Property damage is an out-of-pocket loss for landlords, regardless of whether that damage was intentional, an innocent mistake, or the result of a neglected repair. So, cover all bases by taking these steps:
Avoid Problem Tenants
Some property damage is done intentionally or caused by a tenant’s recklessness. To avoid this damage in your units, check the next applicant’s rental history. Ask the current and previous landlords questions directed specifically at previous damage:
Did the tenant cause damage?
If a deposit was collected, did the tenant receive the money back?
Did unauthorized activities, pets, or other events lead to property damage?
Would you rent to this person again?
Train Tenants to Prevent Damage
It is possible to reduce or prevent the level of damage that is caused from innocent mistakes by educating tenants on best practices.
Ordinarily, a tenant orientation should be provided in person. However, with a pandemic still looming, it may be necessary to provide the orientation on paper.
The orientation or welcome packet should cover:
Proper use of appliances, especially ways to prevent fire and water damage;
Maintenance responsibilities of the tenant, like replacing furnace filters, snow removal, watering landscape;
Prohibitions on actions likely to cause damage — burning candles, watering house plants, nailing into walls;
Restrict tenant improvements;
Provide safe move-in instructions — the use of pads, having enough people to carry heavy objects;
Adopt an “ask first” policy encouraging tenants to call to discuss proposed activities, like adding retrofits, in advance; and,
The method for reporting repairs.
It is a good idea to incorporate these rules into the tenancy agreement. Another good idea: provide this information in a hard copy that tenants can keep handy for easy reference.
Inspect Rental Property Periodically
With a trend toward long-term renting, it is imperative to keep in touch with the tenant and to view the property throughout the tenancy to catch minor repairs that could lead to major income loss. While some experts recommend an inspection every 6-12 weeks, landlords tend to be more comfortable with once every 6 months. Even that schedule is better than leaving the tenant to tend to the property alone. Few properties can go 12 months or more without needing some form or maintenance or repair.
Use a checklist when you conduct inspections. That list should be tailored to the particular unit and include long-term maintenance items. Ask the tenant to point out any issues. Also, look for signs of tenant neglect or damage — while there is still time to prevent major income loss.
This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.