Is there a way to fill vacant units? If you have a vacant unit, you may find yourself wondering how on earth you’re going to find a tenant during this time. 

First, take a look at your reserves—now is the perfect opportunity to lean on your savings to float your empty rental for 1-3 months, if possible, to mitigate as much of the stress trying to fill vacant units. It may be scary to start dipping into savings, but if “global pandemic” isn’t a good enough excuse to use a little savings, I don’t know what is.

Second, if you’re hellbent on trying to get tenants into an empty unit, there are a few things you can do to find applicants and set up a remote process to fill the unit—all the way from listing to signing a lease.

Third, understand that you might simply be unable to fill vacant units or find tenants during this time due to…well, a truly unprecedented time of uncertainty. The health and safety of everyone, including yourself, should be top priority.

List the unit at a competitive price

If you’re usually able to fill this particular unit easily but aren’t getting any bites, it’s time to change your bait. Try offering a more competitive price. If you can’t afford to rent the unit at that price for a long stretch of time, offer to keep the rent at a discounted rate for the first few months.

Explain that everything will be remote

In the listing, it might help to be clear that the applicant will not have to meet face-to-face with you. Renters have to consider their own safety and the safety of others and probably do not want to risk having to meet with you face-to-face. Explain how you will have an entirely remote process set up so that you can show them the unit, screen them, and sign the lease—all without having to meet in-person. You might want to also set up video call to “meet” them.

Use tenant prequalifications

Even though you might be thinking short-term of trying to get a unit filled with anyone, you don’t want to have to go through the messy process of an eviction later. Using tenant prequalifications is an easy way to see if the applicants are qualified for your unit and can easily be done through the phone. RentRedi, for example, has a mobile tenant prequalification survey that lets the applicant self-report their information so you can compare it against your minimum standards.

Create a virtual tour of the place

Show the rental remotely with a virtual walk-through and tour of the place. This can give the applicant a “real feel” for the unit (versus relying solely on pictures in the listing) and can be linked in your listing. You can also use video calls to meet the applicant and show the unit, but be sure you are adhering to CDC-recommended social distancing practices and not leaving your house if you are ill in any capacity. 

Use online or mobile applications

With much of the world going mobile, there are plenty of ways to send and receive applications using technology. RentRedi’s tenant app has a mobile application tenants can fill out and send to your, along with their completed background check. (Our background checks are tenant-paid, $35 from TransUnion, with full credit, criminal, and eviction reports.)

Create an electronic lease

There are plenty of ways to send and sign electronic leases these days. RentRedi, for instance, lets you embed DocuSign lease links in your acceptance emails, so that you can let the tenant know they’ve been accepted and send the lease, all in one message.

Do a month-to-month lease

There’s a lot you can do to get a unit filled during a crisis that doesn’t involve having to meet the tenant face-to-face. But, let’s face it, there’s probably still a lot of concern about signing on with a tenant you’ve never met. Just in case the tenant doesn’t turn out to be a good tenant, make sure you do a month to month lease so that once things return to normal, you can end the lease far more easily than a 12-month lease.

A lot of property management can be done online these days, including prequalifying tenants, applications, virtual viewings, mobile tenant screening, signing electronic leases, and mobile rent payments. Additionally, if you are struggling to get a unit filled and have concerns about mortgage payments, call your mortgage provider to defer payments.