Education, Property Management
smartland-property-managers-apartment-turnover-checklist.mp3 This apartment turnover checklist might seem daunting. However, those who have multiple apartments for rent will get the hang Listen to this article


Every day that an apartment sits vacant is money the ownership team loses. This is why it is so important for property managers to have a systematized process in place for turning units over quickly. The more efficient you can be, the faster the unit can be re-leased and occupied.

However, “fast” should not come at the expense of doing things correctly. It’s equally important that the turnover be done. This helps set the tone with the new tenants and shows them you care about the rental property.

As for anyone who owns apartment buildings can use this apartment turnover checklist to ensure their turnovers are completed both quickly and thoroughly.

Starting Tenant Turnover

Surprisingly, the tenant turnover process begins well before the actual move-out date. In fact, it’s true that most professional management companies begin the turnover process right when they learn the tenants are not renewing their lease.

Firstly, they start by requesting to do a walk-through of the unit while still occupied. This gives the owner a handle on what cleaning, repairs, and other improvements are needed between tenants. That way, they can begin lining up the appropriate professionals to get the work done. Generally, owners will schedule this work in advance. This ensures they can begin work immediately after the tenant vacates.

Remember, that every day a unit sits vacant, it is costing the owners money.

The ultimate apartment turnover checklist
Download the Apartment Turnover Checklist

We prepared a ready-to-use checklist. No registration required.

The ultimate apartment turnover checklist Download PDF


Complete a Final Move-Out Inspection

In addition to doing an initial walk-through, the property managers will want to do a final move-out inspection within a week of the tenants moving out. This is a final chance to document the condition of the unit, including any extraordinary wear and tear. Additionally, if the landlord plans to deduct money from the tenant’s security deposit for repairs, the final move-out inspection is especially important.

Additionally, as part of this inspection, note whether any unauthorized changes have been made by the tenants. Of course we often see this when a tenant has painted rooms without prior approval.

While inspecting the unit, make sure to document its condition thoroughly. Take pictures, make notes, and then complete a final report that the tenant signs off on. Obtaining their signature is key—again, especially if you plan on making a claim against their security deposit. This will help to prevent security deposit disputes in the future.

The Move-out inspection is also a good time
to note whether the tenants made any
unauthorized changes to the unit.

To be sure, if there is any question about the cause of any dents, dings, or other damages, refer back to the initial move-in inspection. This before and after comparison will show you any damages caused during the resident’s tenancy.

A few other benefits associated with doing a final move-out inspection:

  • The tenant has a final opportunity to make repairs before they are charged.
  • The owner can determine repair costs and arrange for repair immediately upon turnover.
  • If there will be no claim against the security deposit, the owner then can return the security deposit to the tenant sooner.

What to Do Immediately Upon Vacancy

At this point, you will have already begun the legwork needed to facilitate a smooth tenant turnover process. This is where the heavy lifting will begin.

Step 1. Identify any items left behind

Whether intentionally or not, tenants often leave some of their belongings behind. It’s important to resist the urge to discard of all items in the dumpster. Many states have very strict laws around how items must be handled after a tenant moves out.

For example, there are some states that will require you to notify the tenant (in writing) that you have taken possession of these items. You may need to securely store these items for a certain period of time before disposing of them. First thing to remember is that you comply with local regulations.

Step 2. Focus on repairs first

Although your natural instinct might be to start cleaning the unit right away. Resist the temptation in doing so. Instead, begin a thorough inspection of the unit to determine what repairs are needed.

In addition to routine maintenance, a standard turnover might include:

  • Patch any holes in the wall.
  • Look for any cracks or leaks (especially in the ceilings); repair as needed.
  • Confirm all appliances are working; if not, repair as needed.
  • Replace lighting (bulbs, not necessarily fixtures).
  • Tighten any lose hardware; replace any that is missing.
  • Repair any clogs or leaks in the plumbing, (check kitchen and bath drains, toilets, and laundry.)
  • Confirm smoke and CO detectors still work, then replace batteries as needed.
  • Replace the air filters.
  • Ensure that there are no broken window screens.
  • Conduct preventative pest control as appropriate.

Generally, the best practice is to use a maintenance checklist; just as you would a cleaning checklist. This is to be sure that you don’t miss any routine maintenance.

Some owners use tenant turnover as
an opportunity to make more substantial
unit upgrades or improvements.

Some owners use tenant turnover as an opportunity to make more substantial unit upgrades or improvements. This could include:

  • Refinishing hardwood floors or installing new carpet/other flooring.
  • Replacing any outdated appliances.
  • Upgrading the cabinets and/or countertops.
  • Installing new bathroom vanities and/or fixtures.
  • Wholesale repainting of the unit.

Furthermore, any major changes should be planned for well in advance. As a result, owners will want to have the supplies and materials on-hand and ready to go as soon as the unit turns over. For example, if you plan to replace appliances, you should have these stored and ready to install. This helps to limit the downtime between tenants.

Step 3. Paint and prep the unit

You want to do the repairs before adding a fresh coat of paint. As a result, the fresh paint job will not be damaged while the unit is being worked on. The extent of the painting will depend on its current condition, as well as how long the prior tenants occupied the unit.

For example, a tenant who lives in an apartment for five years will be more apt to ding and scratch the walls vs. someone who had only rented there for a year.

