9 Steps to Successfully Turning Over a Rental Property

Updated February 2021

In an ideal world, landlords would have amazing tenants who would stay for many years in a row and turnovers would happen rarely.

However, in the real world, most landlords have to deal with rental unit turnovers all too often. When tenants deliver a non-renewal notice to you, which means they will no longer be living in the rental when the lease expires, you can start making plans to turn over the property.

In the process of transitioning a rental unit from one tenant to another, landlords have to worry about lots of details, from proper notice and inspections to security deposits and outside vendors. It can get pretty overwhelming quickly. Losing track of the turnover process can mean losing money.

Landlords who are better prepared for this process and have set times and deadlines for when tasks must be accomplished will find that turnovers are a lot less stressful and are actually done faster than when they don’t have a real plan.

It’s time to make your turnover plan. Learn more about turning over a rental property and the 9-step process from move out to move in.

A Table Of Contents On Turning Over A Rental Property

Not sure where you should begin when starting to turn over a rental property? We’ve put together what you need to know to get going on the turnover process:

The Basics Of Turning Over A Rental Property

Turning over a rental property might not be what people think of when they first think of managing a rental property, but it’s a very important aspect.

Here at RentPrep, we have firsthand experience with what landlords go through during the rental process from start to finish. Today, we’ll share that knowledge with you; let’s get started on learning about turnover.

What Is Apartment Unit Turnover, And What Does It Mean For Your Business?

The Basics Of Turning Over A Rental PropertyTo turnover a rental property, you must go through the process of discovering and repairing any damages caused by the previous tenant. This includes cleaning the apartment and making any desired upgrades. Then, you need to market the property, sign on new tenants, and get them moved in.

During the time when you are cleaning up the apartment and finding the next tenant, you will not be collecting any rent. This is a big part of why apartment turnover is so important. The longer it takes to get a new tenant into the property, the less you will make on the property annually.

Sometimes, long turnover times are unavoidable due to a downturn in the rental market or the need for large renovations. In most cases, however, landlords try to keep vacancy periods as short as possible to keep things profitable.

Property Turnover In 9 Steps

The process of property turnover can be broken down into nine basic steps. Keep in mind as you move through these steps, however, that every property should be considered a unique situation.

While it is advisable to have a general turnover plan you will follow, some level of flexibility is going to be required.

For example, a tenant may decide to have the carpets steam cleaned before they move out in order to avoid losing their security deposit. If they provide receipts of when this was done, you can take this step out of your usual process. On the flip side, a tenant might promise to repaint the rooms and then skip doing it. While the cost will be covered by their deposit, you will need to spend extra time fixing the walls.

The situation will never be 100% predictable. Plan as much as you can in detail, but leave some room for unexpected changes as you prep the unit to be rent ready. This will help you to face less stress in the long term.

1. Receiving Notice

When the tenants let you know they will not be renewing the lease agreement, make sure you have that in writing. You’ll need to confirm they understand the time and date they must return the keys to you and have all of their things removed.

Keep the written notice in the tenant file, and keep the paper trail going by sending them a written reply that acknowledges you’ve gotten their notice and you will be in touch soon to go over the move-out process.

2. Deliver Move-Out Instructions

Many tenants are not sure of the order of events when they are planning to move out. The two most important things they need to be aware of is the move-out inspection and the occasional showings of the rental to new prospective tenants.

Remind them that the move-out inspection must be done with you and to coordinate a time and date that works for you. Generally, landlords like to do the move-out inspection approximately two weeks before the move date. They also need to be ready for you to show applicants the rental with 24 hours of written notice, and with this notice, they won’t be surprised when you show up with strangers.

3. Scheduling

Many of the service vendors you use might be booked out a few weeks at a time, so as long as you know the date and time of the tenant’s departure, you can call ahead and schedule painters, maintenance workers, and others to pay a visit to the rental a day or so after it is vacated.

This will shorten turnover time immensely because you won’t be waiting with an empty rental while you wait for your vendor’s calendar to clear up.

4. Start Advertising For New Applicants

Using your best marketing channels, create an ad for new tenants. Use all the tips and tricks for creating a compelling advertisement, and list your ad in all the best rental property publications, both traditional and online, that you can. Use a blend of networking and passing the info about your upcoming vacancy on to appropriate friends, family, and co-workers.

5. Conduct The Move-Out Inspection

Meet the tenant for the inspection and bring a copy of the move-in inspection papers so you both can compare and check for damages. Go through each room and evaluate each subcategory of the rooms.

It may be hard to see some damages if they are obscured by furniture, so make sure you let tenants know that any new discoveries will be added to the inspection papers as an addendum. The move-out inspection papers should be signed and dated by both you and the tenant.

6. Find New Tenants

While your current tenant’s time is winding down, you must be taking phone calls, answering emails, and otherwise tracking down your new tenants. Use efficient screening procedures to ensure you narrow down the pool of applicants to the very best ones and do background screenings and interviews with them. Over the course of a few weeks, you should be able to lock in new tenants who will be able to move in on the date you say the rental will be ready, generally about a week after your current tenants vacate.

