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Tenants are hell on your rental properties.

Repairs and maintenance costs typically amount to 10-15% of the gross rents landlord receive, averaged over time. To keep that figure as low as possible, you want to “tenant-proof” your rental properties as much as possible.

Deni and Brian talk through the easiest ways to prevent not just tenant damage, but also “normal wear and tear” which you can’t deduct from their security deposit.

Video Broadcast Version

Audio Podcast Version

Also available on iTunes, Stitcher, and wherever else you listen 🙂

Resources Mentioned in This Podcast & Video:

live off rents podcast transcript
Deni:
Welcome to Spark Rental’s podcast and Facebook. Last week, we discussed pets and how to earn more rent and earn more permitting them. This week, we are going to discuss how to tenant proof to reduce your repairs, which is kind of important. With that being said, Brian, start us off and tell us tell us a little bit about flooring.

Brian:
As you join us. Let us know where you’re tuning in from and give us your questions. This is an interactive broadcast. It’s not just a prerecorded podcast. Landlords typically have to budget between 10 and 15 percent, at least, of the rent each month for long-term maintenance and repair costs. It’s a huge and ongoing expense that landlords have, though it’s an irregular expense. Finding ways to reduce these maintenance and repair expenses can have a big impact on your bottom line as a landlord and the returns on your rental properties. We will kick this off with ways to improve your flooring and to tenant-proof the flooring in your properties. The first thing to do is avoid hardwood floors. Even though they look great, they feel great, and they look upscale; for most rental properties, they’re inappropriate because your tenants are going to destroy them. They’re just too easily damaged, scratched, and so forth. The same goes for carpets as well. Tenants will destroy your carpets.

Deni:
It’s funny, too, because when these items are in your own home, you’re going to take extra special care because it’s your home. Most tenants are not thinking on those lines. If they spill something, they won’t necessarily wipe it from the hardwood floor right away. Then, they will have a stain but won’t admit it’s theirs.

Brian:
Right. They’re not going to break out the baking soda and dab instead of rub and other tricks that the homeowners learned that gets spots out of their carpets. Most tenants just don’t have the investment in the property the way that you do and the way that homeowners do. So, they’re not going to treat it as well. That’s just human nature. What you can do instead of installing hardwood floors or carpets is installing waterproof LVT which looks very volatile and very similar to hardwood floors. Some of today’s LVT actually looks almost indistinguishable from hardwood floors. It looks the same. It feels the same. If you don’t like LVT flooring, bamboo is another hardwood alternative. It looks great, feels great, and it’s cheaper and in some cases more scratch-resistant than a lot of hardwoods. LVT is an ideal option. Bamboo is another alternative. If you must install carpet upstairs, then splurge on the padding rather than the carpet itself, especially in lower-end units. This was a trick that my old boss taught me when I first graduated from college. I was working for this guy who was a real estate investor and landlord. He would buy this really plush, thick, higher-end padding but for the carpet, he would put in lower-end carpet. This gave the inexpensive carpeting the illusion of being plush and soft. If he had to replace it every two years, which in many cases he did, it didn’t break the bank because he didn’t need to replace the padding which was good for like 10 years.

Deni:
There is also an element of soundproofing as well. If you have a duplex, you’re not going to hear any running around as much.

Brian:
Absolutely. It reduces the noise pollution between your units if you have multifamily property. Another trick is to include in your lease a clause that requires tenants to put felt pads on the bottom of all their furniture. This will prevent scratches on your hardwood floors, which, as I mentioned before you shouldn’t be using anyway. A lot of people do use bamboo floors and the pads will eliminate scratches and help preserve the life of your flooring. It is also a good way to tell whether your tenants are actually following the minutia of your lease. When you go in to inspect your property, you can take a look at the feet of their furniture and see if they put the felt pads on. If they didn’t follow through on the felt pads, then it makes you wonder the other rules of the lease that was not followed. Not to go on a tangent, but this is why, I think, it was Guns N Roses that put a clause in their contracts to have a jar of all green M&M’s in all their hotel rooms. It wasn’t because they were being prima-donnas, there was a reason for it. It was to make sure it was a very obvious visual indicator. Every time they checked into a hotel room or it may have been the concert venue, it was a way they knew whether the managers read the contract or not based on whether there were the green M&Ms in the hotel room. If they didn’t have the specific candy there, it indicated that they didn’t read all the details in the contract. Anyway, make sure that your tenants put felt tips on the feet of the furniture.

