It doesn’t matter if you own or rent — if you stay at a place long enough, you’re going to develop an emotional, personal attachment. That’s true for just about everyone — including your tenants.
Your tenants have spent a solid chunk of time — whether it’s a year or 10 years — calling your investment property home. And when you decide to show the home to a new buyer, it can feel like an invasion of their privacy.
Maybe they’re uncomfortable with strangers being in their space. Maybe there’s some damage to the home they don’t want you (or potential new buyers) to see. Maybe they’re worried a new buyer might make them move and they could lose their home.
Whatever the case may be, a lot of tenants don’t want you, the property owner, to show the property while they’re still in it — and they’ll go to great lengths to keep you out, whether it’s dodging your phone calls, keeping the deadbolts locked so you can’t get in, or trying to persuade new tenants not to move in. In a nutshell, your tenants can become extremely challenging.
It’s a tricky situation, and you need to make sure everyone’s rights — both yours and your tenant’s — are being honored throughout the process.
But what, exactly, are those rights? And how can you show an occupied rental property and get your house sold without disturbing your tenants?
Your Rights as an Owner
So first things first — let’s talk about what rights you have as an owner to show an occupied rental property.
And unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer here — your rights completely depend on the lease you signed with your tenant.
The lease we use is a TREC lease; it states the tenant must allow potential renters/buyers and their agents into the home in order to secure a new lease. If you want to ensure you’re able to show a tenant-occupied property, you should plan to use the same lease agreement.
If you have a TREC lease in place and your tenant has any issues with you showing the property while they’re still in it, all you have to do is show them a copy of their signed lease and you’re in the clear.
Your Tenant’s Rights
Now that we've covered your rights, let’s talk about your tenant’s.
Your tenant has the right to be present during any and all showings of the property (they are living there, after all!). They also have the right to ask for an agent’s ID to verify their identity and to set hours for showing that don’t interfere with their home life (like scheduling a tour right when your tenant is getting their child ready for school).
As long as you respect your tenant’s rights, you should be in the clear to show your property — even if they’re still occupying it.
Also, your tenant has the right to have their lease honored regardless of who purchases the property — so let them know that they won’t be forced to move before their lease expires.
Setting Up Your Lease Agreements
Now, obviously, the more you can address this before you start showing the home, the better. Include a clause in your lease agreement that states the home will be placed on the market — and that showings will start 30 days prior to the lease expiration.
Go over it with your tenant to make sure they understand that means you’ll be bringing over potential buyers and/or renters during their last month in the property.
You should also work in a clause that penalizes tenants for being non-compliant with property showings. Scheduling a showing and coming out to the property takes a significant time investment from the agent and potential tenants — and if your current tenant refuses to let them in, that’s time wasted.
We charge an $80 “trip fee” every time a tenant refuses to let an agent in, and it’s worked wonders for minimizing instances of current tenants locking their deadbolt or refusing to let agents in.
Tips for Working With a Hesitant Tenant
When it comes down to it, most tenants are hesitant because they’re unsure about how the process of showing the property is going to play out — so the more you can do to reassure them, the smoother the situation will be.
Walk them through the process and set reasonable expectations. Keep the lines of communication open and give them frequent updates. Answer any questions they have and thank them for their patience.
The more you treat your tenant with respect during the process, the more respect you’ll get back — and the easier it will be to show your property.