For the most part, your tenants are probably good, hard working people who have decent jobs, pay rent on time, and take care of your property. But not all tenants have your best interests in mind. Some will bend a few rules and hide the evidence. While harmless at times, you have to be cognizant of what’s happening on your property. Staying alert to common issues will help you be a better landlord.
10 Things Tenants Try to Hide
In case you haven’t noticed, people are weird. It’s part of what makes the world such an interesting place to live. We all have our eccentricities – some more than others – and they come out in a variety of ways.
Your tenants are no different than anyone else. They have unique personalities, interests, and experiences. Sometimes they’ll try to hide these traits from you, because they know it violates the lease agreement or they assume you won’t like it.
If you’re in the landlording “game” long enough, you’ll see tenants try to hide lots of things. Here are a few interesting and common ones:
- Damage to the Property
Tenants most commonly hide property damage from landlords, both during the lease and when it comes time to conduct the final walkthrough upon moving out. Some of the most common property damages include:
- Holes in the wall
- Broken appliances
- Stains on carpet or flooring
- Water damage
- Broken windows
Some tenants will actually fix these problems without telling you, in order to save the embarrassment. Others will get really creative about hiding them. Just keep your eyes open for anything that seems strange whenever you visit or conduct a walkthrough.
- Strange Smells and Odors
It doesn’t take much for a house or apartment to start smelling weird. Between rotting food in the trash or refrigerator, poor air circulation, a lack of cleanliness, and any number of other factors, strange smells can emerge in a matter of hours and stick around for a long time. Tenants will sometimes try to cover these smells up with candles, baked cookies, and other scents.
If you’re smart, you don’t allow pets in your rental properties. They’re destructive, they smell bad, and simply have no redeeming quality from a landlord’s perspective. Yet, despite including a no pet clause in your lease agreement, some tenants will bend the rules and sneak dogs, cats, and reptiles into the home. Most of the time, you can simply observe the property and know if something is up, but tenants can be elaborate in their cover ups.
- Drugs and Marijuana Plants
What tenants do in their free time is up to them, but if illegal activity is happening on your property, you need to know about it. Drug use, especially in poorer areas, may be rampant. You need to make sure you maintain a stern policy on what happens under your roof.
You may also encounter tenants who grow marijuana plants or manufacture and sell other drugs inside the home. If you get word of something illegal happening, you have an obligation to report it to local law enforcement.
- Portable Heaters
Some tenants will do anything to save a few dollars. In the wintertime, this often means turning off the heat and instead using portable heaters – sometimes of the propane or kerosene variety. Obviously these are huge fire risks, so tenants will hide the evidence when you swing by. If you notice that a tenant keeps the house extremely cold during the winter, consider this possibility.
- Modifications to Electrical and Plumbing
Tenants will often make modifications to properties in order to save money or make things more comfortable for themselves. Sometimes these modifications are merely temporary and can be changed back upon moving out (like paint), but other times they involve more serious things like electrical and plumbing. Keep an eye out for big changes.
- Changed Locks
As a landlord, you are perfectly within your rights to have a key that allows you inside the premises. While you can’t show up unannounced without a specific reason, you do have access. Tenants, for whatever reason, might not like that you have keys and could switch the locks as a way of keeping you out. Whenever you drop in, always test your keys during the visit.
- Running a Business
It’s becoming quite common to work from home. Many of today’s companies actually hire people who spend their entire time working from home. And while there’s nothing wrong with having a tenant who uses her laptop to work from the kitchen table, there are certain things you want to avoid. For example, having a tenant operate a daycare is a huge liability and could come back to bite you.
Smoking is a nightmare for a tenant. Not only is it a fire hazard, but it leaves the property smelling like smoke for years. You can usually tell right away if a tenant is smoking on the premises, but they may try to cover it up with air fresheners and other scents. Just be aware of this and make sure all no-smoking rules are clearly stated.
- Additional Roommates
You are perfectly within your rights to put a cap on the number of people who are allowed to live in one of your properties. If you put a two-person cap in the lease agreement and a tenant decides to bring in three other people, they’re in the wrong.
This is actually one of the most common cover-ups, because it’s easy for a tenant to simply claim that the other person is a friend who is over for the day or crashing for the weekend.
Let Green Residential Help
At Green Residential, we take great pride in serving Houston-area landlords. From Cypress and Sugar Land to The Woodlands and Downtown, we offer our clients superior property management services that can’t be matched – in price or quality – by any other management company in the area.
Whether you have very specific needs – such as tenant screening or rent collection – or you need a white glove service that takes care of everything, we can help. Please contact us today and we’d be happy to discuss your options in more detail!