Your Detailed Apartment Make-Ready Checklist

Kristi Stevens

12 minutes read

Are you a property manager or a regional marketing manager for a series of apartment buildings?

Then, you know the lifestyle and that you need to juggle tons of moving parts. Tenants move in, and tenants move out. And, in between their comings and goings, there are endless details that fall into your lap.

The move-in and move-out process can be a bit stressful.

But you can make your job a whole lot easier simply by having an apartment make-ready checklist on hand at all times.

Property management pros are always looking for a way to streamline their workload and keep things running smoothly.

Here's our detailed apartment make-ready checklist, from what to do when a tenant leaves to how to handle a new renter moving in. 

An Apartment-Ready Checklist is an Absolute Must

Your #1 goal as a property manager is to follow the proper procedures and protocols for moving tenants in and out of your property. If you don't have a rigid routine for doing so, it's easy to skip important details. And, overlooking even the smallest detail can cost you money.

The checklist we’ve put together focuses on three different stages:

  1. What to do when a tenant leaves
  2. What to do in between tenants
  3. What to do when a new tenant moves in

Each one is an equally important part of the process.

What to Do When a Tenant Leaves

When a tenant leaves, the most important thing is to make sure that they didn't leave behind any damage. If they did, you'll need to hold back some or all of their security deposit.

What to Do In Between Tenants

In between tenants, you’ll need to have the apartment cleaned in preparation for the new tenant. You’ll also have to make necessary repairs and do some general upkeep, even if your last tenant left the place in great condition.

What to Do When a New Tenant Moves In

Finally, when it’s time to move a new tenant in, you’ll want to start that relationship on a positive note. And, that means making the move-in process a smooth one.

With a make-ready checklist form by your side, you can make sure that you don’t overlook a single detail, no matter what stage of the process you’re in. The more units and tenants you have, the more important this checklist will be.

Also see: The Complete Guide to Virtual Property Management

Here’s What to Do When a Tenant Moves Out

No matter how great a tenant may be, you just never know what you’re going to find when they finally move out of the building.

Here are the key steps to ensuring that you’re closing the book on that relationship the right way:

Schedule an Inspection for a Final Walkthrough

It's absolutely critical that you schedule a final walkthrough with your tenant on their last day. During this walkthrough, you'll need to do a thorough inspection of every single item within the unit. This includes doors, windows, floors, tiles — everything!

Don't rush this process.

Be thorough, and pay attention to even the littlest details, like:

  • Is the ice maker in the refrigerator working?
  • Does the garbage disposal work as it should?
  • Are the closet doors, kitchen cabinets, and medicine cabinets still on their hinges?
  • Are there cracks at the base or body of the toilet?
  • Do all the faucets and showerheads operate and run water?
  • Is there grease collected in the stove or oven?
  • Is there food left in the fridge?
  • If there is a washer/dryer in the unit, is it in good condition?
  • Are there tears in the carpet?
  • Are there scratches in the hardwood floors?

It’s important to inspect everything because you’ll need to provide your tenant with a good faith estimate of what costs they may incur. At the very least, you’ll need to inform them that you’ll have to assess any damage before you can return any portion of their security deposit.

When doing your walkthrough, do it side by side with your tenant. That way, you won’t have to deal with any he said/she said down the road.

Take Move-Out Pictures

The best way to protect yourself and prove that damage did occur is to take move-out pictures. Be sure to detail the entire apartment, noting everything and anything you see that isn't perfect. This includes tears in the carpet, cracks in the tile, broken blinds, you name it.

If your tenant disputes your reasons for keeping their security deposit, those photos will serve as the evidence you'll need to prove your point.

Accept the Return of Keys and Locks

Never let a tenant leave without returning all locks and keys. Even if you intend to have the locks changed on the individual unit, you don't want an ex-tenant having unlimited access to common areas. That includes the parking lots, pools, or other shared areas.

Get Firm Estimates on the Cost of Repairs

Once you've assessed the initial damage, you'll need firm estimates on what the cost of repairs will be. This includes the cost of cleaning, removing items left behind. Or repairing or replacing things that the exiting tenant broke.

Provide Tenant With Written Notification If You Intend to Keep the Security Deposit

When it comes to the landlord/tenant relationship, each state has its own laws. The most important of all is how you handle the return of a security deposit.

In most cases, you need to notify a tenant in writing within 30 days of moving out. If you fail to do so, you'll wind up losing even more. The state may force you to return the entire deposit or even pay the tenant two or three times the security deposit amount.

All for failing to abide by the laws in your state.

If you're a regional property manager who handles buildings in different states, always be up to date on the laws in every state you work in.

What to Do In Between Tenants

With your move-out photos taken and your old tenant gone for good, it’s time to switch gears. Get ready to start making the rental unit available for the next tenant to move in. This apartment turnover checklist will help you to ensure that you’re not missing a single step.

Clean and Paint

If your old tenant left items behind, hire movers or bring in maintenance workers to dispose of those items. Once the apartment is 100% empty, it’s time to start cleaning.