7. Get Keys And Do A Final Inspection

Property Turnover In 9 StepsOn the day your current tenants move out, meet them at the rental property to collect the keys and do a quick check to ensure there are no additional damages to walls, carpets, doors, and more.

While this doesn’t need to be a complete move-out inspection because you already completed that, you want to be sure no new damages have occurred and that nothing is being left behind by the tenant.

Don’t forget to write down their forwarding address. Make a list of all the total damages (if there are any) and prepare their security deposit amount to be returned to them, minus the cost of damages. Check your state’s rules and regulations for returning security deposits.

8. Coordinate With Vendors To Get The Property Ready

You have a short window of time to get the rental property in top shape, so make sure your vendors are still able to meet their scheduled appointments. Painters, plumbers, electricians, and other contractors should all be ready to get to work in the empty unit and get it all fixed up for new tenants. This is also a good opportunity for you to make any additions, improvements, or upgrades to the place, like putting in a new refrigerator.

9. Meet The New Tenants To Sign A Lease

Before handing the rental property over to the new tenants, always meet with them to sign the lease agreement, collect the security deposit, and do a move-in inspection.

Carefully go over the lease and discuss any areas they may have questions about. The move-in inspection is most effective when it is done before any belongings are put in place. Of course, the papers should be filled out completely and signed by both parties before turning over the keys.

When Someone Else Is Managing The Property

If you are working with property managers at one or more of your units, make sure you are familiar with their apartment turnover management plans. You want to be sure they are going to keep a tight timeline to help maximize your profits. Additionally, find out what their costs are like during vacancies and turnover periods.

Tightening Timelines With Property Managers

Do you have concerns about whether or not your property managers are keeping their timelines as tight as yours? If so, this is a great time to sit down with your property managers and review what they are doing to help fill vacancies as quickly as possible.

In some cases, there may be some aspects of the turnover process they are not scheduling out in advance. It’s possible that their standard procedures simply do not put as much investment into that area as you would like to see.

Addressing these issues with your managers can help you to improve your turnover times and create a stronger relationship with your management team.

Vacancy And Turnover Costs

Other things that you must review with your property management team are the costs and fees associated with vacancies and turnovers. Even if you do not have a tenant in a property or being managed by the team, there are likely still going to be fees that you are responsible for.

You should be fully aware of the costs associated with vacancies, filling properties, and otherwise maintaining rental properties throughout turnover and before you sign a contract with a property management team. If you feel that the terms are not fair for the services rendered, don’t be afraid to enter into a conversation about this with your property management team.

FAQs About Turning Over A Rental Property

What Is Apartment Turnover?

Apartment turnover, also known as rental turnover, is the process that occurs from the time one tenant decides to move out until the next tenant moves in.

Typically, this process includes the following:

  • Making sure the tenant moves out on time
  • Collecting final payments from the tenant
  • Inspecting the property for damages beyond normal wear and tear
  • Doing necessary repairs
  • Deep cleaning as needed
  • Finding new tenants
  • Getting new tenants moved into the apartment

The apartment turnover process is something landlords have to work on to make sure they are doing effectively and efficiently. The longer an apartment turnover takes, the costlier it will be to their overall profits.

The goal of apartment turnover is to ensure the unit is in the best condition it can be in before the next tenant moves in. This ensures the apartment can be rented out quickly and also helps ensure the long-term rentability of the unit.

How Much Does It Cost To Turn An Apartment?

The cost of turning over an apartment can vary widely, but there are a few key factors that will affect what the final cost ends up being to landlords like you:

  • How long the apartment stays vacant and what monthly rent is being missed out on
  • How much it costs out-of-pocket to do necessary repairs
  • If the security deposit covers any or all of the needed repairs
  • How much it costs to clean and paint the apartment

Each of these costs are dependent on the specific situation you find your property in after a tenancy ends, so it is not always possible to come up with an exact figure.

Most landlords will find that their turnover cost is at least $1,000. Depending on how long it takes to rent the unit and how much rent is lost during that time, the number could rise to a few thousand dollars.

One good way to create an estimate for your specific units is to keep tabs on what your turnover costs are the next time you turnover a unit. Average a few cases, and then use that number as your expected turnover cost. While it won’t be an exact number, this is a good way to have some type of baseline expectation for future turnovers.

How Long Does It Take To Turn Over An Apartment?

Landlords who realize how much apartment turnover can cost them will want to keep turnover times as tight as possible; what is a realistic amount of time for apartment turnover?

Like cost, timing of turnover is something that can be hard to estimate.

Apartments that were kept in great condition and only need a quick paint job and cleaning can be turned around in just a few days. Units that need more renovations and updates, on the other hand, can take a few weeks to turnaround. What should your expectations be?