Deni:
Another tip that you had told me years ago, and I do this now and it’s a good idea, is to go ahead and put doormats by the door. Because many renters won’t always do that. When we say they won’t, we’re not talking about all renters, but a lot of renters won’t spend the money for something like that and it does protect flooring from mud and all kinds of other stuff. When you have a mat there, people will more likely wipe their feet.

Brian:
Absolutely, take it a step further and get a bristly outdoor mat in addition to an indoor one. This reduces the wear-and-tear on the floor a lot! Especially for carpets. Often, when you walk into someone’s home where the carpets are a couple of years old, you’ll see the discoloration on the main path leading from the door to the hall or wherever. When people take off their shoes or at the very least wipe their shoes when they come in the door, then there is less chance of that discoloration and it preserves the lifespan or extends the lifespan of your carpets.

Deni:
Or you can always revert to what our parents or at least my parents did by using those ugly vinyl runners. (Laughter)

Brian:
They are hideous. (Laughter)

Deni:
So, what about paint? Walls can be a pain in the butt, right?

Brian: They are! And painting is expensive. If you must paint your units for every turnover, that gets quite expensive because you’re looking at a few grand at least to paint your units every time you have to repaint. One thing you can do is rather than using flat paint on the walls in your property, paint with glossy finish paints. Some people think that it looks weird. But glossy finish paints are much easier to wipe scuffs off rather than flat finish paints. So flat finish paints a scuff really easily and they don’t really wipe clean, whereas glossy finish paints do wipe clean much easier. This extends the life span of the paint jobs in your properties.

Deni:
Check with paint suppliers because there are some newer products that are similar to a flat finish, but they are washable.

Brian:
No question! If you can go every two tendencies between repainting, instead of repainting after every single tenancy during every turnover, that’s a huge savings on maintenance and repair costs.

Deni:
What about color?

Brian:
Everyone has their own ideas about what colors look good. Pick one color scheme and stick with that for all your units, so you can buy those paints in bulk. In addition, you never have to worry about trying to match shades. If you must do a spot touch-up and you’ll always have paint on hand. This way you can just paint a small area instead of repainting the entire wall. Pick one color for all your units, buy it in huge amounts and it will be cheaper.

Deni:
Yes! The other thing is you want to be sure and put in your leases is a clause that states: no change of color is permitted unless it is put back into its original condition. And that’s huge! I’ve walked into a rental to do a move-out inspection only to see big, bold colors on the wall. We had to use primer and several coats of paint. It cost a lot of money and took a lot of time. Make sure you are specific in the lease about these types of things.

Brian:
You really don’t want to let the tenants repaint themselves because generally they won’t do a very good job of it when they’re moving out of the unit. They’re just going to do a slap-dash job of painting. Do not allow tenants to repaint unless they are going to stick around for at least a five-year period.

Deni:
Anything else about walls that we need to know? I mean, people hang stuff on them and do damage.

Brian:
The first rule about placing anything on the walls is that anything the tenant will be hanging on the walls should be placed properly and screwed into where the studs are. Whether it is coatracks or towel-holders, make sure you screw it into the studs in the walls because tenants often abuse the heck out of these things. Kids will try to do pull ups on them. Or a tenant will throw a towel over the rack and then just try to yank the towel off pulling the whole rack down. All these things need to be screwed into studs, not just screwed into the drywall Anything’s going to drywall, is coming down at a certain point. Probably sooner rather than later many tenants will abuse the property. It’s just what a lot of tenants do. Try to make your rental as tenant proof as possible; resilient so that a tenant can’t mess them up.

Deni:
Some of the worst things I’ve seen lately is with the TVs hanging on the wall. After tenant moves out. they are taken down; brackets are removed and there’s a huge gaping hole. Or they will leave the brackets, which doesn’t do any good for the next renter because TV brackets are different according to the type of television.

