When you bring tenants onto your property, a certain amount of damage is simply the cost of doing business. As a landlord – especially an inexperienced one – it can be difficult to determine the difference between actual damage and normal wear and tear. Particularly since it’s your property, it’s easy to become protective, and feel like any deterioration or harm should be paid for.
In reality, you can’t charge for everything. In any property a person lives in, there is going to be a certain amount of damage. One of the keys to being successful as a landlord is determining what is actual tenant damage, and what is standard wear and tear. Property management companies in the Woodlands use the following benchmarks when figuring out what’s normal, and what you should charge for.
Landlords and tenants tend to disagree on what is “normal” deterioration resulting from basic human occupancy, and what’s unreasonable damage. As a landlord, chances are you took a security deposit before signing on your tenants. This deposit is intended to be used to fix any unreasonable damage your tenants caused. Legally, it may not be used for anything defined as normal wear.
Defining normal wear and tear can be tricky, particularly since its definition results in financial loss either to you or your tenants. In general, normal wear and tear is any deterioration to your property and its fixtures resulting from normal use. Time and usage lead to a physical decline in a property, no matter how careful a tenant is. This normal lessening of the value of your property is part of having tenants, and you may not take from their security deposit to fix it.
Damage is almost as difficult to define as normal wear and tear. In most cases, damage is harm or loss of value to your property caused by abuse or misuse. Gross neglect may also cause damage. The key is deterioration of the property’s value or usefulness.
Normal wear and tear can also result in this deterioration, so damage and wear and tear are typically assessed on a case by case basis.
The best way to understand the difference between normal wear and tear and damage is to look at some examples. For instance, worn down carpeting or flooring is normal wear and tear. Stained carpet or flooring is damage. Faded paint is similarly normal. Unauthorized drawings or painting on the walls is damage. Before a tenant draws on or paints the walls, he or she must receive permission from you as the landlord. Otherwise, this is intentional damage and the funds for fixing it may be deducted from the security deposit.
Anything happening to the property due to aging is not the tenant’s responsibility. For example, cracks may appear in the walls as a result of settling. On the other hand, large holes or dents in the walls caused intentionally, by accident, or through carelessness are damage. Small holes, such as for hanging pictures, are not damage, and can’t be deducted from the security deposit.
Encouraging Tenants to Take Care
Damage to your property, even damage paid for by your tenants, is not something you want. It can be stressful to deal with repairs, to negotiate with bad tempered tenants who don’t want to pay, and to go through finding a contractor. In all these cases, it’s best to seek help from Houston property management companies.
If at all possible, you want to inspire your tenants to take care of your property as if it were their own. It can be difficult, particularly if your tenants aren’t planning on living on your property for very long. However, as a landlord, it’s worth making the effort to protect your investment. Here are a few ways to encourage tenants to take care of your property:
1. Perform regular inspections.
Inspecting your property regularly is key to preventing damage, and addressing any problems before they can become significant damage. Before moving in a tenant, do a walk through and take photos of the state of the property. It’s a good idea to also do an inspection with the tenant, so you both have a clear idea of the property’s condition.
While your tenants are living on the property, continue to conduct regular inspections. It’s good practice to perform an inspection every six months. It’s the law to inform tenants before you intend to enter the property they’re renting and tenants usually prefer to have more warning than the law requires. This also helps them let you know about any maintenance needs around the property. Regular maintenance prevents small problems from turning into big, costly ones.
2. Discuss your expectations.
Many tenants are unclear about the distinction between normal wear and tear and damage. It makes sense; definitions are fuzzy in the first place, and different landlords enforce different standards. Letting your tenants know from the beginning the state you want your property to remain in helps them keep to your standard.
Be sure to let them know they won’t be charged for normal wear and tear. It’s not legal to charge tenants for these small things, but that doesn’t mean some unscrupulous landlords don’t try. Your tenants will be more likely to report problems if they know they won’t be penalized for it.
3. Show you care.
Most tenants aren’t going to intentionally trash your property. However, they’re much more likely to take greater care of your property if they see you care about it. One way to do so is by giving them the tools to reach you and report any repair or wear and tear problems. Be easy to reach, or have a maintenance team that’s easy to reach and makes detailed reports.
Preventing wear and tear is one of the most important parts of protecting your bottom line. By helping your tenants report wear and tear, taking care of it before it becomes a bigger problem, and being easy to do business with, you can protect your investment and be a good landlord.
Having the right maintenance team is key to taking care of your property. A solid property management company can help. For reliable, affordable, and efficient repairs, contact Green Residential today.