VOLUME VIIIMake Occupied Rental Showings Less Awkward
By Nikki Davidson
First impressions matter, and an initial walk-through with a tenant can either make or break the process of getting a vacant unit filled quickly by a high-quality lessee.

However, the process of getting a tour set up can be even more awkward if the current tenant still lives in the unit. Communication breakdowns can get messy and sour the deal if it's evident to the people interested in moving in that there is a lack of boundaries and respect.

Landlords and Realtors will be showing occupied units now more than they have in the last 20 years. According to data from the U.S. Census's Housing Vacancy Survey, national rental vacancy rates are lower than they have been since 1998 and prospective renters are signing up fast.

With that said, the process needs to be navigated carefully. Some areas have specific laws about tenants' privacy rights, and safety and security hazards can arise from showing a rental without proper notice.

Give Renters Adequate Time to Prepare
There are laws in some states that provide minimum notice standards. Whether or not a state law exists, landlords can always add a preferred time frame to the lease to keep everyone on the same page.

Extra advance notice can be a perk for both parties too. With a heads up, tenants may be more likely to wash dishes, pick up dirty clothes from the floor and let the rental space shine. Additionally, if the current renters have a pet, they may need to secure or remove it before visitors enter the home. By giving the current tenant adequate time to prepare, this should lead to a stress-free tour.

Florida Landlord Access Laws
According to Florida law, active tenants cannot unreasonably withhold consent to the landlord or Realtor to enter and show the dwelling unit to prospective tenants. However, landlords must give tenants reasonable notice.

They must provide renters with 12 hours' notice before entry, and the tour should be scheduled between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. If a tenant refuses to allow a Realtor or landlord the opportunity to enter, landlords can legally enter the property anyway.

Texas Landlord Access Laws
Texas doesn't have a law on the books about when landlords have the right to enter an occupied rental.

Minimize Health Risks with New Techniques or Practices
Some tenants may be squeamish about having a parade of unknown people touring their personal space, or express concern about the potential spread of COVID-19 (and its variants). For this reason, landlords may want to connect with a tenant to find out their safety preferences and, if necessary, ask visitors to wear masks.

Although Texas nor Florida political leaders make this mandatory, going into someone else’s home can be tricky. Landlords and Realtors can also help ensure a touchless tour by opening all doors in the unit before interested tenants arrive.

In certain situations, it may be easier to do a virtual tour. According to a survey completed by Matterport, a leader in virtual tour 3D technology, 74% of real estate agents win more listings with virtual tours and 95% of people are more likely to view a property or business with a virtual tour. However, should a tenant sign the lease for a rental without physically seeing it, brokerage firms should require a liability waiver so the tenant cannot back out afterward.

Respect a Tenant’s Space and Time Constraints
While there's little on the law books to guide landlords and tenants through the awkward occupied-rental showing process, common sense and respect can go a long way. A reasonable tour should be an hour or less.

Also, visitors should not be allowed to touch any personal items from the active renter. Landlords or Realtors should also not leave any rooms unaccompanied during the tour.

According to the National Association of REALTORS’ 2020 Members Safety Report, crimes can happen during walk-throughs. In the survey of 3,007 real estate professionals, 16% responded that clients reported theft of opioid prescription drugs during a home tour and 32% during an open house.

With these added concerns, tenants may find the walk-throughs exhausting for them, on top of not gaining much from someone else renting out their “homes.” However, property owners can offer a few incentives, such as a flexible schedule on move-out day, a glowing landlord reference or even pro-rated rent to thank residents for their help attracting a new tenant. Working as a team to make the transition run smoothly can provide great benefits to all parties involved.

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