Usually, apartment turnovers will take at least one or two weeks. Even if you have maintenance workers scheduled in advance, the scheduling of painting, cleaning, and finding tenants is likely to take at least 10 days. It is definitely possible for experienced real estate investors to move things along faster, but you cannot reasonably expect to turn things over in just one day.

Planning For Turnovers

If you are planning for an upcoming turnover and want to get an estimate on how long it might take before you start marketing the property, consider the following:

  • The longer a tenant has been occupying the unit, the longer it is going to take to fully turnover the apartment even with just normal wear and tear.
  • Professionally dry cleaned carpet will take up to one full day to fully dry.
  • It can take between four to six hours to paint just one room, and dry time varies depending on the type of paint used.
  • Having a crew clean the whole house can take as little as two hours, but the cost will affect the size of crew and length of time.
  • Changing locks, if you are familiar with the process, should not take more than one hour.
  • Testing alarms and changing out filters should only take a few minutes for each job.
  • Handymen can give you estimates about how long any necessary repairs to property damage will take; add this to your estimate.

Write up a list of everything you are absolutely sure will need done to the property and how long you expect it to take. From there, you can begin to get an idea of what to expect from your upcoming apartment turnover experience.

How Do You Prepare An Apartment For Rent?

Whether you’re just wrapping up an apartment turnover or you are preparing a unit for its first tenancy, you might be wondering if you have done everything you need to do. This list is not comprehensive, but it is a good starting point.

Use it as a checklist to see if there is anything you may have forgotten to do as you prepare the apartment to be rent ready:

  • Is it clean?
    The apartment should be incredibly clean. This includes the inside and outside of appliances as well as commonly missed areas like windows, windowsills, and blinds. Hiring professional cleaning services and having the carpets cleaned are good ideas.
  • Are the walls patched and painted?
    Patching any holes and applying a fresh coat of paint to the apartment is typically done every few years. In some cases, your tenant may do this before moving out, but it is always good to make sure a satisfactory job was done. You can paint the rooms yourself, but a professional painting crew might be worth the cost.
  • Does everything work properly?
    Checking that things work properly, from electrical outlets to toilets to carbon monoxide alarms, is a must. Keep a list of everything of this nature that needs to be tested, and write up a standard practice on how to check these things. If necessary, you can then delegate this list to a trusted employee during turnover checks.

Once you are sure the apartment is looking great and up-to-standard, you can begin to market the property. Marketing your property should be done early, but not too early.

Make sure the unit will be ready for occupancy within two weeks when you begin marketing. Starting any sooner could cause you to lose out on interested parties, and you’ll end up wasting your valuable time.

What To Do Before Moving Tenants Into An Apartment?

Have you found a new tenant and are getting them ready to move into the apartment? Great!

Now, it’s time to do a few things before they move in to ensure you are protecting yourself, your unit, and your future tenants from any necessary problems.

  1. Inspect and document the unit.
    Even though you did a move-out inspection when the previous tenant moved out, it is important to fully inspect the property and make sure everything is working. Things can break unexpectedly, and there is even a chance that contractors working at the property may have left behind some problems. Thoroughly inspect the property, document the unit with photos, and take notes about anything that may stick out.
  2. Write and sign your lease.
    Of course, you will want to make sure you have a strong lease that is signed into agreement with you and the tenant. Your lease should cover how the property will be managed, what expectations are for both parties, and much more. Learn more about how to write a great lease in our guide here.
  3. Create a move-in letter.
    Before the tenant moves in, write up a letter that you can leave at the property or give to them for when they first move in. This is a great place to remind them of important parts of the lease, such as whether or not they are allowed to paint or hang things up. Additionally, remind them of your emergency contacts and who to contact for repairs.Finally, this letter should include instructions on how to properly use and maintain any appliances or features of the home that they may be unfamiliar with, such as the stove. Not only will this help them feel more at home, but it will also help to ensure these appliances are cared for properly.
  4. Do a move-in walkthrough.
    When you meet the tenant to give them their keys, make sure you do a move-in inspection with the tenant there. It’s a good idea to have a set form you use for both move-in and move-out walkthroughs so you and the tenant are on the same page. This walkthrough gives both parties a chance to point out any potential problems.

As exciting as it is to finally have a tenant, make sure you have all of these things in order before you hand over the keys. Allowing a tenant to move in without following through on these four steps can and will lead to problems at some point, so be sure you are taking all of the necessary precautions to protect your business.

Turnover Doesn’t Have To Hurt

With organization, foresight, and a little bit of hustle, it’s possible for landlords to turn over a rental property within a week and without risking profits. The longer a rental sits vacant, the deeper the impact on your bank account, so do what you can to follow these 9 steps and keep your real estate investment full of paying tenants.


  • Preparing for turnover ahead of time is always a good idea.
  • Having a set procedure to follow will help keep you organized.
  • Estimate your timeline and budget in advance based on previous turnovers.

By doing these three things, you can prepare yourself for future turnovers. As you become more experienced, you’ll be able to tighten up the time spent to turn over a rental property!