5 Steps to Take After a Tenant Moves Out

October 24, 2023

5 min

Simple tasks can often be overlooked, but if you do them dozens of times a year, those simple tasks become important.

Self storage move-outs happen every week - sometimes every day! Moveouts are boring, they’re repetitive, and it’s easy to brush them off as unimportant.

That’s why you need a checklist to ensure you (or whoever is cleaning) don’t miss anything when a tenant moves out of your storage units!

Ideally, your customers tell you when they’ve moved out (though this isn’t always the case). From the moment a customer moves out until the moment a new customer moves in, your storage unit isn’t making you any money.

On top of that, if someone moves into a storage unit that’s not in good condition, they won’t have a good experience with your facility. 

See what our experts say about keeping up with your facility here!

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Bad experiences actively lose your business money.

You’ve got to get that storage unit cleaned up and ready as quickly as possible. 

Here are the steps you need to take to get your unit back in the rotation, fast!

1. Inspect the Unit

Ideally, when your tenants have moved out they left you a nice, empty, clean storage unit, but you can’t trust that this is going to happen. 

When a tenant tells you they’ve moved out, try to quickly inspect the unit before they leave the facility. Many operators utilize a security deposit to incentivize renters to follow the move-out protocols.

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If you use a security deposit, this gives you a perfect excuse to ask the tenant to wait while you inspect the unit!“Hold on just a few minutes and we’ll get you that security deposit back!”

Most people don’t mind waiting ten minutes for $50 (or whatever the number is). If they’ve missed a step (or left a big of garbage in there), you can withhold the deposit until they've taken care of it.

When you inspect a unit you’re checking:

  1. Is it empty?
  2. Is it clean?
  3. If it’s not, what steps need to be taken?

Of course, if it’s not empty, you need to contact the tenant and remind them about your security deposit and extra cleaning fees that might be applied. You might need to issue an abandonment notice or even begin the lien process - this is beyond the scope of StoragePug, as we’re smush-faced dogs and not lawyers.

If the unit has been cleaned fairly well by the tenant, you should note what steps you’ll be taking next. This will vary depending on how long the former tenant was in the unit. 

Maybe you cleaned it a month ago before that tenant moved in. You wouldn’t need to clean much in that case.

Or maybe that unit has been rented for three straight years - you’ll want to give it a thorough cleaning before you use it to make a first impression with a new customer!

2. Make Sure the Lock is Gone

This one seems simple, but can cause real problems if you skip it. You’d think that if the unit is open for inspection, the lock is gone, but spend the extra few seconds to check the door, the floor, and anywhere else a lock might be left behind.

You don’t want a new customer to see the lock, assume you’ve provided one for free, and then find out later that a former tenant had the key to the unit. 

You could also end up with someone shouting “you owe me for the lock you stole!”

Neither of these are likely, of course, but a quick glance around can prevent the potential problem entirely. That’s why our GabFocus experts recommend making sure the lock is gone!

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3. Sweep

Even if your customers sweep out the facility, it’s probably in your best interest to follow up and sweep it out yourself briefly.

When the phone is ringing off the hook and customers are milling about, sweeping can seem like a completely unnecessary step - and you have a point! It’s minor, it requires you to go out onto the lot when you’ve got a million other things to do, and it doesn’t make much difference, right?

There will be times that sweeping has to get bumped for something more important, but remember that you’re preparing a storage unit for someone’s first time in your facility.

The cleanliness of the storage unit will contribute to the overall perception of your facility. A clean unit communicates that you’re paying attention to the little details and that you’re dedicated to providing a great experience.

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4. Dust Walls & Doors

Another suggestion we heard during our GabFocus chat was using a Swiffer or similar tool to dust the walls and doors!

This is much easier and faster than trying to dust with a rag and can ensure you’ve gotten all the cobwebs out of the corners without needing to fetch a stepstool. 

Like sweeping, this is a great way to showcase your facility’s attention to detail for new customers. If you add this step to your move-out checklist, and you stick to it, you won’t end up with nearly as many “gross” storage units that need a deep clean.

One consistent piece of advice we got in that GabFocus was to clean in small, manageable projects. A few minutes to dust and sweet and your unit - while keeping an eye out for bigger messes - can do your facility a world of good.

If tenants move in to a unit that seems nice and neat, they’re going to feel as if they should keep it that way. If they move into a unit that already feels dirty, they won’t hesitate to make it dirtier.

Pug Pro Tip: Don’t use a hose to wash inside your unit! Storage units are built to keep water out, but if you spray water inside the unit, they usually aren’t built to drain well. Water that gets in could stay and cause problems.

5. Update the Move Out in Your Software

Whether you use a printed checklist, an app on your smartphone, or simply run through your moveout steps in your head, you need to let your computer know that you’ve freed up a unit.

Not only is this necessary to ensure that your billing doesn’t keep trying to charge a customer money that you’re not owed, your system won’t display the unit as rentable until you update it!

Self storage software can be incredibly beneficial to your business. Software automates a ton of tasks that used to take hours or even days of work. Software ensures mind-numbing tasks are performed without forgetting. It also gives you accurate information upon which to make decisions - but only if you use it consistently! 

So the last thing you should do for every move-out is to put it in your system.

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Move-outs can be easy, if everything goes right. Your move-out process needs to account for when things don’t go right. 

Whatever your checklist looks like - and it may be really different from this one! - you need to make sure you’re doing the important things every time. Our operators utilize lots of checklists and templates to help managers (and owners) stay on top of this stuff. Check out our Self Storage Operator’s Toolkit for our cleaning checklists, maintenance checklists, and over a dozen more forms that can make operating a storage facility easier!

To read more about my favorite StoragePug features, take a look at:

At StoragePug , we build self storage websites that make it easy for new customers to find you and easy for them to rent from you.

With Insights, our self storage marketing platform, operators get the data and digital tools they need to make the get out of their website and their self storage investment.

Looking for more operations advice?

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