While the law does not mandate that landlords must clean rental properties in between tenants, it is a must if they want their tenants to maintain the property during their lease and clean it before moving out. And offering a property in a brilliantly clean and maintained state shows you’re a good landlord, and is more likely to attract those high-quality tenants who will take care of it.
Whether you are preparing to rent your property for the first time or performing a make-ready between tenants, it helps considerably to have a checklist of steps to take. We’ve curated seven areas where your due diligence will pay off.
1. Check to Ensure Everything Is in Working Order
Tenants aren’t always reliable in reporting issues with appliances, electricity, windows and safety features. With that in mind, you’ll want to check all of these in between occupants:
Turn on all appliances and units to make sure they work and are properly maintained, including the stove, microwave, refrigerator, freezer, dishwasher, water heater, washer and dryer, air conditioner and furnace.
Run the faucets and showerheads in the bathroom and kitchen and check for leaks in the faucets and in the pipes under the sink and tub. Also check for any leaks around the toilet and make sure it is operating properly.
Doors and Windows
Make sure all open and close properly and have secure locks.
Check that smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and sprinklers are working properly. Replace batteries in each one to ensure they continue working well into the next occupant’s lease. Be sure they are installed to meet code requirements for safety.
2. Replace These Items if Broken or Damaged
Some items in your rental will be broken or damaged, often from normal wear and tear or renter negligence. Make sure all are fixed before your next move-in.
Door Locks and Garage Openers
Always change your locks in between renters so your new tenants can rest assured that they and you are the only ones holding keys to their place. Be sure to fix any broken or loose door handles, bolts and latches. Replace the batteries on any garage door openers.
Air Filters and Dryer Lint Trays
Dirty air filters can lead to damage to your air conditioning unit. And dirty lint trays could make your dryer overheat and cause damage or even fire. Be sure to replace air filters and clean lint trays (or replace if damaged) before handing the new tenants their keys.
To ensure safety and promote renter cleanliness, replace the trays beneath the stove’s burners each time a renter moves out.
Windows and Screens
Replace broken glass panes and damaged screens to ensure safety.
Blinds and Shutters
Make sure each window treatment is undamaged and works properly. Broken or damaged window treatments can make a house look undesirable inside and out.
3. Touch Up Paint
While making your property their own, renters will make holes in walls from hanging art and window treatments. They also are certain to scuff and dirty baseboards, walls and doors. This will require touching up paint or repainting depending on the severity of the damage.
Nail and Screw Holes
Fill any holes with painter’s putty or toothpaste then touch up with paint if not repainting entirely.
Holes from Door Handles
These large holes can be repaired with sheetrock patching or by installing a plastic disc behind the door.
If not cleanable, touch up baseboards only where scuff marks appear.
Repaint the interior walls and baseboards every two to three years or after a negligent renter moves out.
4. Clean or Replace Carpets and Broken Tiles
While some landlords make it the responsibility of the renter to have the carpets professionally cleaned when they move out, you may choose to do it to ensure your standards are met. Any carpet that is stained in multiple places and badly worn in high traffic areas will need to be replaced.
Dogs and Cats
Cleaning flooring damaged by pets can be a huge challenge for property owners. Whether from animals that have sprayed the walls or pet poo and pee stains and the lingering smell, you’ll want to approach the resulting clean up with a strategy. PetMD.com suggests cleaning carpets with enzyme-based cleaners found in your local pet store: “The enzymes in these products actually break down the acid in cat urine, helping to get rid of the smell at the same time. These cleaners contain natural enzymes and helpful bacteria to get rid of the bad bacteria causing the unpleasant odors.”
Install Hard Flooring
Many property owners are choosing to eliminate carpet, and find installing hard flooring requires less maintenance and is more attractive to tenants.
Individual tiles can often break and will need to be repaired as soon as possible to prevent additional tiles and grout from cracking. Be sure to clean grout with grout cleaner or a vinegar solution.
5. Deep Clean
Whether you choose to clean your rental property yourself or hire a professional cleaner for your make-readies, it is imperative to deep clean each interior element until it shines. If you present your property in a state of cleanliness, you will inspire your tenants to keep it that way. A make-ready cleaning list is a must-have, and Chicago-based ServiceMaster by Zaba provides their Rental Cleaning Checklist and a bevy of brilliant cleaning tips to ensure you don’t forget a thing.
6. Ready the Exterior
While you will primarily focus on your property’s interior, its exterior needs to be attended to as well. You’ll want to go for curb appeal and tidiness. Some landlords opt to provide lawn care in the lease so they can maintain it as desired, while others will require their tenants to take on the task. Either way, you will need to take care of the following items before leasing:
Mow and Edge
Make a great first impression while showing your property and then turning over the keys with a freshly mowed and edged lawn that is vibrant and healthy.
Plant inexpensive greenery or annual flowers to give your property that curb appeal.
Put a bit of style into the exterior by painting the front door a vibrant color or just by making sure it is in tip-top shape.
Gutters and Drains
Clean gutters and unclog drains to ensure the exterior façade of your property doesn’t sustain water damage.
Driveway and Garage
Pressure wash the drive and garage floor to remove oil, grime and stains.
7. Take a Final Walk-Through
Before handing the keys to your new tenant, do a final walk-through to ensure every item is clean, maintained and in working order. You’ll have peace of mind that you turned over the property in great condition, and your tenant will be able to turn in their move-in form with few or no issues to report.