tenant damage rentalWe’ve all heard our share of tenant horror stories, but outside of a few bad eggs, damage caused by tenants is often not the result of rowdy behavior or blatant disregard for property care, but is caused due to ignorant and negligent tenants.

The average tenant will be unlikely to punch a hole in your drywall but may be equally unlikely to alert you if there is a minor leak causing water damage under the sink. Preventing against damage caused by a normal negligent tenant may require a small time or monetary investment, but the payoffs could be significant.

Thorough Tenant Screening

Good tenant screening should always be a priority before accepting an applicant, this is perhaps the most vital damage prevention step that a landlord can take. Ensuring that you only allow responsible tenants to move into your unit can greatly protect against damage caused by laziness and neglect, or worse deliberate disregard for the property.

Reasonably High-Security Deposit

Making certain to charge a reasonably high-security deposit can serve to protect your property and not just your finances at tenant turnover. A security deposit should not exist only to reimburse the landlord for damages, but remind the tenants to take extra care of the property.

A reasonably high deposit will invest your tenants in the care and maintenance of your property. If you charge a  low–or no–security deposit, your renters will be less likely to feel the impact of the damages they cause, and therefore will be less cautious about caring for the rental.

Tenant Maintenance Checklist

Even a responsible tenant can fail to take care of renter maintenance. Often, this is due to sheer ignorance. Renters who have never have not had to care for a building and its respective repairs, often do not understand the simple prevention measures that could ward off costly remedies. Offer your tenants a simple maintenance checklist so they are aware of their responsibilities.

Automatic Air Filter Delivery

The most common recurring task renters are responsible for is the changing of the HVAC filter. This task is not a difficult one, but if left undone can wreck havoc on your HVAC system, resulting in avoidable costly repairs.

While a dream tenant would always have a filter on hand and mark the date on their calendar to ensure they regularly change the filters, most renters ignore or forget the task until the filter is visibly dirtied. To prevent unnecessary strain on your HVAC system, have a filter regularly delivered automatically to your tenants’ home. Sites like Amazon.com offer recurring transactions that can ensure your renters get a new filter in monthly intervals from one-month to six-months. A regularly arriving filter will serve to make remembering a regular filter change a no-brainer for your tenants.

Smart Moisture Sensor

With all of the smart technology available for landlords and renters today, there is no doubt an option that will be beneficial to protect against renter damage. Smart moisture sensors can be placed in areas of low traffic and with a high likelihood of water damage (like under the sink) and will detect moisture buildup, serving to alerting you if a leak has occurred. This useful piece of tech is surprisingly affordable, and provides additional protection from damage-causing leaks that tenants may not bother to alert you about.

Yearly Professional Cleaning

Professional cleaning can be an investment, but infestations or damaged flooring due to poor hygiene can cost significantly more. Consider footing the bill for a professional cleaning service or carpet-specific cleaner to attend to your rental properties. Prepping for a light professional cleaning will encourage your less attentive renters to bring their space up to standards, and a regular professional carpet cleaning could save your flooring from additional wear and tear. If you’re not too keen on paying for the full costs of a cleaner, consider asking interested tenants if they would like to split the fees during their regular spring cleaning.

Seasonal Inspections

Regular inspections will protect your property from preventable damage due to weather, age and the occasional tenant-related issues. As much as you can try to educate your renters and encourage them to report problems, maintain the property, and care for it as you would, there is no substitute for physical visits and inspections.

Be sure that you know what is going on with the properties you manage and that you do not merely take a tenant’s word for it. Deceitful tenants may outright lie about damage for fear of repercussions, and careless or ignorant tenants may not think to mention problem areas that could benefit from swift attention.

Regular Check-Ins

While seasonal inspections serve as a great venue for regular check-ins, you may find that your investment could benefit from more frequent talks with your renters. Unthinking tenants could allow a small leak to go unreported, costing you hundreds in unnecessary water and renovation fees. A quick message via text, email or even phone could provide the venue for a tenant to mention a problem that would otherwise go unreported.

Tenant Portal/ Easy Reporting System

Alongside regular check-ins, utilizing an online tenant portal or an easy maintenance reporting system for tenants can mean the difference between a swift report or looming repairs. While you would hope that your renters would report an issue regardless, providing a quick and easy place for them to do so will ensure that even the laziest or busiest renter will be willing to spend the a moment to alert you to a problem.

Great Landlord-Tenant Relationship

A good landlord-tenant relationship is key to building a profitable rental with long-term tenants. Upon move-in, be upfront with your tenants about your expectations and let tenants that “you’re on their side.”

The truth is, you want them to get their security deposit back, because if they don’t, it’s more work for you! Let them know this. Tell them that you’re always ready to address issues and will try to be understanding–even if the issue is their fault. An unreported problem always compounds, so letting you know quickly benefits everyone.


While finding great tenants is always the key to maintaining a damage-free rental, it’s important to understand that tenants will never be as invested as an manager is when it comes to the upkeep of the property. Fully realizing this, and providing easy ways for tenants to report issues, and take care of tenant key maintenance can go a long way to augment the care that the average tenant gives to their space.


This article was originally published in April, 2017.

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