Over the years one thing that we’ve learned when leasing a Property is that Tenants have wide ranging expectations before they move into a rental. Regardless of whether it’s a single family home, townhome, condo or apartment, you just never know how a Tenant is going to respond to a property that is not BRAND NEW. In this article we will cover some of the most common issues at move-in and try to temper expectations to help those who are getting ready to rent (or rent out) a home.
Professional cleaning the rental property before tenants move-in is an absolute necessity. And when we say professional, we mean, not the landlord, a friend or a random person from craigslist, we mean a true professional detailed clean. There is nothing worse than moving into a home that hasn’t been cleaned, and there is nothing more embarrassing than having Tenants show up to a home that has trash everywhere, dirty toilets, insects in the window sills, and blinds that look like they have been sitting in the desert for a year.
Unfortunately, some Tenants believe that “Professional Clean” means the home should pass a military white glove inspection…and that is just unrealistic. If you think that clean means eating off the floor, then as a Tenant, you should take it upon yourself to reach those goals…but don’t hold a manager or landlord to that standard.
What’s worse, this is where the most issues take place. It’s never over whether the home was actually cleaned or not, it’s always about the level of clean. Tenants and Landlords have to middle ground on reasonable standards of cleaning, and more importantly, all parties have to remember that if the basics are done well (appliances, toilets, sinks, fans, vacuum) then there is enough middle ground for everyone to satisfied and avoid going “nuclear.”
Before handing over the keys to a tenant you should walk through your rental and document the shape and condition the carpet is in, including traffic/wear areas just so they know that what they see is what they get. Because the carpet is not brand new doesn’t mean that you should be jumping up and down saying “I am breaking my lease.”
Professional carpet cleaning is not required before every move-in, but we absolute believe it is a must for every new Tenant. Carpets wear, and it doesn’t make sense to replace them every year, but a professional company should be out at the property (not you renting a steam vac from home depot) to properly shampoo and steam clean the flooring.
A common misconception is that carpet is supposed to be replaced every year, or after every Tenant…and who knows where that folk tale started. But unless the carpet is significantly torn or ripped, creating an actual hazard or liability, there is no law that requires it be changed. Tenants, you have to know that as a prospect, unless you are told in writing that the carpet will be replaced, it is as it is when you signed the rental. But Landlords, you should be budgeting to change your flooring every 3-6 years. Clean carpet or fresh tile (our favorite because it wears less and generally last longer) helps raise the curb appeal of your home and shows the Tenants that you actually take care of your property.
Painting is very similar to carpet…there is no law that says a unit has to be painted before a tenant moves in, unless habitability is effected, which is rare, because it would have to be old paint (pre-1978) that is peeling off the wall.
So Tenants, before you press the “nuclear” button, know that minor nail holes, stains, marks and scratches may not be touched up. The entire home may not be freshly painted… and here is why. Number one, touch up paint makes your walls look like a “checker” board. Even if you have the original paint, after a year, the sheen fades and the “touch up” doesn’t match the rest of the wall. It actually looks worse sometimes than the minor nail hole or scuff. And professionally painting a whole house, even a small condo is very expensive and it’s often difficult to be done in a timely manner (1-2 days). Reality is most of the nail holes and scuffs disappear when you hang your own pictures, and move-in your furniture. If you feel like it’s not good enough, go ahead and conduct a touch up on your own. You may not be reimbursed but you at least you are getting something done.
Landlords, please, use the wisdom to budget and properly repaint your unit as often as necessary. A lot depends on the former Tenants…if they were pigs, guess what, you might not get the 3-4 years you were hoping out of the last paint job. In addition, when possible, use better quality paint, and a higher sheen, which leaves less marks and scuffs (think handprints) and will last longer. Sometimes, you as a landlord may have a willing Tenant, split the cost of a repaint…maybe they handle the labor and you pay for the materials.
Either way, both parties should continue to document the condition of interior walls so there are no he-said she said arguments at move-out. Landlords, unless a Tenant trashes your home, the courts rarely allow you to charge their security deposit to “repaint your entire home.”
Tenants, the landlord will do everything to fix minor issues like bulbs, air filters, blinds, and leaks…but sometimes things get missed. It happens for a plethora of issues ranging from the item not being seen in the walk thru to a contractor just “forgetting” to make the repair. This doesn’t make the home a disaster, in fact the home is probably not much different than when you toured it before signing a lease. Running toilets, sinks and tubs that drain slowly, these are rarely found during inspection and are easy fixes…you don’t even have to bother the landlord and wait for a handyman to replace a bulb, a smoke detector battery or pour some draino down the line.
Landlords, things are going to get missed sometimes, but do everything you can to be reasonable in taking care of your new Tenants. Are you going to fix every little cosmetic item…each case is different. But make a good faith effort to be fast and efficient with repairs. Doing those little extras like caulking the shower, fixing screens, and ensuring all the doors and sliders work well is important to making things go smoothly at moving.
Score Some Points with each other.
Last of all, but most important, if your tenant reports to you that they found missing or broken items in your rental property that should be replaced, and they ask if they can replace those items then deduct the cost from their rent, you should say yes and be willing to let them do this within reason because, tenants who are willing to show that they care about a rental property are the “perfect tenants” (assuming they pay their rent on time) and you should always encourage their initiative when it comes to replacing smaller items themselves because this will also save you the time, money and hassle of having to do that work yourself. Does that mean everything is a negotiation when it comes to repairs…of course not, but when Tenants fix little items that save time and energy, working together to keep the home in good condition is a win-win for all. No matter what, avoid the “nuclear” response when moving into a new property…take a few breaths, prioritize what is a habitability issue (as defined by the law not your opinion) and work together to get things done.
Get Property Management
GoldenWest Management is a residential property management company with offices in San Diego, CA Phoenix, AZ; and Las Vegas, NV. We have spent almost 15 years and conducted several thousand “move-ins” with Tenants and Landlords. If you want experience to make sure that things are done right, contact Goldenwest Management today by calling us toll free at 866-545-5303 or click here to connect with us online.