Non-Invasive Ways To Tell if Your Tenants are Taking Care of Their Units

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February 1, 2016 by phicks2012

Old CottageI have rental property, BIG news there, and it’s managed by a realtor who specializes in that sort of thing. She advertises vacancies, checks out the applicants, gets the leases signed, collects the rent, handle evictions, and acts as an intermediary between me and the tenants — usually. A few tenants do actually have my phone number, but those are the ones who won’t use it unless there’s some sort of emergency and they can’t manage to get a response from the management team.

The woman who manages my units is also supposed to schedule occasional wellness checks on the units to make sure they aren’t being trashed, but the truth is that unless there’s reason to suspect carnage this is rarely done. However, I’ve learned to watch for a few clues that let me know there might be a problem.

I’m sharing them with you now.

1) The window blinds are damaged. I’ve learned that if the slats on the blinds show damage from the outside, then other damage is almost always being done inside. It’s a funny thing, but this seems to be a dead giveaway.

2) There’s trash in the yard. If people can’t be bothered to pick up trash in the yard, and it’s obvious the trash is theirs, they won’t likely be keeping the inside clean either.

3) Junk interior furniture appears on the front porch. If the tenant has a decorative bench, or a couple of wooden chairs on the front stoop, then that’s one thing, but if a threadbare couch or a couple of crappy-looking armchairs appear out there then there are nearly always major issues inside.

4) Large dogs are not allowed, but there are huge piles of dog poop all over the yard. Whether or not I’ve seen the dog, this almost always means that they have one and have not paid a pet deposit. The dog may or may not be destructive, but all too often people who refuse to pay a pet deposit also have destructive pets.

5) You see lots of different people constantly coming and going. If you’re working in the area and see a lot of different people dropping in and out and staying for only a few minutes, there’s a good chance your tenant might be selling something you’d really prefer not to know about, especially if the drop-ins all seem to be at least 50 pounds underweight with glazed expressions. This is a Vice Raid waiting to happen.

6) Every time you’re in the area you see at least a dozen people (including unsupervised children) hanging around the place. In cases like this, you’ll usually find out that while the unit is rented to a single person there are ten or more actually living there. When you get these situations, the inside of the unit is almost always being trashed, and nine times out of ten the tenants are breeding roaches.

7) The tenants have a bad attitude. If tenants are hostile and antagonistic for no apparent reason, the chances are that they are more vested in having a bad-ass rep than in taking care of obligations, and will damage the unit, or allow it to be damaged by their friends and/or family.

8) The tenant is overly demanding, right from the onset. If a new tenant moves in and immediately tries to demand newer, higher tech appliances, new carpeting or tile, and major improvements (all for the same rent) — they will nearly always default on the rent and have to be evicted.

So, those are my clues, for what they’re worth, gleaned from years of dealing with and cleaning up after problem tenants. If they’re of any help to anyone else with rental property, then they were worth writing down, and I’d welcome additional similar hints from others with comparable experience — not Simon Legrees, but normal folks who happen to have rental property and have no interest in being slum lords or ladies!!


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I am an active, outgoing person interested in all sorts of things and all sorts of people! I'm constantly discovering new interests, and expect that to continue right into the grave!

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