As property managers, let’s remember our core value proposition: to have our tenants live in a safe, clean, and well- maintained home while providing rental owners with peace of mind that their properties are well cared for. That said, how do we let rental owners — especially new investors — know that wear and tear comes with the territory, and that we can’t lighten tenants’ wallets for every scratch, ding, dying plant, and carpet stain?
Investing in property is a deliberate and strategic decision. Many of our rental owners believe their homes should remain forever perfect, like the day they were built. Not surprisingly, owners with this outlook make our responsibilities as property managers a bit more challenging.
If the shared goal of owners and property managers is securing long-term tenants who pay their rent on time, every time, and take great care of their homes, how can we not accept normal wear and tear as part of life? Have a frank conversation with rental owners and remind them that their property is a home, and it will be lived in, perhaps by a family like their own, and as a result, there will be wear and tear.
For starters, I prepare owners about what to expect when it comes to normal wear and tear:
- Parents have children, children spill everything, and the carpet will get dirty.
- Kids have hands that get into everything, and they touch walls.
- Grass and plants are living things; some thrive, some not so much.
- Ovens are primarily for cooking, not for looks; they get dirty and break.
- Washers and dryers spin, they spin fast and spin a lot — and eventually stop spinning.
How to take complete control of wear and tear
After you’ve had this conversation with the owner, it’s time to take the next steps toward our goal of securing highly qualified tenants while providing the best possible experience for owners and tenants alike. Here are six ways I accomplish that:
1. Inspect the property when you take it over, preferably using an app.
When signing a new property, inspect it thoroughly with the owner and establish a baseline for its condition. Use a quality inspection app (I prefer to use a tablet), one that lets you take ample photographs and allows each of you to sign an acceptance of the home’s condition. No app is perfect, buts two I’ve used and like are Property Pal and Happy Inspector.
2. Set up automated reminders to conduct regular maintenance.
With your property management software (or other system you use), send automated reminders to yourself or your maintenance staff as reminders to email your tenants regularly, asking them what maintenance work they may need, from changing A/C filters to irrigating the landscape and caring for appliances.
3. Conduct a top-to-bottom inspection before every move-in.
Always, and I mean always, conduct move-in inspections as thoroughly as you did when you took over the property. Use the same app as in tip #1 and take lots of pictures. Remember pictures speak 1,000 words. This is a great way to ensure you and the tenant are on the same page.
And have the same candid conversation with the tenants as you did with the owner about expectations for maintenance of the home and what constitutes acceptable wear and tear.
4. Make six-month inspections for wear and tear part of your routine.
Conduct a regular inspection, every six months, or quarterly if you have the staff. Remember my first blog posts about your value proposition: We have to protect the investment of the owner and the comfort and security of the tenant. These inspections will get you there.
One of the busiest times for us is when we vacate a home and prepare it for a new tenant. If you adopt the same mindset and best practices to regularly tackling wear and tear, you’ll keep the home in tip-top condition and save yourself work in the long run.
5. Encourage tenants to report wear and tear and give them the tools to do it.
We have so many tools today at our fingertips to accomplish this. For example, let your tenants know they can submit work orders online through a tenant portal or to call your dedicated maintenance line. Whatever your system is, give tenants complete and easy access to you and make it clear that they will not be charged for normal wear and tear as defined during the move-in inspection (or in the lease).
And finally, everyday remember to ask yourself, “Am I easy to do business with?” If you are, then there’s no reason you can’t keep wear-and-tear levels under control at all your properties. The results: happy owners, happy tenants, and less frazzled property managers.
How do you deal with wear and tear at your properties? Leave a comment, and share your story.