1. Screen Prospective Tenants Carefully
When it comes to tenants, an ounce of prevention is worth five pounds of cure. In other words, be choosy about who you accept as a tenant. Perform thorough background, credit, and employment checks. Read our article, How to Choose the Right Tenants which outlines seven steps to take to weed out problematic tenants.
2. Be Sure To Have A Landlord Insurance Policy
Homeowners’ insurance will not cover your property if it is damaged; you need to get landlord insurance before you rent out your place. (Read: What Kind of Insurance Do I Need as a Landlord?)
3. Get A Security Deposit
Getting a security deposit against damages will also help dissuade a tenant from trashing your property. Of course, if the security deposit you’ve charged is minimal, then you have less leverage. There are laws in each state concerning how much you can charge for a deposit. In Virginia, the security deposit limit is two months’ rent.
4. Take Photos Before They Move In
Document in text and photos the condition of your property before the tenant moves in. Have them sign the document after reviewing it so that you both agree that this was the condition at move-in. Make sure the photos show specific issues, such as nicks in molding or cracks in the ceiling.
5. Make Sure The Tenants Know What They Are Responsible For
Put a clause in the lease that outlines the tenants’ responsibility for maintaining the property and their obligation to pay for any damages to the property. Be specific and verbally go over that portion of the lease with them when they sign it. Be sure to point out important details about your property that the tenant will need to know to properly maintain it. For example, explain where the shutoff valves are and how to properly winterize so that the pipes don’t burst in cold weather.
6. Schedule Regular Inspections
You can make a provision in the lease that allows for regular inspections of the premises. During these scheduled visits you can make sure the tenants are taking care of the property. For example, are the tenants changing the batteries in the smoke alarm, and replacing any HVAC filters? Look for things like leaks under the sink and clogged gutters which can be a signal that the tenant is not paying attention to the little things that can become big issues for you later.
We also suggest making move-in and move-out inspections. During the move-in inspection, you can review with the tenant any existing wear and tear and explain what constitutes normal wear and tear. You can also explain that they are responsible for any damages they make to the property, whether by accident or on purpose. (See Item #6.)
Before the tenant moves out, completing a move-out inspection will give you the opportunity to review the space before you release any of the security deposit funds. Overall, regular inspections can help you keep an eye on how they are treating your property.
7. Keep the Property Well Maintained
In schools and cities, administrators know that if they don’t get rid of graffiti right away, it only invites more of “artists” to contribute to the problem. The same is true for your property. If you don’t keep up on maintenance issues, your tenants won’t either. Fix broken windows, torn carpets, holes in the walls, anything that makes the place look shabby. When you take good care of your place, your tenants will appreciate it, and they will be less likely to trash it. (Read: What Maintenance Am I Responsible For as a Landlord?)
8. Take Immediate Action if The Tenant Stops Paying Rent
One sure sign of a deadbeat tenant is they stop paying rent. Don’t ignore it and hope the issue goes away. Read our article Steps to Take If Your Tenant Stops Paying Rent. Failure to pay the rent is often an indicator of a pattern of behavior that can include wrecking the property, so nip this in the bud.
If you already know have a problem tenant, then be sure to do regular inspections. (Read: What to Do If I Have To Evict A Tenant.) If you want better than average odds of finding tenants who won’t trash your property, use a professional property management firm. We’re here to help. Contact us for more information.