Despite one’s best effort to screen applicants in order to find the most qualified tenants, great credit scores and on time rent payments do not always reflect great home maintenance behavior. In fact, a lot of renters find one of the perks of rental housing includes the ability to differ home maintenance responsibilities to property managers and owners.
To help you prepare for what to expect from the renter demographic we are continuing a series of articles on Types of Tenants: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly. This 4 part series explores the good, the bad, and the ugly types of tenant behavior when it comes to important terms of the landlord-tenant relationship like paying rent, following lease terms, maintaining the property and communicating effectively.
Types of Tenants – Part 1 explored rent paying behavior most often found in renters. Types of Tenants – Part 2 examined rule abiding behavior and how different tenant personalities treat lease terms, property rules, and laws affects the landlord-tenant relationship.
In Types of Tenants – Part 3 we will look at common tenant behavior when it comes to how a tenant will treat their rental home in regards to property maintenance, cleanliness, and property damage.
Types of Tenants – Part 3: Taking Care of the Property
While it may be true that owners and managers are required to keep up with most property maintenance, there are some areas of maintenance that become the tenant’s responsibility. Your tenants are expected to keep the property clean, dispose of trash properly, and avoid deliberate or negligent damage to the property.
Depending on your tenants’ personality, their level of commitment to maintaining a rental property ranges from looking like a spotless HGTV Dream Home to appearing like it is in the middle of a remodel demolition.
Good: The Neat Freak
The best way to ensure your property’s longevity will be to keep it clean and well maintained. From a tenant standpoint, this means keeping a tidy household, free of clutter, dirt and most importantly garbage! Although one does not necessarily need to be a “neat freak”, regular cleaning will not only protect the property but will help the tenant get their security deposit refunded at the end of the lease term.
A clean house will also help your tenants notice maintenance issues quickly and can help prevent pest problems.
Bad: The Slob
With a title like “The Slob”, a descriptor is hardly necessary for this type of tenant. The slob has little or no regard to cleanliness, and will let dishes pile up, stains go untreated, discarded food cartons grow mold, or worse.
While you cannot require your tenants to have spotless homes, you can include lease terms in regards to the proper way to manage garbage by making it your tenant’s responsibility to properly dispose of any trash on the premises that could contribute to pest infestations. A landlord may also have the right to issue a notice for correction, if a messy tenant creates fire hazards by leaving clutter piled by heating fixtures or blocks exits.
Ugly: The Destroyer
In some worst case scenarios you may encounter a tenant who intentionally destroys a rental property. This can happen if a tenant handles negative moods poorly by punching a wall or smashing a window, if a tenant allows a pet to consistently damage the property, and especially if a landlord-tenant relationship goes sour.
Property damage can be billed to the tenant that caused the damage but the amount of time it takes to restore a property to rent ready condition can mean lost rental income. In other cases, the destroyer will not have the funds to pay for the damage and may see no problem with declaring bankruptcy for the debt, leaving an owner to cover the cost of damage.
Solution: Communicate expectations, call past landlords for references, conduct regular inspections and require insurance.
While it may seem obvious to you, some renters just don’t realize their responsibilities when it comes to maintaining their rental property. In order to help them be successful, and to keep your property properly maintained, go over your expectations with them during the lease signing process and consider providing a handout as part of their move-in welcome package.
Your tenants’ maintenance responsibilities should be outlined in your rental agreement so they understand their contractual obligation in regards to maintaining the property properly. Including your maintenance expectations in your lease agreement gives you leverage if your tenants damage the property and refuse to pay for repairs.
Most lease agreements and landlord-tenant laws follow the expectation that if a tenant causes property damage they are responsible for financing the repairs. Common damage that could be caused by a tenant and repaired with tenant funds include broken windows, holes in the wall, or damaged carpets. Tenants are not responsible for fixing problems like leaky roofs, cracked foundations but are required to inform their property manager about maintenance issues so they can make proper repairs and prevent further damage.
Landlord references can reveal how a tenant handled property maintenance responsibilities and what the condition of the property was upon vacancy. During your tenant screening process, consider asking past landlords how much of the security deposit was refunded and if they would rent to the tenant again.
A great way to keep your tenants accountable for their maintenance responsibilities, is to conduct regular inspections. Routine property inspections encourage your tenants to clean their home for your visit (at least once a season) and allow you to identify any maintenance issues that need to be fixed before they become expensive problems.
Make sure to keep excellent records of your inspections, including notes with dates and pictures. Inspection reports and paperwork help you keep track of the condition of your property, and can also serve as as legal documents if anything happens to your rental home. Keep inspection reports and maintenance files stored electronically in your property management software account, which should provide unlimited cloud-based storage options linked directly to a property or a tenant for easy access and reference.
You should also think about requiring your tenants to obtain renters insurance. Not only will renters insurance help cover the cost of replacing your tenants’ stolen or damaged personal possessions, it can also cover the cost of damage caused to the property by negligence. Ultimately, it is in a landlord’s best interest to encourage tenants to get renters insurance so the homeowner isn’t left with a bill due a tenant being unable to cover the cost of damaged property or court fees.
In Part 4 of Types of Tenants: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly we will explore the most common types of tenant behavior when it comes to communicating with landlords and property managers.