Leasing your rental property can be an exercise in both patience and business savvy. After struggling to find and secure the right tenant, you may think now is the time to heave a sigh of relief and get back to generating passive income from your real estate investment. Unfortunately, it’s not quite time to rest and relax. First, you’ll have to prepare your rental unit.

Preparing your rental unit for a new tenant is a fairly straightforward task, so long as you pay attention to the necessary details. You want your unit to make a good first impression on your new renter, and you need to make sure the property is ready for the rigors of hosting a tenant.

There are several tasks you should perform before, during and after the previous tenant’s move-out. Proactively working while your existing tenants are preparing to move out will help you minimize the unit’s downtime, and reduce the amount of time you’re not earning any passive income from the property.

If you contract with a property management company to assist you with managing your rental unit, they may help you perform some or all of the preparation tasks necessary to move a new tenant into your unit. It’s important, however, to consult with your property manager about which tasks are included in your agreement, so nothing is overlooked.

Tasks to perform before the previous tenant moves out

As soon as you find out one of your tenants is leaving, you should kick into gear. Every day your residential rental unit is empty is a day you’re losing out on passive income.

Because you’re responsible for paying down your mortgage and maintaining the property even while it’s vacant, any time without a tenant results in negative cash flow. If your investment property is vacant for too long, the negative cash flow may begin to adversely affect your real estate investment business.

Here are just some of the things you can perform proactively, before your previous tenant moves out, to minimize downtime and prepare your rental unit for a new resident:

Schedule a walk-through: The first thing you should do when you receive a move-out notice from one of your tenants is schedule a unit walk-through. You’ll need to give a certain amount of notice that may differ, depending on your province and municipality. During the walk-through, you’ll have the opportunity to evaluate the unit’s condition.

Call the cleaners: Next, it’s time to schedule a cleaning service appointment. You should always have a professional service perform at least a rudimentary cleaning of each unit after a tenant moves out. Depending on the condition of the unit, you may need to invest in specialty cleaning services.

Clean the exterior: You can’t start working on the inside of the unit until the current tenant moves out. You can, however, start preparing the exterior of the rental. Begin by cleaning up the yard and landscaping, and touching up any exterior paint that looks like it needs a bit of work.

Wash windows and change screens: You should also plan to wash the exterior of the unit’s windows and change out the window screens prior to the previous tenant’s move out. If the windows are clean and the screens are in good condition, it may help you speed up the leasing process.

Change the air filter: You’ll also need to change out the air filter in your rental unit. In many multi-family residences, the air filter is kept in a shared utility closet, so you won’t need to get the tenant’s permission to change it out. If you can’t immediately access the air filter, you can at least purchase a new one in advance.

What to do while the unit is vacant

Once the old tenant vacates the unit, it’s time to start on the necessary tasks to perform before the new resident arrives. Start showing the unit as soon as the old tenant vacates the property. Just be sure to explain you’re still preparing the unit for move-in. In the meantime, take a look at some of the remaining tasks you’ll need to take care of prior to your new tenant’s arrival:

Paint and repair damage: Take a walk-through of the rental unit as soon as the previous tenant moves out. Look at any areas requiring repainting or damage repair, and get to work. It’s often better to take care of this before your professional cleaners arrive, so they can address any leftover repair debris.

Evaluate cleaning services: After your professional cleaners have performed a rudimentary cleaning, take another walk-through of your rental unit. If there are any areas that look like they’re still in need of professional attention, you may need to call a more specialized cleaning service provider.

Clean the carpets: Always have any carpeting in your rental unit steam-cleaned before a new tenant moves in. Carpeting can harbor odors, mites and more. Professionally cleaning it in advance of a new tenant will make them feel much more comfortable when they move into your rental property.

Change locks: Re-key your rental units locks before moving a new tenant into your residential rental space. The previous tenant may have made copies of the old keys that could be floating around. It’s always best for your peace of mind – and your new tenant’s peace of mind – to have a new lock with new keys installed prior to move-in.

Taking care of these simple tasks will help you minimize your rental unit’s downtime and provide your new tenants with a more comfortable, smooth move-in process. Proactively handling the preparation of your rental unit allows you to reap the best possible return on your real estate investment, and help you safeguard yourself against the effects of negative cash flow.

It’s a good idea to develop a checklist or have an established list of procedures with your property management firm. Standardizing the preparation process for new tenants helps ensure nothing is overlooked between move-out and move-in.