You probably already have some kind of tenant screening process in place. But even so, one thing is almost always guaranteed for landlords – no tenant will ever care for your property like you would.
As such, it’s important to take all the necessary steps to prevent damages to your rental property. The following tips should get you started in this regard.
1. Have a Thorough Screening Process
This is a skill that any serious landlord should have. When filling a vacancy, your goal should be to find the best tenant possible. How do you achieve that? By screening prospective tenants thoroughly!
For the best results, begin the process as soon as you establish first contact. This can be through a phone call or an email right after the rental ad goes live. Seize the opportunity to learn a thing or two about the tenant, even as they inquire more about the rental unit.
You may be able to differentiate the serious from the rest by just asking them a few basic questions. For example: When are you looking to move? Have you notified your landlord that you’re looking to move? How much money do you make in a month? Have you ever been evicted? Do you have a criminal record?
Once you’ve eliminated a few from the list, ask the rest to fill out a rental application form and verify the information they provide.
2. Require a Security Deposit
This one goes without saying!
Although not a requirement in law, most landlords require their tenants to pay a security deposit prior to moving in, and for good reason. A security deposit provides a financial cushion (to some extent) against tenant damages.
Please note, however, that you can only hold a tenant accountable for damages exceeding normal wear and tear. Examples of such damages include:
- A smashed bathroom mirror;
- A carpet ruined by pet urine;
- Scratches on the floor;
- Missing door locks;
- Holes in the walls;
- A broken or missing window;
- A damaged door handle.
But how much should you charge as a security deposit? Unlike some states, Florida doesn’t limit how much security deposit a landlord can charge.
But generally speaking, most landlords charge no more than the equivalent of twice the monthly rent. This is usually enough to protect a landlord against potential tenant damages, evictions, and vacancy costs.
3. Build a Good Relationship with Your Tenant
Building a healthy relationship with your tenant is key to a successful rental investment. The following are some reasons why a good relationship can be beneficial.
- There will be an increased likelihood that your tenant will care for the property;
- Missed or rent payments may be minimized;
- There will be less tension when it comes to repair and maintenance requests;
- There will be better communication between the two parties thanks to your trust and reliability;
- Your tenant will be more likely to rent long-term.
Building a good relationship with your tenant should begin the moment you establish first contact with them. Be courteous, helpful, and responsive as much as you can.
4. Inspect Your Property Routinely
As already mentioned, no one will care for your property as much as you. So, no matter how good your tenant is, don’t forget to inspect the property every now and again.
By periodically conducting inspections, you can:
- Help keep your property in good shape and preserve its value over time.
- Keep your property attractive, which can decrease turnover and vacancies.
- Ensure your tenants are abiding by the terms of the lease agreement.
Make sure to notify your tenant beforehand. Under Florida landlord-tenant law, a landlord must give the tenant at least 12 hours’ notice before entering their rental unit. The time of entry must also be reasonable.
Don’t overdo inspections, either. A tenant may take it the wrong way and sue you for landlord harassment. Ideally, inspect your property about four times a year.
5. Change the Air Filter Regularly
This is normally the responsibility of a tenant, but, it’s a recurring task that can become laborious over time. Failure to change air filters can lead to expensive problems.
It cannot only reduce an HVAC system’s efficiency but can also reduce the airflow and make it work harder, thus spending more energy and costing you more. Worst of all, it might run overtime and strain the HVAC system, causing it to break down.
While a perfect tenant will perform the task as needed, most will probably forget about it at some point. The consequences on your pocket, as already mentioned, can be dire.
To avoid potential issues, take the responsibility to change the air filter upon yourself. Alternatively, use sites like Amazon to schedule deliveries at certain intervals.
6. Choose your Plants Carefully
Landscaping is key to keeping your property’s curb appeal fresh and alluring. That said, not all plants are created equal. Some can pool water or provide an environment for pests to thrive.
So, be mindful of what you do with your landscape. The following are some tips to help you in this regard:
- Plant local or native shrubs. These not only help in preserving biodiversity but are also low maintenance. They don’t need much in regard to fertilizers, pesticides, or watering.
- Keep it simple and low-maintenance. The last thing your tenant wants is a high-maintenance lawn.
- Keep the theme neutral. Basically, stick with popular native plants and accents.
7. Fill Vacancies Fast.
You’ll be losing money every day your property sits vacant. Furthermore, vacant units are easy targets for vandalism, theft, squatters, and damage.
If you have a vacant unit, there are a few things you can do to safeguard your investment:
- Visit the property regularly
- Secure all main entrances
- Ask a neighbor to keep an eye on it
- You can also take an extra insurance policy.
Tenant damages are inevitable over the course of your career as a self-managing landlord. Luckily, there are some things you can do to prevent them from happening.