6 Tips for Showing an Occupied Rental Unit

Written on February 3, 2015 by , updated on July 19, 2016

Showing Occupied Rental UnitsWhen it’s time to re-rent your property, you have two choices:

  1. Wait to show the unit until after the current tenant vacates it.
  2. Show the unit while the tenant is still in it.

As you might expect, there are pros and cons to both approaches. This article will help you decide how best to handle the situation when it comes up.

1. Waiting Until the Tenant Vacates

Pros:

  • It’s easier. It’s easier and less stressful on you. You can take your time.
  • It will show better. Once the tenant leaves, you can evaluate what needs to be repaired, and fix it.
  • No notification needed. You can hold showings and make repairs without having to notify your tenant.

Cons:

  • You’ll lose money. You’ll lose out on at least a month’s rent, depending on how long it takes you to re-rent.
  • You have to pay for utilities. You’ll need to turn on utilities at your own expense — you can’t very well show the place with no electricity.

2. Showing an Occupied Unit

Pros:

  • Uninterrupted cash flow. You’re less likely to lose out on rent money.
  • Zero vacancy. The new tenant can move in right after the old one leaves.
  • Only transfer the utilities once. The new tenant puts the utilities in his or her name, so you don’t need to worry about that.

Cons:

  • You can’t ensure a clean unit. The unit could be messy, have that “is there a cat in here” odor, or have loose animals running around.
  • Sabotage. The present tenant might hang around for the showings. Awkward.
  • Unexpected holdovers. Your current tenant could prevent the new tenant from moving in.

6 Tips for Showing an Occupied Unit

If you’ve chosen to show an occupied unit, you’ll have a greater chance of everything working out smoothly if you follow these six tips:

1. Communicate Frequently

Let your tenant know your plans. Tell your tenant that you plan to show the unit starting on X date.

Related: How to Host a Landlord’s Open House

2. Give Proper Notice, Always

Work out a plan that you and your current tenant can both live with. Although the place is yours, your tenant has the right to live there undisturbed as long as he or she is current with the rent.

You also have the right to show your property after giving your tenant reasonable notice, which is usually 24 hours. Be sure to check your various state laws on how much notice you need to give.

Related: How Often Should a Landlord Visit Your Unit?

3. Ask the Tenant to Clean, and to Secure Any Animals

Understand that you can ask your tenant to keep the unit neat, contain any animals and leave during a showing, but you can’t force your tenant to do any of those things.

4. Offer Incentives

Sweeten the deal by giving a restaurant gift certificate to a cooperative tenant.

If you plan to be super intrusive, such as having multiple showings and open houses, you might want to give your tenant some rent abatement. But be smart: limit the amount of showings by combining them when possible.

5. Do Not Use “For Rent” Signs

A renter once told me that when she was renting a house that was for sale, someone pulled in the driveway unannounced and asked to look around. The renter told this stranger he could not come in (because her child was napping) and that he should call the agent listed on the sign.

A stranger disturbing your tenant is unacceptable. If you must have a “For Rent” sign out, make sure you put these words on the sign: “Do Not Disturb Occupants” or “Showing by Appointment Only.”

6. Use Lock Boxes with Caution

Real estate agents are still required to give proper notice before allowing anyone into the unit.

A lock box is a secure device that is typically attached to the front door. It holds a key that anyone with the code can get to, therefore inviting illegal pop-in showings. Lock boxes will cause more issues than they are worth.

Related: Use a Key Lock Box to Prevent Lockouts

Summary

If you have a bad or disgruntled tenant, one who is hostile or has stopped paying rent, it would be wise to wait until he or she has moved out before you show the unit.

That tenant will likely attempt to sabotage the showings. Your best option here might be to pay the bad tenant to leave. If you think you’re going to have a lingering tenant, you could offer a few hundred dollars if he or she gets out on time and leaves the place in good shape.

In all other cases, I think it’s better, and absolutely more profitable, to show an occupied unit. With open communication, and general politeness, your tenants shouldn’t mind.

