Every landlord has their fair share of terrible tenant stories, and unfortunately, there will always be a few bad ones. However, tenants causing damage is rarely a result of their rowdy behavior or outright disregard for your property. The truth of the matter is that damage is usually caused by tenants’ ignorance of what exactly is necessary to properly maintain and care for the space they are renting.
The typical tenant is not going to go into a fit of rage and put their fist through your drywall. However, that same tenant may not be inclined to call and notify you right away if a minor leak under the kitchen sink is causing water damage. Taking measures to prevent tenant damage may require a minimal cost or a small investment of your time. Still, the resulting payoff could be considered to your bottom line in the long run. Let’s look at ten ways you can prevent tenant damage to your Montgomery County rental property.
1. Screen Tenants Very Thoroughly
Proper screening of potential tenants should always be your number one priority before you select an applicant. This is the most crucial step that a landlord can take to prevent damage. Doing your best to ensure that you do not allow irresponsible tenants to live in your rental property can significantly reduce the chance of damages resulting from laziness or neglect. It also goes a long way towards avoiding those rare situations in which a renter will deliberately disregard or disrespect your investment.
2. Charge a Reasonable, But High, Security Deposit
Taking the step of charging a security deposit that most consider to be high can protect your rental – not just your finances – when the tenant moves out. The security deposit serves two purposes. The obvious one is to pay the landlord back for any damages incurred, but another often overlooked reason is to remind the tenant that they should take care of the home they are renting. Requiring a security deposit equal to one month’s rent or more will make your tenants feel more invested in the maintenance and protection of the property they are renting from you. When a landlord charges a menial security deposit or none at all, renters tend to be less likely to worry about damages they cause to a property. This often means that they will not be as cautious in the care they give to the apartment or home.
3. Create a Checklist for Tenant Maintenance
At times, even the most responsible tenants fail to tend to the proper maintenance they should stay on top of in their rental. This is usually due to ignorance on their part. Renters who haven’t had to keep up with care on a property and the repairs it requires rarely comprehend the simple preventive measures that eliminate the need for costly remedies. A good idea for your rental business is to offer tenants a basic checklist so that they know what their responsibilities are. Organize this list by season so you can follow up with tenants every quarter to confirm that the items on the list have been completed.
4. Air Filter Delivery
One typical chore that a tenant should be doing is changing the HVAC filters in the heating and cooling systems. This is not a hard job, but it is a very important one, as a failure to change the filters can cause problems for your HVAC system and lead to costly repairs. In a perfect world, all tenants would keep spare filters at home and keep track of the date they need to change it. Unfortunately, most renters completely forget about this job until after the filter is dirty. To keep your HVAC system from suffering an unnecessary strain, have new filters automatically delivered to tenants. Sites like Amazon offer options that will ensure your renters receive new filters at regular monthly intervals. Regular delivery of filters should remind most tenants that it is time for the filter change.
5. Smart Moisture Sensor
Technological advances offer great tools to landlords in 2020, and we should all get with the times! Landlords can place smart moisture sensors in places with minimal traffic where water damage is common (such as under a kitchen sink). They detect moisture concentration and can alert you if there is a leak. This invaluable piece of technology is very cost-efficient and gives you the peace of mind in knowing that you will be notified of potential leaks that your tenants may neglect to mention to you.
6. Professional Yearly Cleaning
Having rental properties cleaned by a professional requires a monetary investment, but the money it can save can pay off the investment many times over. Consider hiring a professional cleaning company or carpet cleaning service to take care of your investment properties. Getting prepared for the cleaners’ arrival will often encourage negligent renters to spruce their space up a bit. Regular carpet cleaning by a professional company can also protect your flooring from the wear and tear of daily life. If you want to avoid covering these cleaning costs on your own, one option is to ask tenants if they would like to share the charges as part of their regular yearly or bi-annual cleaning.
7. Seasonal Inspections
Inspecting your properties regularly will protect your investment from preventable harm due to weather, normal wear, and tenant damage. Educating your tenants and encouraging them to call you when there are problems and take care of the property goes a long way towards preventing damages. However, there is still no way to beat regular tenant visits where you can inspect the property. It is vital to know what is happening in the properties you own and rent out, rather than just believing what renters tell you. Some tenants will lie outright about damage. Other tenants may not even consider mentioning potential problems to you just because it is not a priority for them.
8. Monthly Check-Ins
Seasonal inspections are a great time to check in with tenants and discuss issues, but your investment may benefit from having more regular talks with the people who rent from you. Some tenants may allow minor issues to go unreported, simply because they don’t think of it. This, however, could cost you hundreds of dollars in bills and repairs. A quick phone call, text message, or email could prompt tenants to report problems that they would otherwise neglect to mention to you.
9. Tenant Portal/Easy Reporting System
In addition to checking in regularly, the use of an easy tenant reporting system for tenants, or tenant portal, helps encourage swift reporting of small problems before they lead to costly fixes. Ideally, your renters will report any issue to you without delay, but giving them a fast and simple way to do so helps ensure that tenants who may be a little lazy or too busy to give you a call will take the time to tell you about potential issues.
10. Build a Strong Landlord-Tenant Relationship
Maintaining a good relationship with your renters is essential in building a lucrative rental business with tenants who stay for years. When tenants move in, let them know upfront exactly what your expectations are and ensure them that you are there for them. To be honest, you want to give them their security deposit back because the alternative means you face repairs and other costs. Be honest with tenants about this. Tell your renters that you are always available to address problems and try to understand whether a problem is the renter’s fault or not. Unreported problems do compound, so if they let you know as soon as possible, it is a benefit to all parties involved.
Selecting quality tenants is always an important factor in preventing damages to your rental. But it is essential to realize that tenants will never be as interested as a landlord or property manager is in the maintenance of the investment. By accepting this and giving tenants simple ways to report problems, you can encourage tenants to give more care to their rental. Make sure that you respond in a timely manner to all your tenants’ maintenance requests. Ensuring the experience is easier for the tenant will only encourage them to report issues as they arise.
Reach out to the property management team at Bay Property Management Group Montgomery County for assistance in protecting your rental properties from damage by negligent tenants. We have faced many tenant-landlord scenarios and have the expertise to help you take preventive measures.