Tenants Actions Will Affect Your Bottom Line

If you ask any landlord if their tenants have ever done anything that made them scratch their head in amazement, you’ll probably hear some crazy stories. Likely not being homeowners themselves, and maybe having never been homeowners, tenants often don’t realize (or care about) the magnitude of the problems that their actions or inaction can have on a property and their landlord’s bottom line. I’ll give a few anecdotal examples from my own experience as a landlord.

Make Sure Tenants Know How To Properly Move Out

One time I had a lease that was expiring, and my tenants decided to leave. We were on great terms.  They had always treated the house well, paid on time, and were very communicative with me during their lease term. They were in line to get their full deposit back, and I took the trip out to the property just to do a final walk-through. It was a frigid morning in January or February when I finally was able to get out there a couple days after they had vacated the property. The moment I walked inside, like a punch in the face, I was struck by the cold air inside the home. Somehow it was colder inside the house than the brisk 20-degree outdoor temperature. How could this be?  My tenants had just been there a couple days earlier and never complained about the furnace not working. It took me a whole 30 seconds to discover the problem: when I walked to the thermostat, it was blank.  Upon further investigation, I realized that the tenants had TAKEN THE BATTERIES OUT OF THE THERMOSTAT! These tenants, while great the whole time they lived there, didn’t want to leave their valuable batteries at the house, which put my property at risk of having pipes freeze and cause likely thousands of dollars of damage to the home. Thankfully, I got there before the pipes froze—this time.  There was no malice here, just a lack of education.

Tenants Should Know That If They Think There Is A Problem, There Probably Is A Problem

On another occasion, I had a tenant who called me on a Sunday (when else?) to let me know that she’s been hearing water running in the walls for a few days even when she’s not running water. I immediately drop everything and hot tailed it over there. Upon arrival, I open the crawl space to find water spewing from above and directly down onto the furnace which now rested securely on a muddy swamp of a crawl space floor. After doing some investigation, I found the culprit was a busted pipe in the wall of a bathroom. Years earlier, when somebody installed the bathroom vanity, a screw had just barely poked a copper pipe in the wall, and it had finally failed. When I asked the tenant why she didn’t call me earlier, she said that she thought it was weird to hear the water but not a big deal.

Don’t Just Take A Tenant’s Word; Double Check Problems (Or Fixes) Yourself

At another property there is a front house and a carriage house in the back yard.  To save myself the headache of trying to equally allocate water charges to the two units (and to make sure the grass gets watered in the summer), I pay the water bill.  One month, I noticed that water bill was exorbitantly higher than usual.  I told the tenants at both houses that I needed to come look and see what was going on.  At the front house, everything looked normal, no leaks or anything that would cause the higher usage.  When I finally got in touch with the tenants in the back house, they said “Oh I know what that is, the toilet was running for a couple weeks, but I got that fixed.”  Great, problem solved.  In this water district, water is billed bimonthly, so two months later I get the next water bill. This time, it was many hundreds of dollars HIGHER than even the other high bill.  I immediately went over to the back house with my spare key because the tenants were out of town, looked at the toilet (which was running) and found that the tenant never did a thing to solve the issue months earlier like they claimed.  I blame myself for this one.  But as any landlord knows, you learn from the mistakes you’ll inevitably make.  My lesson on this one is to never just take your tenants on their word for something so important; go verify everything for yourself.

Just As Landlords Get An Education In The Landlording World, So Too Do Tenants In The Renting World

Based on some of the unfathomable things that my tenants have done over the years, I’ve learned that there is never any education on how to take care of your property that is too elementary for some people.  The best standard of practice would be to make sure that if ANYTHING is wrong with the home, be it a running toilet, water flowing through the walls, or any of the other myriad issues that can happen to a home, EDUCATE your tenants to call you about it—also let them know that pipes freeze and break when not heated in the winter.

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