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When you spend money renovating a property it is EITHER an expense item or a capital item. If it is a capital item, you add it to your cost (and deduct it against the sales price when you sell it). If it is an expense item, you deduct it when you pay it but NOT when you sell the property.
As to your primary question, as long as the property was held "for rent", then you should be able to deduct your expenses even with no income.
That is correct