From the toilet seats to the shower door to the egg holders in the fridge, the first step is to have the entire apartment professionally cleaned.

Now is also the time to paint, lay new flooring, or make any updates that you’re rolling out in the complex. It’s always easier to remodel an empty unit than one that’s occupied.

Freshen Up the Bathroom

Bathrooms are prone to mold and mildew. So, have your maintenance tech do some proactive work by caulking around the tub or adding caulk around the toilet or sink base. You should also replace or clean the grout around bathroom tiles and remove any evidence of mold or mildew in the existing shower.

Address Pest Issues

Making the apartment critter-free is a must. Hire an exterminator to get rid of all pests and remove any signs of insect damage or infestations. No tenant on earth wants to move into a unit with bugs or (even worse) furry animals with tails.

Restore or Repair All Appliances

Never allow a new tenant to move in without first ensuring that every appliance works as it should. From the thermostat on the wall to the hot water heater to the dishwasher to the stove, do a thorough inspection of every single appliance in the unit.

Make the necessary repairs or install new appliances before your new tenant moves in. If upgrading appliances is something you intend to do throughout the complex in the upcoming months, do it now. That way, you don’t have to disrupt your tenant down the road with time-consuming installations.

Put On the Finishing Touches

Pay attention to all the little details, such as:

  • installing new light bulbs in light fixtures
  • putting new air filters in air conditioners
  • changing the batteries in smoke detectors
  • swapping out rusted or outdated cabinet hardware

Everything should be in perfect shape the day the new tenant walks through the door.

Change the Locks

As a safety precaution, you must change the locks in between tenants. You simply cannot put a new tenant in danger by giving them a copy of the same key that the last renter had. If your last tenant gave you trouble or left on a bad note, you may also want to change all of the locks and keys to common areas.

Take Photos

Once all repairs are complete, and everything is up-to-date, you're ready for the next step: taking detailed photos and keeping them on file for as long as the new tenant lives in the unit.

The photos you take when a tenant moves out will be your proof of how they left the apartment. Taking another set of photos at this stage will be proof of what the place looked like before you handed over the keys to the new renter.

What to Do When Your New Tenant Moves In

When it's time to move a new tenant into a rental unit, you'll want to make a good first impression. And that starts by having the apartment in tip-top shape and making the move-in process as easy as possible. With a maintenance checklist and an apartment-ready list prepared ahead of time, you can make the move-in experience a pleasant one. 

Give Your New Tenant a Grand Tour

On moving day, walk your new tenant through the living room, kitchen, bedroom, bath, and every other nook and cranny of the apartment. This is their chance to point out and document any damage that they see.

If they don’t point out anything that looks less-than-perfect, you’ll have even more justification for keeping their security deposit if you discover damage when they move out.

Turn Over Keys and Security Codes

Be sure that your new tenant has the proper keys and security codes to access all property amenities. This includes parking lot gates, pool access, gym access, and access to a shared laundry room. If your apartment building requires tenants to have a parking pass, be sure to provide them with one of those as well.

Provide Your Tenant With a Move-in Checklist of Their Own

You can protect yourself even further by providing your tenant with a move-in checklist of their own. This gives them an easy way to note damages and point out any causes for concern. You can even ask them to check off that everything looks to be in pristine, working order and sign the document as added protection for your property.

Allowing your tenant to do a thorough move-in inspection of their own can help to instill confidence in the management team. It can also make them feel comfortable that they’re about to move into a place that’s safe, clean, functional, and secure.

As part of this checklist, it's also a good idea to include all property rules.

If the apartment is pet-friendly, recap the details of pet cleanup and maintenance. If the apartment has special amenities, such as a pool, gym, or rec center, let them know the operating hours. Also, provide them with all details of safety protocols in shared spaces.

When you move a new tenant in, both parties should be confident that this relationship is mutual and works for everyone involved.

Make Sure Tenant Has Contact Details

As part of your tenant’s move-in checklist, provide them with two sets of contact information:

  1. Yours
  2. The number for reporting maintenance issues

If you collect rent online, give them a log-in or share a link so that they can set up their online rental account.

Here’s the Bottom Line:

Whether you manage one rental property or operate hundreds of units in multiple apartment buildings, having an apartment-ready checklist will help you do your due diligence between moving one tenant out and welcoming a new one in.

Have your checklist available on your phone, on your tablet, and/or printed on paper, and be sure to follow every step. A checklist will make it easier, as long as you follow it with each and every tenant you welcome in or usher out.

If you’re looking to cut the gap between move-outs and move-ins, having a tool like LeaseLeads on your website can do just that. The plug-in will serve as your virtual leasing agent 24/7 to match prospective tenants with their perfect floor plan!

Kristi Stevens

Content strategist - My mission is to fuel the growth of the multi-family industry by crafting impactful blog content and innovative solutions.


Few reasons why to sign up for our Newsletter

Cookie Preferences