As a real estate investor and landlord, you should know that your property will always need some maintenance, repairs, or upgrades whenever tenants move out. There’s a difference, however, between normal wear and tear that comes from everyday use and actual property damage, which tenants should pay for and which you want to avoid whenever possible.
Before we get into the best ways to prevent tenants from damaging your rental property, it’s important to understand this difference. For example, when you enter a property for inspection when a tenant is moving out, you should expect to see worn carpet, scuffs on the walls, some small holes (from nails or tacks) in the walls, and other normal wear and tear. Likewise, the stovetop and appliances will look like they’ve been used, but they shouldn’t be significantly damaged.
At the same time, if you walk in and you see visible stains or rips in the carpet, larger holes or scrapes in the walls or unprofessional wall touchups, or significant damage to kitchen and bathroom appliances, you’re looking at property damage. And, while there are ways to deal with property damage and to get your tenants to pay for it, the best cure is always prevention. So how do you keep your tenants from doing this kind of damage to your property?
Screen Your Tenants
The first and best way to avoid property damage is to properly screen your tenants. We generally recommend letting your property management team take care of the tenant application and screening process, as they have the experience and tools to ensure that they find the best tenants for your property. However, if you plan on acting as your own property manager and/or screening your own tenants, be sure to do a background check and look for a few key red flags, like:
- Prior evictions
- A criminal record
- A history of belated payments
- Poor credit score
Be sure to get references and a rental history, as well, and follow up with their previous landlords. Ask about any damage they may have done to previous properties they lived in, if they owe any money, or if they appeared to have unauthorized individuals living in or subletting the property.
Of course, even the best tenants won’t always keep up with your property as well as you would like sometimes. So, in addition to finding good tenants who will be less likely to cause harm to your property, there are also a few things you can do to the property itself to prevent damage.
Fill in the Pool
Pools are attractive features, but they’re also expensive to maintain. And, when a pool is unmaintained, it can quickly fall into disrepair and cost you a lot of money to fix. In most cases, it’s better to get rid of the pool entirely than to take this risk. Alternatively, you could include a pool maintenance and upkeep fee in the rental agreement with regular inspections and cleanings to keep the pool in great shape.
Stick With Low-Maintenance Landscaping
Do you think that your tenants are going to go out and trim the hedges, weed the gardens, and/or do anything beyond basic lawn care? If so, you may be living in a dream world. Most tenants are good about mowing the lawn and doing basic yard maintenance, but if you have high-maintenance landscaping features, you might want to get rid of them because they’re most likely going to be neglected.
Say Goodbye to Carpet
Yes, carpet is one of the cheaper flooring options, but you can almost guarantee that you’re going to need to replace it or at least have it professional cleaned every time you get new tenants. You don’t have to go with expensive hardwood floors, though. Instead, go with laminate flooring. There are a lot of attractive laminate options that are durable, will hold up against moisture, scratches, and other damage, and won’t cost you a fortune to install. Plus, tenants prefer floors that look and feel like hardwood. It’s a win-win situation.
Follow these tips, and you’ll see a lot less damage to your investment rental properties.