Having a vacant rental can sometimes be stressful.  Many rental property owners want to minimize the time the property is vacant and would like to find a tenant before the last tenant has even moved.  After all, having a vacancy means lost rent and hidden costs such as utilities and turnover costs. 

However, sometimes it isn’t beneficial to show the rental property prior to the tenant vacating.  A rental property owner needs to be able to show a well maintained property and gain the cooperation of the outgoing tenants in order to have a successful turnover of the property.

Conduct an inspection of the rental unit and look at it with the eye of a prospective tenant.  Some things to consider are: 

  • How much maintenance needs to be done once the tenants depart?
  • Are the current tenants clean?
  • What is the condition of the flooring and paint?
  • Are there any odors to be concerned about?
  • Is the tenant utilizing the space appropriately or is there clutter? 

Rental prospects understandably have little imagination and if you show a lived-in rental unit, that is the way they will always think of it.  If you want a quality tenant, your units needs to be shown at its best.  After all, a quality tenant will seek a quality rental.

Communication is going to be an important element as to whether you can successfully lease this rental with the outgoing tenant still present.  Let your tenant know your plans and inform your tenant that you plan to show the unit.  Ask for their cooperation.  Three things to communicate with your tenant are: 

Scheduling:  Work out a plan that you and your current tenants can both live with.  Some tenants don’t have a traditional schedule and work nights and sleep during the day.  Although the place is yours and by law you have the right to show it, your tenant can make it harder for you to do so.  Be sure to serve the notice of entry to premises if you need to. 

Pets:  If the current tenants have pets then they need to be taken into consideration when you are showing the unit.  Will the pets be present when you are conducting a tour?  Can the pets be secured? 

Photos:  Before snapping pictures of the property for your marketing, be sure to ask your current tenant for permission.  Many tenants do not want a landlord taking pictures of their personal items.

Also, if you have a disgruntled tenant, one who is hostile or has stopped paying rent, it would be wise to wait until he or she has moved out before you show the unit.  After all, you don’t want your incoming tenant to be placed in an awkward position of seeing the drama of an eviction or a bad landlord-tenant relationship. 

Once you have determined the property is in good condition and you’ve gained your tenants’ cooperation, then you should be able to lease your property with the current tenant present.  Have a contingency plan if the outgoing tenant doesn’t move out on time.  I usually leave a few days between tenancies to allow for the unit to be cleaned and routine maintenance performed.  Also, to allow for a buffer just in case the unthinkable happens and the outgoing tenant doesn’t turn in the keys on time. 

Julie Johnson is with Smart Choice Realty.  Reprinted with permission of UPDATE, the official publication of the Rental Housing Association of Washington.