What to do when tenants move out of your property
What do you do when tenants move out? It’s no secret that the best tenants are those who remain in your property for a long time, pay their rent when they need to, and cause very little hassle.
Unsurprisingly, the process of finding new tenants and dealing with tenants moving out can be quite stressful. That’s why in this guide we take you through exactly what you need to do and when you need to do it – to help cut out some of the strain.
This guide will cover:
Advertise your property as soon as your tenants give notice
It’s best to get your property on the market as soon as possible. Ideally, you’ll want to find new tenants before your current ones move out to save against possible void periods.
There’s only a small window of opportunity to find tenants who are planning to move months or weeks into the future. Only once your property is empty will you be able to take advantage of those tenants who need to move urgently.
Remember: if you specify on your advert when the property will be available, it will likely attract more appropriate enquiries To get the most out of your property listing, we recommend you take a look at our guide to creating a property advert.
Inspect the property
An initial visit to the property shortly after the tenant has given notice is definitely worthwhile – even if a third-party inventory clerk will carry out the final inspection. This only needs to be superficial, but it’s important to know the property’s overall condition and its lettable state.
You can then let tenants know what your expectations are in terms of any remedial action that’s to be taken before they leave. A tenant might ignore your suggestions, but at least you have then allowed them the opportunity to rectify any issues. Just make sure the visit is mutually agreed and the tenant has been given at least 24 hours’ notice.
A few things you should look at…
Check the white goods to see if they are fully operational. If they’re not, the tenant should have already informed you of this. Landlords have an obligation to ensure any appliances left in the property are safe to use and to remove, repair, or replace any electrical item found not to be working. Prior knowledge of their condition also allows you to make arrangements in time for your subsequent tenants.
Oven and hob
This includes the inside, the extractor, and hood. Your new tenants won’t want to cook off the back of someone else’s grease. If the cleanliness isn’t up to scratch, let your tenants know.
The day they move out
When it comes to the final inspection, you or the clerk carrying it out will need a copy of original inventory. If you’re checking the tenants out yourself, remember to check all the same areas as in your initial inspection, along with a few other places:
Blockages can be expensive to eradicate. If you fail to identify a blockage caused by your outgoing tenants, it will almost definitely be discovered by the next people who move in. This would mean the cost of rectifying the problem will fall on you, the landlord.
Drawers, cupboards, the loft, attic, and garages should be left empty. Taking on the responsibility of disposing of anything yourself can a legal minefield. Landlords must store items of value – which may include furniture, electrical goods, and clothing – for a minimum of 14 days and provide notice to their tenants to collect their belongings before throwing anything away. Only perishable goods can be immediately disposed of.
The inventory and check-out (should happen the day they leave)
Doing the check-out on the day your tenants move out is a no-brainer. If you do your check-out before the tenants leave, it allows time for additional, undocumented damage to be created; do it after move-out day, and tenants could argue that any damage was made since vacating the property.
Just because something’s not a legal requirement, doesn’t mean that it’s not worth bothering with. In the case of inventories, this is only true if your tenant is going to return your property in a better condition than when it was handed over.
Without a signed inventory, you have no entitlement to any part of the deposit, nor will an independent adjudicator have any grounds to award you anything from it. There have been instances where landlords would’ve had claims of up to 100% of the deposit, only for the full amount to be returned to the tenants as a consequence of the landlord or agent not following procedures correctly.
If you have an inventory carried out by an independent and professional supplier, it may carry more weight. Your tenants may be able to argue that an inventory compiled by the landlord is inaccurate, or that it was designed to make the state of the flat at check-in look far better than it actually was.
Update the suppliers of council tax and other utilities
You’ll want to take the meter readings on the day your tenants leave and ensure your utility providers are updated. If you’re having an inventory carried out professionally, it’s standard practice for the clerk to record these for you.
Your tenants should be up-to-date with their bills, but you will want to satisfy yourself that this is the case before you return the deposit. How to proceed, however, will likely depend on the relationship you have with them.
If there are outstanding bills, the tenants might be more than happy to settle the accounts if you simply draw the matter to their attention. If, on the other hand, your relationship with your tenants is slightly more tenuous, it might be worthwhile suggesting this is resolved by deducting funds from the deposit.
Whatever you do, don’t delay: you have 10 days from when the tenants move out to make arrangements for the release of the deposit, whether this is in full or in part.
The same as above applies for council tax. Furthermore, if your property is going to be untenanted for any length of time, it’s worthwhile checking if you’re eligible for an unoccupied property exemption on your council tax. You’ll need to apply for council tax reduction directly with the council, as the amount of relief available (if any) varies from borough to borough – depending on their individual budget requirements.
For any time that your property is without tenants, the council tax will be your responsibility. But if you have already found tenants, it might be worthwhile updating the council with their details. Your new tenants will likely be grateful for one less thing to do when they move in.
Release the deposit within 10 days
The perfect scenario would be for the full deposit amount to be returned to the tenants, no questions asked: it would mean that there’s been no damage to the property, the rent’s been paid, and there are no outstanding utility bills.
Occasionally, however, there might be some monies owed or some damage caused that goes beyond ordinary wear and tear. Providing your inventory is up to scratch and you can provide evidence for any unresolved payments, you’ll be able to reclaim the funds from the deposit.
Don’t forget: once the deposit has been returned it is difficult to recover any costs incurred.
The last month’s rent
Don’t allow the deposit to be used to pay the last month’s rent. If there’s any damage to the property, there won’t be any funds available for you to recuperate the costs involved for putting the damage right.
What’s more, any deductions must be agreed to by the tenant. While they may have previously agreed to the deposit being paid to you, they can still dispute your proposal. This leaves you no choice but to escalate the situation to the dispute resolution service.
How can easyProperty help?
If you need to find tenants fast, why not take a look at our easy Let package? It includes advertising on Rightmove and your own dashboard to create your advert, manage enquires and accept tenants.