By Ari Chazanas, Lotus West Properties
Vacancies are never a good thing because it means you are not generating income on your property. If a tenant has decided to vacate the premises, and hopefully given you adequate advance notice, your top priority is finding a new renter as quickly as possible. That means taking a proactive approach to preparing the unit, marketing your property, and identifying the next tenant in a short period of time.
The longer your property remains vacant, the more it can impact your bottom line over the long-term. These are the steps you should take as soon as you are informed that one of your current tenants intends to end the lease.
Start Advertising Early
Most rental leases require that a tenant offer a 30-day advance notice of his or her intent to vacate the property. This should be ample enough time for a property owner to have the unit on the market and ready for occupancy within a short vacancy period.
Keep in mind, the unit is still occupied and off the market during those final 30 days so it may be tough to actually show the property to prospective renters. It could also work against you as the outgoing tenants are packing up and the unit may not be in the best shape. That doesn’t mean you can’t start listing your property on the popular online rental sites to begin drumming up interest and gathering contact information of potential tenants.
As for your listing, try to be as transparent and specific as you can about the property and all the amenities it offers. Be up front about what you expect from a prospective tenant so potential applicants know what to expect when they come to view the property. You may lose a few prospects who are looking for features your property may not provide, but it helps to avoid wasting your time and theirs. With a clear and concise listing that features plenty of photos and a thorough description, you can put your best foot forward in the rental market and inform potential applicants what type of criteria they need to meet in order to be considered.
This is one of the times where it pays to have a good relationship with each and every one of your tenants. The earlier you can get into the unit to inspect it and take inventory of any damage or repairs that need to be made, the easier it will be to get the work done in a timely fashion.
You will need to do a final walk-through with your tenant on the day he or she moves out but having some idea of the amount of work that will need to be performed before the move will be highly beneficial for reducing the vacancy time. Once the tenant has completely vacated the premises and returned the keys to you, get your maintenance and repair crews into the property as quickly as you can. Seeing the unit ahead of time will allow you to get in touch with your preferred contractors and get service appointments on the books so you’re not waiting for the work to begin a week or two after the unit has been empty.
If there is little work to be done in the way of repairs, then you get right to having the place cleaned and repainted in a shorter period of time. Your previous tenant will be happy to receive that security deposit without the extended delay as well…but only if he or she has left the place in the same condition as when they moved in.
The bottom line is simple – contact your contractors and service providers fast because you never know what kind of delays you may be facing because they are already booked up. Chances are yours is not the only unit that has become vacant at the first of the month and other landlords want to cut down their vacancy times as well.
Identifying Your Next Tenant
This is where property owners can sometimes get caught between a “rock and a hard place.” On the one hand, an extended vacancy period can be very costly but on the other, you want to be sure you are renting to a reliable individual who can pay the rent on time. I have seen too many property owners in a hurry to fill the vacancy with a renter that just wasn’t the right fit and that rushed decision caused nothing but problems down the road. So, while your cleaning crews and maintenance personnel are fixing up your rental property for the next tenant, you can spend sufficient time on finding the best possible applicant that meets all (or most) of your rental criteria. You’re bound to get multiple applications at the same time, so it’s crucial that you take the time to review each and every one thoroughly.
Conduct credit and background checks on all your applicants. This will help to reduce the number of tenants who don’t qualify under your criteria. Verify income and examine the rental history of each applicant. You want to make sure there haven’t been any past evictions because that is a red flag and you’re just asking for trouble renting to an individual with a checkered rental history.
Some Final Thoughts
Be direct about what you expect from a tenant living in your unit. No pets allowed and no smoking permitted are two of the most common rules, but you might have others. Don’t impose too many restrictions or limitations as that will only drive renters away after just a year or two. The goal is keeping your tenants paying you rent from one year to the next over the foreseeable future.
Ari Chazanas is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Lotus West Properties, a boutique property management firm based in West Los Angeles. You can reach them at (323) 487-2650 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Mr. Chazanas serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles.