What is Not Normal “Wear and Tear” to Your Property?
Wear and tear to your property is something to expect. Carpets will need to be replaced regularly, especially if it is a high-traffic rental. Walls will need to be painted and appliances replaced. These are all expected and routine costs for owning or managing a rental property. But what do you do when your tenants are damaging the property outside of what can be expected from “normal wear and tear”?
Pets are one of the more common factors when dealing with “damage” to a rental property. This is even more likely when bringing in unauthorized pets to a rental with a “no pet policy”. The extra costs incurred with pets and potential pet damage is one of the reasons an applicant may keep their furry friend a secret. It won’t be all of your tenants, but it will happen. Knowing how you want to handle unauthorized pets and the potential damage they may cause to the unit will be key. It is important to remember that even when a tenant blatantly disregards the policies of the lease agreement, these issues must be handled legally and professionally.
You can include in the lease what qualifies as an unauthorized pet, for example: fostering kittens for a long duration (resident) v. a friend bringing their dog over for a game night (visitor). If a pet is discovered on the property, in violation of the lease agreement, you will need to follow this process:
- Provide a notice
- Option to remove the pet from the property within a certain timeframe
- Reiteration of the fines as outlined in the signed lease agreement
- Issue a fine to the tenant
- Proceed with an eviction
This is one of the cases where you have to decide if letting the tenant slide on this violation of the lease agreement is worth the cost of eviction. It is crucial to check your local laws to see if there is a required amount of time you must provide, a way to implement the fees, and what restrictions you may have in your area around evictions.
Pets can do damage to the property but if you find yourself in a continuous cycle of evicting tenants because of unauthorized pets. It may be time to reevaluate your pet policy and what you are charging for the unit.
Excessive Property Damage
Drawing the line between “wear and tear” and “damage” can be difficult for new property managers and landlords. Determining where that line is and when you will allow a tenant to cross it can be a tough call. Creating clear expectations for proper maintenance to be done by the tenant, prior to moving in, can prevent wear and tear from turning into damage. It is likely, if there is excessive damage to the property, the tenant may not appear for the final move out walk-through. If you need to use money from their security deposit to cover repair costs, make sure you have taken pictures of the property before and after their tenancy. You will need to prove that you can legally take money from the deposit.
Excessive property damage can be linked to other undesirable behavior from a tenant including noise complaints, aggression, or neglect. Depending on your local landlord-tenant laws it may be grounds for eviction.
In 21 of 50 states, tenant responsibilities are outlined in the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA). Even if you are not in one of the states that have adopted this legislation, it can help you determine what you can expect from your tenant. These should also be included in the lease agreement:
- Comply with building and housing codes
- Keep the premises “as clean and safe as the condition of the premises permit”
- Dispose of garbage, recycling, compost, and other wastes from the dwelling unit “in a clean and safe manner”
- Keep plumbing fixtures in the unit “as clear as their condition permits”
- Use all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, and other facilities and appliances “in a reasonable manner”
Unable to Enter for Repairs
However strange it sounds, it isn’t unheard of to get a call from a maintenance professional in the back of a police car because the tenant thought they were in their home illegally. This could be attributed to negligent, uninformed, or disgruntled tenants. Regardless, you need to follow your local landlord-tenant laws regarding this issue. Generally, written notice on the tenant’s door 24 hours or more in advance will be required. Follow-up with a call or text may also be a good option. Have evidence that you have provided notice and outlined who may be entering the property if it isn’t you. It is illegal to enter the property without notice. Below are the circumstances in which you can enter the property:
1. Routine checks for maintenance and safety issues
2. An emergency (this is only time you don’t need to give notice)
3. When a repair or service is needed
4. To show the property
5. When the tenant leaves for an extended period
Regardless of circumstance, it can be difficult to deal with tenants when damage is being done to your property. Doing a thorough tenant screening can help prevent some of these issues. Outlining your policy for property damage in the lease can cover some of the other problems. It is important to remember that even in these situations you need to act in accordance with your local landlord-tenant laws and proceed accordingly.