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How To Complete An Apartment Turnover Like a Pro

An In-Depth Guide for Transitioning Between Tenants

When your tenant’s lease is up, it’s important to have a plan to avoid gaps in your rental property income. We spoke with three apartment turnover experts – Innago, ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba and Rentec Direct – to provide the best ways to fill your vacant property fast.

First, What Is an Apartment Turnover?

Renter turnovers happen when the resident chooses to move out instead of renew their lease. The maintenance, cleaning tasks and signing a new tenant define the apartment turnover process.

A Complete Apartment Turnover Cleaning Checklist

Before the next tenant moves in, your priority is to restore the unit to its original condition, referencing the move-out inspection to see what it’ll take to bring the place back up to par. Follow our cleaning and repair tips to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Print out our downloadable apartment turnover checklist to make sure you get everything done before handing the keys over to your new tenants.

Jump To:

Moving Out | Managing Left-Behind Items | Making Repairs | Cleaning the Apartment
Painting the Walls | Fixing the Carpet | Changing the Locks

1. How to Handle the Move-Out Process

It’s good practice to conduct a walk-through of the apartment before tenants move out, and note any damages. Reference notes taken during their move-in inspection and maintain photo records of any dinged, scratched or broken parts of the apartment that go beyond normal wear and tear. This way, if you need to charge the tenant for damages, you have proof of the faults.

“A smooth move-out starts with a smooth move-in. Create a checklist for your tenants and require them to fill it out and sign it. Adding pictures and video is a nice bonus. Landlords should also keep an eye out for any modifications made to the property that were unauthorized or violate the lease.”

Dave Spooner, Co-Founder of Innago 

Another good rule of thumb for transitioning between renters is to require them to provide proof that they have discontinued utility accounts to the apartment.

Now it’s time to get down to business and get the place ready for your new tenants. 

Pro Tip: If you plan on hiring professionals to help between tenants, contact cleaning and painting companies as soon as you know the renter is moving out to get on the schedule. This will ensure quicker turnover.


2. What to Do When a Tenant Leaves Belongings Behind

Chances are, your tenant is going to leave something in the unit when they move out. It could be small and insignificant like trash and cleaning supplies, or larger items like furniture. So, what do you do if your tenant has moved out but left belongings behind?

If you have new tenants moving in soon after the old ones leave, clear the items out, but don’t get rid of them too fast! Depending on laws in your state and their reasons for leaving, you may be required to notify the tenant in writing before tossing their property.

Pro-Tip: Some landlords choose to include stipulations about property left behind after move-out in the lease. This may imply that any belongings left behind will become the landlord’s property, and a removal fee will be taken out of the security deposit. However, state laws vary on what landlords can and can’t do with handling furniture left behind. It’s best to look up the specific statute for your state to make sure you’re not breaking the law.

Here are general guidelines to consider when dealing with left-behind items courtesy of Nolo:

  • Take inventory of the abandoned property.
  • Store any property of value – jewelry, electronics, furniture, etc. 
  • Give written notice detailing how and where to reclaim the property.
  • Provide a deadline for picking up their belongings – 30 days is common. 
  • Require the tenant to reimburse you for the cost of storing the items.
  • Declare that failure to claim the property means it is legally abandoned.

If materials have been left behind as the result of an eviction or the tenant has disappeared, the law requires that these situations be treated differently. If you’re ever unclear about what to do, consult your landlord’s association or a lawyer.

Check out our comprehensive Furniture Disposal Guide to get rid of old love seats and tables without the hassle.

3. Make Repairs and Update Appliances

It’s a good idea to complete all of your repairs and maintenance issues before you start cleaning, because there’s a good chance you’ll leave a little dust behind. But, there’s always an exception to the rule: don’t paint until you’ve wiped down the walls.

Here’s a list of common maintenance repairs to check for when cleaning out a vacant apartment:

□ Replace the air filters.

□ Replace burned out lightbulbs.

□ Tighten or replace loose hardware.

□ Inspect the water pressure and drains for clogs.

□ Change out the batteries in the smoke detectors.

□ Inspect for water damage and leaky drains and pipes.