In that, it is a good idea to also include a clause that prohibits tenants from mounting their TV on the wall. And if tenants mount their own TV, they’re going to do it wrong anyway. They’re not going to screw into stuff like we just talked about. And that TV might come crashing down, maybe on a toddler. Right. Or at the very least rip a big chunk out of your wall. Then, they turn around and sue you for everything. Right? So don’t let tenants mount their own TVs or mount TVs at all. If they get really insistent about it, have them pay you to send in a professional installation team and make sure you charge a non-refundable fee for that so that you can go in after they move out and fix, repaint and do all those things.

Deni:
Absolutely. And what are some other things, Brian, that people can do?

Brian:
On a last note, about walls before we move on is to install a doorstopper behind every single door, otherwise you’re going to end up with those doorknob-shaped holes behind the doors because a tenant slammed a door. I mean, people slam doors, right? Husband and wife get in a fight. People are slamming doors. The kids get mad and slam them open. Make sure that you install door stoppers behind every single door. It costs two bucks apiece at the most. It’s totally worth it. All right. Moving on, window blinds. Install these yourself. Do not let your tenants install them because they will have destroyed the frames by screwing directly into the frame itself. Bring in your handyman or contractor, whoever, or if you’re handy yourself, install these window blinds yourself. But you don’t want your tenant messing around doing it.

Deni:
Absolutely!

Brian:
Speaking of lease clauses, it is a good idea to require tenants to replace the air filter every three months. This is another one of those things that you can look at when you do your semiannual inspection, which you should be doing, by the way, at least twice a year. Inspect your units. And you can tell if they have not done it because the air filter will be totally disgusting. Dark gray or even black if they have not replaced it within the last couple of months.

Deni:
Does that do anything more than just cause a reduction in airflow? Will that have caused damage to the unit itself.

Brian:
Yeah. So, it does strain airflow. which it then strains the HVAC systems, your furnace, or your air conditioning condenser. It puts extra strain on those and can shorten the life expectancy of those appliances, which are expensive. It costs a lot of money to replace your furnace or air conditioning condenser. So, you want to keep those life spans as long as possible and keep those air filters clean?

Deni:
Absolutely.

Brian:
And it’s another good way to make sure your tenants have actually read the lease and are and are complying with it.

Deni:
And is there anything else?

Brian:
Yeah, one last note here is, in older apartments or homes that have not been renovated that recently. Some of them have those cords, those light cords or fan cords to turn on fans or lights. They are just asking to be broken. Replace those with switches, ideally dimmer switches for the lights. You can also buy switches that have several fan speed settings. These don’t cost a lot of money. Right. You’re not breaking the bank here, but replace those old cords with actual switches, dimmer switches for the lights for fan or even dimmer switches for the fan speed settings as well.

Deni:
And the only other thing I would like to add is tenant screening isn’t just tenant screening, it’s not just going on a computer and having them fill out an application and running a credit check. Go drive by our houses. I have seen reasons for not to rent to people by doing that. If you’re driving by their current address and it looks beaten up and not beaten up because it’s run down, because that could be the landlord. But if it’s got trash all over, bikes and toys are thrown all over the place, you can pretty much guarantee that this is how they’re going to care for your unit.

Brian:
Yeah, that’s a great point, that the way people treat their current home is exactly what we treat your home. If you want to reduce your maintenance or repair costs, the first thing you should do is screen your tenants very carefully, including how they treat their home. This is also something you can and should ask current prior landlords about when you call them up during tenant screening.

Deni:
Absolutely.

Brian:
We did included links to our lease package. And our lease does include all the nitpicky clauses that we’ve been talking about today. We also have a full infographic and a detailed article with even more ideas for improving your rental properties, which we’ll link to as well all in the comments. So. Deni, anything else that you want to go over before we call this complete?

Deni:
No, I don’t think so. I think that was it.

Brian:
All right. Well, thank you, guys. And let us know what you want to hear us go on about next week on our weekly broadcast because this is the show about you guys. It’s about what you want to hear about. And it’s about your questions, too. So always feel free to pose questions live. That’s what we’re here for. We’re here to have a dialog with you guys, not just to talk about you. On that note, we will see you guys next Tuesday.

Deni:
Have a great day!

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