People are clumsy, dirty, accident-prone Tasmanian devils. That goes double for children.
Homeowners are no better, but they have so much money invested in their property that they take more care not to damage it. But renters? Forget about it. Tornado inbound, chance of damage: 100%.
So how can landlords protect their valuable investment properties from harm?
Like everything else in rental management, an ounce of prevention is worth pounds upon pounds of cure. Here are ten ways you can prevent damage before it ever happens, with a little foresight.
1. Prohibit TV Mounting
Do you really want a bunch of holes drilled in your walls, just so your renters can mount their TV instead of using a TV stand?
Then there’s the more serious risk of them failing to screw the mounts properly into studs. What happens when their $2,500 TV falls off the wall, taking a huge chunk of wall with it?
Worse, what if a toddler is playing on the floor underneath it?
Nope. No TV mounting. Write it into your lease agreement.
2. Screw All Racks, Bars & Hooks into Studs
Similarly, you don’t want renters to yank a towel from the towel bar and have the bar pull right out of the wall. Likewise with coat racks and hooks, paper towel holders, etc.
Invest $6.99 in a stud finder, and use it before screwing any fixtures to the wall.
3. Switch Screen Doors & Storm Doors to Plexiglass
Your renters’ kids will put their hands right through the screen door. Or worse, the glass in a storm door.
Nowadays you can buy plexiglass that’s pretty clear and strong. Cops use it to lock up violent felons – you can count on it to prevent your tenants’ kids from breaking it.
4. Go Glossy
Most people paint their walls with matte finish paint. It’s a little cheaper, and it looks good… at first.
In six months, it shows every scuff of every shoe or hand or box that brushed by it.
Glossy paint, alternatively, can be wiped clean. Scuffs erase right off the wall. So yes, while the total material costs might add an extra $100 to your painting bill, you may well be able to get two or three extra tenancies out of that paintjob, rather than having to repaint between each tenant.
5. Simple Landscaping Means Less to Mess Up
Ornate landscaping looks great. It also requires work to upkeep. Do you think your tenants are going to break their backs keeping up extensive landscaping?
At best, your renters might water a few plants and mow the yard. And those are more responsible people than the average slacker whose weekend is filled with cheap drinks and reruns of bad sitcoms.
As a general rule of thumb, the less work your tenants have to do to maintain the outside of your property, the more likely it is they’ll do anything at all.
6. Forego Carpets and Use Faux Wood or Bamboo Instead
Carpets are a disaster waiting to happen. When making flooring decisions, ask yourself “How will this flooring hold up to vomit and red wine?” That will jolt your train of thought in the right direction.
Faux wood and bamboo flooring can look spectacular, and in many cases indistinguishable from hardwood floors. Speaking of which, hardwood is another disaster waiting to happen. Your renters will scratch it up every time, no exceptions.
7. Require Felt Pads on All Furniture Feet
This might sound like splitting hairs, until you actually go out and spend the money to install the faux wood or bamboo floors.
Put a strongly-worded clause in your lease agreement, and have the renters initial it. The clause should include a line holding them responsible for any scratches to the floors, and the cost of replacement flooring sections will be deducted from their security deposit.
Lastly, spend the $2.99 and give them a box or two of felt pads when you sign the lease with them. Aww, what a thoughtful housewarming present!
8. If You Must Install Carpets, Spend More on Padding & Less on Carpeting
Carpets need to be replaced between nearly every tenancy. Padding does not.
But here’s the thing – thick, plush padding makes even lower-grade carpet feel rich and plush.
Don’t install carpets, but if you must, invest more in the padding than the carpets themselves.
9. Put a Shoe Rack by the Front Door
Are you sensing a theme here? Flooring takes more beating than any other part of your rental unit. You want to do everything you can to protect it.
If you put a shoe rack by the front door, and take off shoes when you show the unit, it sends a strong message: This property is so nice that we take shoes off before entering. While you can’t force them to take their shoes off after they move in, they’ll be much more likely to do so if there’s a beautiful shoe rack just begging to be used.
10. Install Door Stoppers Behind Every Door
This is a no-brainer. Every single door needs a door stopper behind it. You can install them yourself, or if you’re not feeling handy-capable, grab a six-pack of beer and a pizza and invite your handy friend over to help you.
You know what happens otherwise: doorknob-shaped holes in the wall behind every door.
There’s a thin line between “damage” and “normal wear and tear,” when it comes time to deduct or refund the security deposit. But here’s the thing: you don’t want either. You can’t make your renters treat your property with kid gloves, but you can make your property harder to hurt.
Tenants are tough on properties, so it’s your job to make sure your properties are tougher than your tenants.
Have any horror stories about what tenants have done to your property? Or success stories of how you’ve protected your investments? Share them below! (And speaking of sharing, please pass this article along to other landlords who’d enjoy it!)