□ Check appliances and make sure they are working properly.

□ Replace anything that needs to be updated – toilets, cabinets, etc.

□ Fix anything that was listed as broken or damaged during the move-out inspection.

If there’s been any damage to the appliances, or if they’re outdated, it may be time to replace them. Don’t forget to get rid of your old appliances in the process.

“The most expensive problems we see are usually caused by bad plumbing. A small leak can damage floors, baseboards, walls and ceilings. Flooding can impact multiple units and require extensive repairs and water damage restoration.”

Diana Rodriguez, Partner at ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba 

Give yourself time to check and repair the plumbing. Rodriguez recommends letting a professional handle the inspection and repairs. It’s a smart investment that will pay off in the long run.

4. Clean the Apartment Top to Bottom

Now that the repairs are done, it’s time to clean the place up. Take the “top to bottom” mentality to heart, and save the floors for last. Check everything off your list before you give the floors a good scrub.

“The general rule of thumb we recommend (and this goes beyond just cleaning) is to prioritize by smaller tasks first. Starting with the largest project can seem daunting, but breaking it down or starting with quicker tasks can help build up the momentum and motivation you need before the biggest cleaning needs you have.”

Dave Spooner, Co-Founder of Innago 

Decide if you’re going to hire a cleaning company to do the dirty work for you, or do it yourself. If you have multiple units to clean, it may be worth the time and money to get a crew to handle it. 

Here’s a rundown of some key areas you need to clean during an apartment turnover.


□ Floors

□ Cabinets

□ Microwave

□ Dishwasher

□ Refrigerator

□ Stove and oven

□ Counters, sink and disposa


□ Toilet

□ Floors

□ Vanity

□ Sink and cabinets

□ Bath, shower and surrounding area

Throughout the Apartment

□ Light fixtures

□ Trim molding

□ Walls and doors

□ Windows and blinds

□ Marks on the ceiling

□ Floors and/or carpet

□ Laundry and storage areas

5. Patch and Paint the Walls

If there are dents or holes in the walls from hanging items, make sure to patch those up and paint over them. If there are marks you can’t gently scrub out, it’s a good idea to paint over those, too.

“When you factor in cleaning the walls, taping the walls, painting time and drying time, it can take up to eight hours to paint just one room.”

Kaycee Miller, Author for Rentec Direct 

New paint is essential to any apartment turnover. If you don’t have a renter lined up when the old one moves out, this could help you fill the unit. Scuffed up walls remind potential tenants that they would not be the first ones living in the space, taking away from the feeling that they’ve found their new home.

Now that you’ve taken care of everything else in the apartment, you can finally clean or replace the floors before bringing in new tenants.


6. Clean or Replace Carpet

Depending on how old or how dirty it’s gotten, you may only need to vacuum and shampoo the carpet. But, more times than not, you’ll need to do a deep clean or completely replace it. 

If you decide to clean the existing carpet, hiring a professional is recommended, especially if your units for pet-friendly units. Keep in mind that the drying time for carpet varies between two and 24 hours. This is dependent on the air flow in the room, humidity and carpet type.

Replacing the carpet helps with pest control or lingering smells from the previous renters. It will also make the apartment look and feel new. You can even save on replacement costs by removing the old carpet yourself.

Keep in mind – if you load carpet or remodeling debris into your regular trash container, you can get hit with extra fees or delay your pickups. When it’s time to get rid of carpet, renting a roll off container is the most efficient disposal option.

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Well, you’ve finally cleaned the place from top to bottom. There’s only one thing left to do before you get a new tenant. 

7. Change the Locks

The last step in your apartment turnover checklist is to change the locks and get new keys. A new lock will help your renters feel safe, because there’s no way of knowing if the previous tenants kept a copy. Just remember to make a set of keys for yourself. You’ll need this in case the renters lose their keys, get locked out or for emergency repairs.

It’s Time to Hand Over the Keys

You’ve repaired, scrubbed, painted and replaced. Now that you have the place back in tip-top shape, you can welcome your new tenants to their new home.

If you want to get more out of the apartments you’re renting out, try our DIY landlord guide to renovating a rental property.

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