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117 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Elsa Ataide

    I have been renting this home for a year and a half paying 2000$ plus utilities I have always been on time and am very very clean and respectful of this home . The landlord needs to sell and I have been very cooperative and understanding although sad . My concern here is the stagers / cleaners came in and out everything I own away !!!!!! Toothbrush chargers robes towel trash cans everything I can’t find half of my things !!!!!! Can they do this ? Also I hired a cleaning lady out of respect to make sure house was beautiful for pics ..!!

  • Onilfo Alaniz

    My house is rented, and my agent received everything under our agreement, including the first month’s rent as a real state commission.
    When were we going to start getting our first rent, our tenant does not paid, and our agent did not immediately inform us, and she is continuing in silence….. In my contract is clear that I can make a termination with or without causes at any time but, she already received everything, and I do not have anything. What could I do?

  • Judith Friebert

    I am planning to move out of my apartment because there is no sound insulation and I am tired of the noise from above. I have lived here for only 5 months and am a tenant at will. My landlord, with whom I have an ok relationship, is starting to show the apartment. Question: if I am in the apartment during the showing, which I would prefer, what do I say to prospective new tenants? I don’t want to lie, but if I tell the truth, that might not go over very will with the landlord. He will owe me my security deposit when I leave.

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Judith,
      While you are allowed to be there, it’s inappropriate for you to be speaking with prospective tenants while the landlord is there showing the place. Those people are the landlord’s guests, so to speak. They are not your business, so it’s best for you to “be busy” and not approachable somewhere in the unit while people are touring.

      • Judith Friebert

        Dear Ms. Agadoni,

        Thank you so much for your quick and informative reply. That sounds reasonable to me. It’s just that sometimes people will ask you anyway, even if you are minding your own business. I have asked tenants while I was in that position, and usually they have answered positively. So, now that you have set me straight, if I should get asked, I will simply smile and suggest the person or persons ask the landlord.

        Yrs

        Judy

      • Cay James

        Firstly Ms Agodoni, it’s not about her being “allowed” to be there. As a tenant, she may not have full rights that are afforded to an owner but as soon as she pays her rent and it’s accepted by the property mgnt co or the landlord, that space is hers to enjoy. Any level of disturbance, interference or inconvenience that is placed on the tenant outside of a routine inspection, an emergency or a warrant served by a state/federal officiant IS a violation of privacy and her right to enjoyment! Most states have this statute so prospective tenant shouldn’t be there at all. If anything, the landlord should’ve factored vacancies into their ROI as an operational cost. Perhaps interaction w/ perspective tenants would encourage future planning!

  • Tamara Morales

    My landlord wants to show the home Monday thru Sunday from 8am-6pm is that something he can do? He also doesn’t give us 24hr notices before showing we only get a 1 hr notice

  • Ricky

    My landlord showed the property while occupied which was fine but the guest went thru my dresser drawers and closets moved things around is this allowed

  • Pete

    I am in the process of selling a rental condo, and my tenant was given property written notice to vacate. Until now, she has been cooperative in allowing showings and appointments for remodel contractors. She has also been present during these appointments, which I prefer, because she is the type to accuse you of stealing something.

    My tenant is no longer responding to showing/remodel contractor appointment requests with three weeks in her lease to go. Can I enter the property, after giving 24 hours written notice, if she is not there? Realtors or contractors would accompany me to witness that my tenant’s posessions are not disturbed. Thank you!

  • Tenant

    My landlord has been showing my place since Jan. and my lease ends in July. It is now May and there have been so many showings that I no longer feel safe here due to the number of strangers that have been in my personal space and seen how easy it would be to either break down my flimsy door or break the lock. After the most recent showing I came home and found my door left unlocked and OPEN. I have cat! My cat could have gotten out! I have reached my breaking point and I don’t know what to do. It is a large company that manages the property I live in, so they do not care about their tenants unless it directly benefits them. Is there anything I can do or say to get them to be less excessive with the number of showings and have some respect?

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