with you. Please message me the ones you would find helpful!
      Hope this helps! And absolutely – will say hello to Matt for you!!

  4. Donna Paget

    Hi Liz! Awesome article! Do you have any process in place for monthly rent payments? On a recent podcast, the guest (I can’t remember who or which ;-( ), talked about on-line rent payments. I thought that was really a time savings!
    If you ever want to expand to FL, I would love to help in any way I can. I want to be you and Matt when I “grow up!”

    • Elizabeth Faircloth

      Hi Donna,
      Absolutely, if we ever do expand to FL , would love to meet you/ work with you! 🙂 You are so sweet to say that about me and my husband!!
      Glad you enjoyed the article. Great question about online rent payments. I am in the process of researching different options. I actually did a search in BP and a few people recommend so I am going to look into this! Please message me on what you find out/what you end up going with. I would like to see us implementing something in 2015!!
      Thanks again for your comments!

  5. Richard G.

    Elizabeth & Donna,

    I have heard Google wallet is effective and tenant friendly too. But it seems, at least in my case that ACH bank payments/bank allotments work well and what feels comfortable for many. I look forward to reading your article next year about this subject Elizabeth as I am sure you will write one. Thank you —

  6. Melissa Culpepper

    This article is fantastic! I really appreciate how you’ve taken the time to tend to even the smallest details like air fresheners and baking soda. The little things really do mean a lot and nothing makes the burden of moving more pleasant than to walk into your new place to find that it looks and smells well tended to right from the get go!

  7. re: Lead Based Paint disclosure form & phamplet
    The EPA requires you to take care of this BEFORE signing the lease. If you disclose the presence of Lead or it is a pre-1978 house, they have the right to walk with no penalty if they are unwilling to take on that risk.
    We make it the very first form of our lease closing. Never had a tenant decline to continue, but when the EPA inspects our records, they will see it first and before the lease.

  8. Alyssa Anderson

    This is great, Liz! Thank you so much!! I am just in the learning stages of soaking up as much information as I can before I buy my very first rental property. I just bought my first piece of real estate ever a year and a half ago – it is my primary residence, a single-family home. Anyways, would love to know your advice for what to look for in a first rental property since you and David are so experienced and now know what is good and what is not.

    • Elizabeth Faircloth

      Hi Alyssa,
      You are so welcome! Happy to help!! Great to hear you are in the process of buying your first rental property. There are so many different strategies and different niches out there. Some people buy single family homes, and some others buy multifamilies. Some buy in college towns, and some buy in urban communities. Some buy for minimal cash flow and focus more on appreciation, and others buy primarily cash flow and focus less on appreciation. You can see that there are so many ways to approach this business. The key when you are starting out is to focus your energies – in one market and with one strategy. Our very first rental we bought (12 years ago) was a duplex in a somewhat urban community. We found it by calling “for rent” signs and found a landlord who was tired of being a landlord. Key #1 – find a motivated seller. Might seem obvious but if you don’t find a motivated seller then you might pay too much for the property. Key # 2 – we only buy buy/holds that we can add improve (ie adding value too). We are not currently investing in “turn keys” – we like to buy, fix to our standards, and then rent.
      Just some thoughts that might help you get started!!!
      Good luck!!! 🙂

  9. Daniel Vaz

    Great article! Thanks a lot for sharing! In one of the podcasts, the speaker brought the idea of a one page document listing the key things the Tenant needed to undersrand about the lease agreement and what their responsibilities were. I believe they also used this to set the expectation for call return time and to explain the diference between emergency (Fire, flood) vs. Other items which do not require immediate action. Curious what your thoughts are and if anyone has something similar they could share?

  10. Micah Chambers

    Wow, Thank you so much for writing out your whole system! My husband and myself are buying our 1st house ,that we will use as a rental in a year or two after we pay off a few things. I LOVE this site it is so informative and everyone is just so nice.

  11. Nataly Llanes

    Hi Liz,
    Well first and foremost thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge and experiences. Fantastic article!!!
    My husband and I are planning on taking the plunge soon and God willing purchase our first multifamily rental beginning of next year. In the mean time we are trying to learn as much as we can and implement a business plan along with processes and protocols on how to do so.
    I wanted to know if you would be willing to share your template letters with my husband and I, that would be so so helpful.
    Also, as far a Property Management softwares and apps, what have u found helpful?
    I’ve heard a lot of great things about Buildium.

    Thanks in advance Liz. Looking forward to hearing from you.


    • sri ram

      I have just started using Buildium for a 55 condos and it is very slow. The transactions to be entered by the bookkeeper for this year from the beginining for the 55 units. I have spent 15 hours and 60 pages of transactions are still not finished. I chose it because you can have multiple people login at the same time if need be. but it is really slow. Not too happy with the slow progress in the Bookkeeping.

      I have been using Rent manager for 8 years for my rentals. I am happy with it so far. I am always looking to see any addtional features are needed in property management software.
      It all depends on the # of units and the number of users going to use it. Rent manager is paid by each user so it may become expensive if you more than one person need to use it simuitaneously/concurrently. I use it for 150 units but I have two user not concurrently.

  12. Elizabeth Faircloth

    Hi Nataly:
    Congrats to you and your husband. I would be happy to share some documents – just let me know which ones. You can message me. For Property Management apps/software, we use Rent Manager. I am in the process of evaluating other systems to make sure Rent Manager is still meeting our needs. Not 100% sure. I have heard great things about Buildium as well. Just enter “property management software” in the BP search button and you will find a ton of various threads on this site to read about the various systems!
    Good luck to you!

  13. sri ram

    Hello Elizabeth
    Great article. Well written. Even after managing for 12 years I have not prepared a comprehensive list like yours. Great job on composing the article.
    Maybe we should exchange some notes on the Rent manager tricks and usage and process flow on the workorders.
    I was thinking of the APP form RM for the inspections. Have you tried it and how is it working for you.?
    Sometimes the tenants do not put the correct address and they have evictions and the screening software does not pick it up. I am not sure if you have done some cross verifications like that. I do come across some percentage of it not showing up in the reports from the agency. I usually check the local county court house website to verify with the names and then verify the landlord names and look up the county property records to see the landlord.
    I am having big issues in collection. Rent collection losses are huge. I have not had any success in collection of outstanding rents after evictions. Do you have any success with that? Do you use any particular agency?

  14. Kyle Soderman

    Great post Liz!! One question: In my market there are a good amount of rentals that have tenants paying all the utilities. It sounds like you do the same? How does the tenants go about putting the utilities in their name? What if they don’t end up putting it in their name? Are you able to shut off services or do you just bill them?

    Well, that was more like four questions… but thank you!

  15. What a helpful article! So nice of you to share all this valuable information. I would be interested in seeing a list of the forms/templates you have in order to get a good idea of the level of organization I need for this process

  16. Mark Bouman

    Hi Liz!!

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write this post and share with the BP community! Requiring tenants to sign a “move out charges” list is something I will definitely be adding.. Great way to keep landlord and tenant on the same page and reduce issues at move out! Also, some great ideas on intentional tenant communication.


  17. Dan Acampora

    I just came across this post while doing some homework for a project work I am currently on…Excellent article!

    IMO – You have covered most of the key points to making it work smoothly — and as we all know, the smoother things work the better the potential for profit over gray hair…or in my case, pulling out your hair.

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