Our topic today is how to protect your rental home from tenant damage. Before we talk about tips and tricks, we want to give you one piece of advice that will really mitigate tenant damage: make sure you put a quality tenant inside your property.
Do your due diligence when you have an applicant. Verify income and employment. Run a credit check and a criminal background check. Talk to previous landlords. These things will help you ensure you’re putting the best possible tenant in your property. If you can do that, you’ll save yourself headaches later. This type of screening takes time and special tools, but if you screen applicants well, you’ll have good tenants.
You don’t want to charge a security deposit that’s too high, because you’ll scare off potentially great tenants. You also don’t want to charge too little because tenants won’t care about the money they might lose. If the security deposit on a $2,000 rental home is only $500, tenants aren’t going to care about the damage they might do. Match the security deposit to the rent. In California, you can charge up to two times the monthly rent for a security deposit on an unfurnished property. On a furnished property, you can collect up to three times the monthly rent. We recommend that you collect a security deposit that matches one month’s rent or one and a half month’s rent. These are acceptable amounts for good tenants.
After you have collected the deposit, do a move in inspection and take lots of pictures. If you have to do an eviction and you show up to court with pictures of the property, you’ll be able to show damage. Be detailed in your pictures; show the inside of the dishwasher and inside the oven and the fridge. Take pictures of the door jams. It’s amazing how many doors get kicked in on a rental.
We don’t want to inconvenience our tenants, but we want to make sure they’re taking care of the property. Therefore, we inspect every six months. It’s an opportunity to look at the smoke detector and carbon monoxide batteries. We make sure there are no leaks under sink, and we take a look at how the property is being cared for. At the end of the lease, you have another opportunity to do an inspection and decide if you want to renew with your tenants or let them go.
This might sound like an additional expense but we see it as an investment. What we call a simple mow and blow service will cost you between $50 and $75 per month. It allows someone to be in the front and back yards twice a month, looking for things. We have trained people taking care of our yards to look for red flags that might concern us. When you have eyes on the property as much as possible, you mitigate the risk of tenant damage.
If you’d like to hear more information about protecting your property, please contact us at Wolfgang Property Management.