What if your tenant never moves in?

It’s exciting to get to this point in the rental industry: the lease is signed, the security deposit has been collected, and the move-in date is set. Now, your work can focus on issue management as a landlord rather than spending hours digging through applications to fill your property.

Unfortunately, things don’t always proceed smoothly from here.

What if your tenant never moves in? Will you keep being paid rent? Will you still be owed rent if they are not living there? How can you collect rent if the property is still empty?

Figuring out what happens if a tenant doesn’t move in can be difficult as you might be unsure if your typical rules will still apply, and there aren’t many resources that clearly explain what you can do to financially survive this situation.

Today’s landlord guide will give you five essential tips to make it through this difficult situation with as much ease and efficiency as possible.

A Table Of Contents For No Move-In Tenants

1. Be Sure That They Didn’t Move In

The first thing that you always need to do in this type of situation is to confirm that the tenant did not move in. Sometimes, tenants have fewer belongings than you might expect as landlords or they simply move in without the usual hiccups, fanfare, and questions that can occur on move-in day.

Did the tenant collect the keys or did you drop them off to the tenant on move-in day?

If so, the tenant is, for all intents and purposes, “moved in.” From here, your usual procedure for all rental issues should apply.

If the tenant never collected the keys or has repeatedly delayed when they say they will do so and move in, then they have not yet “moved in,” and you will need to move on to our additional tips and tricks.

2. Contact The Tenant

what happen if tenant doesn't move in

Your next primary goal should be to get in contact with the tenant, especially if you haven’t done this yet. Ask when they plan to move in. If they can’t give you an answer, ask whether or not they intend to continue paying rent.

In some cases, the tenant will assure you that they will pay rent and move in on their own schedule; in others, they’ll tell you right then-and-there that their plans have changed.

The only way to know for sure what the tenant is thinking – and whether or not they intend to break the lease – is to talk to them. Anything beyond hearing it from the tenant themselves is speculation, and speculation takes a lot longer to make it through the court system than clear answers from the tenant themselves.

3. Break The Lease: Together Or Apart

In order to lessen the financial burden of what happens if a tenant doesn’t move in for both you and the tenant, you need to officially break the lease. A rental agreement is no longer valid as soon as one of the parties violates the lease terms; there are a few ways that can play out in this scenario.

The Tenant Has Changed Their Mind

In some cases, the tenant will decide they are not going to move in to or continue to rent your property.

Here is what to do if the tenant intends to break the lease:

  1. Ask the tenant to give a 30-day written notice for your records; a 30-day notice is the standard requirement to end a lease agreement early.
  2. Clarify with the tenant that they are still responsible for the lease for the entire lease agreement regardless of that notice.
  3. Reassure the tenant that you will do your best to re-rent the property quickly.

Why would you, as a landlord, want to spend time finding a new tenant rather than simply forcing the tenant to pay you the rent money for the originally agreed-upon lease period?

In addition to avoiding the struggle of trying to get a renter to pay for a property they aren’t even living in, most states require that you do so. This effort to find a new renter must be considered, and finding a renter that will cooperate is better for your business in the long run.

The Tenant Has Stopped Paying Rent

In some situations, you won’t be able to get a clear answer from the tenant. Despite collecting both a deposit and lease agreement signatures from the tenant, they may not stay in contact or clearly communicate their situation to you.

If this happens, you will have to wait until the next rent due date to see how to proceed. Rarely, the tenant may pay rent and eventually move in.

More commonly, the tenant will not pay anything, and you will be able to move forward with a standard eviction. As long as the lease agreement was signed, the security deposit was collected, and you made a true effort to get the tenant moved in, you have done everything that you are responsible for.

The tenant, on the other hand, has broken the lease so you can begin the eviction process.

4. Be Careful With The Security Deposit

Many landlords have another important money question when this situation occurs. If the tenant doesn’t move in, can a landlord not return a holding deposit?

In most cases, the landlord will be able to hold onto this security deposit and use it in the same way that the state typically allows it. As long as the lease agreement was signed and valid, the security deposit can be used to cover unpaid rent once the lease agreement ends.

Should you decide to terminate the lease with the tenant early, keep in mind how long you have to return the security deposit less any unpaid rent. For more information about security deposits, keep reading here.

5. Market To Re-Rent ASAP

Market To Re-Rent ASAP

Once you clearly know when the tenant’s lease agreement will end or when the property will be marketable again, begin marketing to re-rent ASAP.

In a situation where the tenant agrees to terminate the lease as soon as you find a new renter, you will need to return the tenant’s security deposit, less the cost of lost rent, ASAP.

Most state governments require that you make an effort to find a new renter if the tenant changes their mind and decides not to move in, regardless of the lease agreement. That doesn’t mean that you have to spend every waking minute doing so, but it is in your best interest to find a new tenant that wants to live at your property as well.

Work Smart & Quick

So, what if your tenant doesn’t move in? How will you react?

The key in this situation is to work quickly and to work smart.

Move through these steps with confidence:

  1. Contact the tenant and find out what their situation is.
  2. Request notice of lease cancellation and work to find a new renter.
  3. Return the security deposit, less any lost rent.
  4. Evict any non-communicative tenant that doesn’t pay the next month’s rent.
  5. Move forward!

Things happen, and you may end up in a situation where a tenant changes their mind. Frustrating as it may be, you need to keep moving forward to get yourself (and your property) into a move secure situation.