Generally, owners are advised to use a neutral, standard paint color in all of their units. Overall, this will save you both time and money. You can buy paint in bulk, and no longer need to “guess” which paint color matches which rooms. (Did you know there are more than 100 versions of “white” – even more, based on sheens and glossiness?!)

For instance; Benjamin Moore colors like White Dove, White Heron, and Edgecomb Gray are typically popular and neutral.

While painting, be sure to caulk and do any other minor prep needed before the final cleaning.

Step 4. Deep clean the entire apartment

As mentioned above, you will want to have your cleaners pre-scheduled before the prior tenants even move out. As a result this makes the unit rent-ready faster than if you’re calling around trying to find someone at the last minute.

However, depending on the size of your portfolio, this might be something you can accommodate with your current in-house staff. Otherwise, hire someone to conduct a professional cleaning.

The ultimate apartment turnover checklist
Download the Apartment Turnover Checklist

We prepared a ready-to-use checklist. No registration required.

The ultimate apartment turnover checklist Download PDF


Moreover, the cleaning should always be thorough. For that reason we find it best to use an actual checklist to ensure nothing is overlooked. You can also use property management software to track these items. Below is our standard cleaning checklist by room or area:

  • Living Room / Bedrooms
    • Light fixtures (inside, outside)
    • Ceiling fans (top, bottom)
    • Cobwebs (walls, ceiling, closets)
    • Closet shelves/cabinets
    • Trim (windows, doors, walls)
    • Windows
    • Blinds
    • Doors/handles
    • Baseboards
    • Floor heaters (vacuum and clean covers)
    • Light switches, thermostats
    • Vacuum, wash carpets
    • Wash floors
  • Kitchen
    • Light fixtures (inside, outside)
    • Cobwebs (ceiling, walls, cabinets)
    • Ceiling fans (top, bottom)
    • Windows (tracks, frames, glass)
    • Blinds (dust, clean)
    • Cabinets—inside, drawers
    • Cabinets—outside (above, underneath, sides, front)
    • Walls/plugs
    • Countertops
    • Sink/faucet (clean and polish)
    • Disposal (confirm it works, clean)
    • Doors/handles
    • Sliding glass doors (both sides and tracks)
    • Floor heaters (vacuum, clean covers)
    • Baseboards—under cabinets (clean)
    • Microwave—interior and door
    • Microwave—exterior (top, underneath, handles)
    • Stove hood (clean interior and exterior, underneath)
    • Dishwasher—interior door (corners, ledges)
    • Dishwasher—inside (walls, underneath, around filter)
    • Dishwasher—exterior
    • Refrigerator—inside (drawers, shelves)
    • Refrigerator—exterior (top, sides, underneath)
    • Wash floors
  • Laundry/Bathrooms
    • Light fixtures (inside, outside)
    • Cobwebs (ceiling, walls, cabinets)
    • Ceiling vents
    • Windows/blinds
    • Cabinets—interior (drawers and corners)
    • Cabinets—exterior (check fronts, tops, sides)
    • Mirror/medicine cabinet (clean interior and exterior, shelves)
    • Countertops/sink (polish)
    • Grout/mold
    • Paper/towel hangers
    • Doors, handles, plugs
    • Floor heaters (vacuum, wash covers)
    • Baseboards
    • Floors/corners
    • Toilet (inside/around cover)
    • Behind toilet (floor and baseboard)
    • Shower track/frame
    • Shower tub/walls
    • Washing machine (soap compartment, inside rubber boot, around cover/door)
    • Washing machine-exterior (leave door open)
    • Dryer-exterior clean/check filter and lint trap
  • Basement
    • Light fixtures (inside, outside)
    • Cobwebs/dust
    • Windows, doors, plugs
    • Washer/dryer (see laundry above)
    • Sink/faucet
    • Sweep/vacuum all floors
  • Balcony
    • Light fixtures (inside, outside)
    • Sliding glass doors (clean inside/out, tracks)
    • Cobwebs (doors, lights)
    • Sweep
  • Garage
    • Light fixtures (inside, outside)
    • Cobwebs
    • Clean doors, knobs
    • Clean trash receptacles (inside, outside)
    • Sweep

Step 5. Replace locks and keys

After making all repairs and cleaning the unit thoroughly, the final step is to replace the locks and make new keys for the incoming tenants. Without a doubt, this is a major safety issue that should never be overlooked. You will not want the previous tenants to have access to the unit once the new tenants move in. This is true for the unit as well as any other keyed-access areas.

Multifamily owners and property managers may want to consider using “smart locks”. Given that with smart locks, you can simply re-issue a new code to the incoming tenants and disable previous codes. This also reduces locksmith calls when a tenant inadvertently locks themselves out of their apartment.

If you are still using standard keys. It is especially important to make sure you make an extra key (or have a master key) for the property manager.


At first glance, this apartment turnover checklist might seem overwhelming. However, for those who have multiple apartments for rent will get the hang of this process quickly. The key is having solid plans, procedures, and processes in place. This way, once you find a new tenant, they can move in as quickly as possible.

The number of days a unit sits vacant
is costing the owners money.

With the right team, there is no reason this process can not be easy. It is important to realize that a little preparation can go a long way!

In conclusion, turning units over quickly and efficiently is one of the ways we maximize our returns for investors. To learn more about Smartland’s multifamily investment platform, contact us today.

Last edited on March 22, 2023
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