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8 Ways to Prevent Tenants from Damaging Property

The dream situation that every property manager wants to find themselves in is to have all units filled with great tenants that pay on time and never have any damage issues. That may not be possible, however, there are some things that you can do to keep damage costs down, and in turn, make it easier to keep good tenants longer.

Communication is important in any relationship, and establishing a solid rapport with your tenants from the start of the lease will go a long way toward keeping your properties in the best condition. Be there on move-in day to greet them and let them see the condition you expect the property to be kept in.

 Let your tenants know that you are committed to their happiness while renting your property and your door is always open if they have concerns or need to report an issue with the property. Make it easy for them to reach you whether they want to report a leak in the roof or a dripping faucet. When they experience your quick response time to any and all of their concerns, they will be more willing to keep the place in good shape and you will find the average length of stay will increase over time. 

You may not be able to avoid ever having a bad renter experience, but there are some things that you can do to lessen the chances:

1. Establish Security Deposits and Clear Lease Agreements

As mentioned above, communication is key to ensuring that both parties understand what is required of each and each other. The lease agreement should answer most common questions that can arise such as:

  • What can we do with and on the property?
  • Can we sublease any of the property?
  • What are the start and end dates of the lease?
  • What utilities and maintenance are we responsible for?
  • What condition is the property expected to be returned in?

The security deposit can be under-utilized. It is there to help reimburse you for potential damages, but it should also be used to help find better tenants. As long as your goal is to run a profitable property management firm, you need to have a tenant pipeline filled with folks that can pay on time and are responsible citizens that will care for your rental while they occupy it.

The security deposit is an important tool in that process, in that, the ability to pay is a helpful measure for determining your tenants ability to pay in the future. If the deposit is too small, the tenant won’t care if they forfeit it. If you have quality rental properties in an area that offers reasonable employment opportunities, it will be hard to overcharge for the deposit. A good goal for the security deposit is 3 months rent: first, last, and the security deposit. It may seem high, but those that can afford it will usually be the type of renter you want to keep around.

2. Conduct Inspections

If you build your lease agreement properly, it will include a clause that allows you to inspect the property occasionally with a reasonable notice given. You may want to believe that the tenants are as concerned for your property as you are, but that rarely happens, even with great tenants. The secret is to utilize this clause — not with the intent to bully your renters, but to use it as an opportunity to praise them for the excellent care they exercise and to help them notice the type of issues you want to be notified of. There can be little doubt that knowing you can call for an inspection at any time will help keep the more negligent renter on their toes.

Make sure you take pictures showing the condition of the rental at move-in and have the tenants sign, acknowledging they see it. Conduct a walk-through with them and mark down any legitimate issues they bring up during the process. The goal is to show that you are fair. You expect them to have a rental that is well-kept and worth the fee but you also expect it to be kept in that condition. Make sure they know that your goal is not to keep their security deposit but to help them keep the property in good condition so they can get the security deposit back when they move out.

3. Keep an Eye on the Move-In Process

If at all possible, you should arrange to be there on the day they move in. This will allow you to show them around the property and answer any questions they have, and at the same time it may give you a clue as to how well they will maintain your property. Do they show any regard for their property as they are moving into the home? If not, they will certainly show less care for yours.

4. Check Prospective Tenants Rental History

The ideal tenant will have a rental or property ownership history. You should check it thoroughly. Screening your prospective tenants could save you thousands of dollars in lost rent and property damage. Following this process will also keep you from being accused of refusing renters because you are prejudiced against them in some fashion. If you can show a history of checking every potential renter with an in-depth screening process, you will protect yourself from liability in every area. Screening can reveal:

  • A history of slow or no payments
  • Previous evictions
  • Property damage records
  • History of bad credit

Some of these issues may have adequate explanations, but at least you will be aware of them and able to ask the appropriate questions before approving the lease.

5. Be on Top of Repair Requests

Your commitment to the tenants satisfaction while staying in your property can best be displayed by handling repair requests in a timely manner. If you delay handling issues that the renter deems serious, don’t be surprised if they take their time honoring your demands, or they ignore them altogether. By responding to repair requests quickly, you not only make your tenants happy, but you may be saving yourself thousands of repair dollars down the road when a little repair becomes a large problem.

6. Require Renters Insurance

What does requiring renter’s insurance do for you? The tenants won’t ask you to reimburse them for damage. It also helps them realize that they have something to lose if the property is not kept in safe shape.

7. Install Durable, Scratch-Resistant Materials

Scratches, dents and dings happen to everyone. It’s simply part of living. Your rental unit will eventually wear out and need repairs. As you update the property, consider materials that are made to withstand extreme wear and will resist scratching and dents. You will pay more for high quality products, but they should more than pay for themselves in the extended service you will realize during their lifetime. 

8. Pay Attention to Utility Spikes and Water Usage

Did you know that water causes billions of dollars in property damage each year? This is not water damage from a hurricane, but primarily from leaky pipes, leaky gutters and leaky appliances. If you provide the water for your tenants, you may see an increase when the bill arrives, but if not, you will need to react quickly when your renters tell you about leaks they are seeing. 

The leaks could be from faucets, a leaky washing machine connection, or from a poorly operating dishwasher. In addition, faulty gutter connections can cause damage that goes unseen for years, resulting in rotted wood and the spread of mold. Paying for an annual inspection of the property by a qualified inspector or contractor could save you thousands in repairs and lost rent due to vacancies.

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