We conducted a pre-Halloween survey where we asked the question, “What is the scariest part of being a landlord?”
Of the options offered, ranging from tenant screening worries to foreclosures and finance, one area emerged as a strong concern: that a tenant would damage a rental unit.
It’s easy to understand why that is a major fear. There is just no telling what it may cost to rehabilitate an apartment that has been damaged. Horror stories range from pet urine in the carpet, to tenants digging up landscaping and selling it at a yard sale, to finding the unit stripped of copper and appliances.
Damage could cost thousands, and eat away at any profits the landlord has garnered on that unit.
Fortunately, there are a number of things a landlord can do to hedge the risk of property damage:
Charge the maximum amount allowed for a deposit.
Lay out routine cleaning or maintenance requirements in the lease or house rules.
Talk with a previous landlord after the tenant has moved out.
Make sure you have photos or videos of the unit BEFORE the tenant moves in, and have the tenant sign a Move-In Statement verifying that there is no damage at that time — your best defense in court.
Make sure the tenants can locate you quickly if there is need for a repair, and respond quickly so they’ll call again.
In a tricky eviction case, consider the “cash-for-keys” option and “buy out” a destructive tenant before they break the bank.
A second concern also has landlords sweating: the fear of renting to a criminal. Not only does the landlord lose their income stream when a tenant is arrested, but they may be sued if the tenant hurts someone else. Crime can also chase away the good tenants.
There are two ways a landlord can lower this risk:
Thorough tenant screening, including a criminal background check, including sex offender lists, and a previous landlord reference.
Language in your lease agreement that allows you to evict in the event of criminal behavior. See Landlord Unable to Evict Accused Child Molester for specific examples.
See more on Tenant Screening Reports.
American Apartment Owners Association offers discounts on products and services for landlords related to your rental housing investment, including rental forms, tenant debt collection, tenant background checks, insurance and financing. Find out more at www.joinaaoa.org.