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5 Tips to Protect Your Rental Property from your Tenants

Any seasoned landlord has seen the devastation and destruction reaped on their rental properties that tenants are capable of, from teenage keg parties to myriad pet stains to curious and offensive odors to the havoc of children. You’ve invested a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into your rental property, so you’ll want to protect it as much as you possibly can, which is where the following protection tips can help curb the stress in between each rental agreement.

Rental Protection Tip 1: Use Durable Materials
Do they cost more up front? Yes. But they can and will save you money over the years, as tenants come and go and each one adds to the damage in your property.
First, you can save yourself a great deal of headaches by using carpets that hide dirt, stains, and general wear and tear. Dark, patterned carpets help to hide these everyday carpet threats, and using thick padding helps increase the life expectancy of the carpet as well. Finally, door mats are a cheap and easy way to drastically cut the dirt ground into the carpets.
The other major area of wear and tear is wall surfaces. Certain types and colors of paint can be cleaned easier, and conceal dirt better. Consider tans, yellows, and the darker shades of off-white, as white walls show every speck and spot. Further, semi-gloss finishes can be scrubbed and cleaned, and can thus render many stains and scratches can be removed without having to repaint between each rental agreement.

Rental Protection Tip 2: Vigilant Tenant Screening
Sure, vacancies are costly, and you want to secure a signed rental agreement as quickly as possible. However, you can avoid the overwhelming majority of bad tenants with careful tenant screening, using a thorough rental application and verifying all of the critical information in it. You’ll want to verify the rental applicant’s employment and income, their rental payment history, their credit history, criminal background, and civil suit history. Further, you should tour their current residence to see how clean and well-kept it is, and how much damage they’ve inflicted on it. The old saying that “seasons change but people don’t” is true often enough for this historical data to be an accurate predictor of the rental application’s likelihood to perform, and to treat your rental property with the respect it deserves.

Rental Protection Tip 3: Protect Yourself Legally with a State-Specific Rental Agreement
Each state has different landlord-tenant laws, requiring different language, addendums, disclosures, and restrictions on charges such as security deposits and late fees. If you fail to include any of these state-required information, or if you charge more than your state allows, you can have great difficulty evicting, or worse, can be sued by tenants looking to make a quick buck. Make sure you use a state-specific rental agreement, and make sure you know your state’s restrictions on charges (you can find a state-specific rental agreement builder with this information online at ezLandlordForms, among other online resources).

Rental Protection Tip 4: Prevention Instead of Cures
Repairs and maintenance are like medical problems: the longer they fester, the worse the damage and the cost to fix. First, stay on top of scheduled maintenance, and second, respond immediately when tenants inform you of a problem with the rental property, even if you don’t think you can afford to fix it. Send a contractor to investigate and give you a price and assessment of the risk of further damage, and you can avoid many of the big, disastrous bills that happen if you ignore the early warning signs.
Further, many arguments and legal disputes with your tenants can be avoided if you show them that you’re responsive when there are problems in the property, and if you outline in minute detail who is responsible for which repairs and maintenance in the rental agreement.

Rental Protection Tip 5: Prepare for the Worst
Sometimes things simply go wrong, and your tenants will either stop paying or will violate the rental agreement in an unforeseen way, and in these circumstances it’s critical that you start the eviction process immediately, because it takes a long time and gives tenants second, third, fourth, and fifth chances before you can actually remove them from your rental property. Also, sending a clear and decisive message that you will not tolerate any violations of your rental agreement shows the tenants that you operate like a business, and not a pushover, and they’ll think twice before crossing you again.

From rental application to rental agreement, from preparing your property for tenants to having an eviction plan, it’s extremely important to plan for the worst with your rental properties, and protect your property from unforeseen threats and damage. Best of luck!

Kevin Kiene manages a website that allows landlords to create custom, state-specific rental agreement forms, along with eviction notices and a free rental application form.