Rental properties may be of value as they hold and build equity and certainly are a vehicle for a landlord to have a long term monthly income. However, there is a totally other side to the responsibilities that a landlord must ethically adhere to. Certain expectations to consider:
Almost everything a landlord must consider comes back to the topic of a safe environment. Safety is of the utmost importance and failure to comply with safety regulations can turn a great investment into a nightmare. Some basic safety issues to consider are:
Ensure all doors and windows are free of hazards such as closing properly, broken glass, locks, handles and springs. Note your side and back doors where there may be a drain for rain water. Is it clogged? Has a greenish moss color appeared? If so water may not be draining properly or fast enough in these areas and may need to be cleaned out from debris that has accumulated.
Broken-chipped or cracked outside or inside steps, including the safety railing should be well secured and not loose. (Too often there are no rails at all especially leading to basement areas which are insurance hazards waiting to happen for owners.) Outside decking with fencing and steps should be checked. If home has attic steps be sure to check the bolts are fastened and secured well. (Often with wear and tear they need to be retightened.)
Check all light bulbs, switches and outlets. Outside lighting should be inclusive of this. Considering lights on the outside of your home in front near steps, side, back and or garage area that automatically go on will be safe and energy efficient. Don't forget any lights in closets, attics, appliances such as above or in stoves and refrigerators, utility rooms and basements. Any outlets within 3 feet of water should have a grounded outlet. (Outside, near washers, near bathroom sinks and kitchen sinks)
If you are renting with appliances included it is important to run them or maintain them perhaps with service contracts so they are properly cleaned on a regular basis. Furnace and air condition filters are easy and inexpensive but has the renter been informed to change these often? They will indeed also save them on their utility bills in the long run as well as give longevity to the appliance. Dryer vents should be cleaned out often as well especially in condo units where the vent may be wall to wall with other units. Air condition/heat vents are never given much thought; but if there has been a lot of renovation in the home or many years has lapsed it is a good idea to have a duck cleaning company come in and blow out the venting throughout the home. Don't forget the fireplaces if any. At least every other year depending on its use should have a chimney service performed. Run washer, dishwasher, all sinks, tubs and flush bowls. Any water leaks?
Responsibility lies with owner of private homes and that of HOA for Condo and Co-Ops concerning pest control. Private owners must ensure and keep their property free of any pest by immediately taking action with a licensed exterminator. Secondly the owner is also liable for any possible mold to be properly removed. There are about a hundred different kinds of molds. Some are air born and others are not. Some are seen, some are not and some can be smelt. There are test that licensed specialist can do and certainly this issue can be corrected if taken care of properly. Third be sure you have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. By law they are to be on every level of a home. Lastly lead base paint. This is prevalent in homes built before 1978 but again a safety issue.
Although we hope the former tenant has left our property clean and free of trash this is not always the case. Owners should take note to details such as: rugs - are they clean or soiled? Can it come like brand new if steamed or does it need replacement? Or does it smell, look worn and perhaps frayed? Would I want my children on it? Are the hardwood floors in good shape or are they badly worn? If another family rents will the floors become that much worse? Being penny wise and dollar foolish especially in a rental home is not a good way to go since the family moving in will continue to have normal wear and tear on the floors and they will deteriorate that much more. Are the interiors of the cabinets and appliances clean? Are the kitchen cabinets original? Is the counter top aged? Is it chipped, worn or discolored? Look at stove top and inside. Be sure last year's holiday meal is not still in there all crusted up! Check out the dishwasher and be sure there are not a load of dirty dishes that were forgotten and left behind as well as the drippings of fruit and juice that may have been dried up and brown in the refrigerator! How about your bathrooms? Is your tub chipped and so old that you wouldn't put a child in it to bathe? If it's clean but old and the place has been freshly painted it makes a world of difference. Take a look at the outside and yard of your property. Is it clean and inviting? Does it have nice curb appeal? Would you want to move in?
Insurance & Legal Ramifications
Owners must have insurance on their property and is wise to encourage renter to have insurance as well. Remember that owners have a responsibility to themselves and the renter. For example, if the renter reports no heat from a furnace problem the owner must give immediate attention to it for the tenant's safety as well as the fact pipes might freeze and other issues may arise as a result to it. Faulty repairs or no repairs at all can lead to legal ramifications down the road that certainly neither renter nor landlord would want to face.
Showing The Property
It is usually better practice to show property when the present tenant vacates. In this way entry is available at any time and a check list can be made and attended to. Most people aren't likely to move into a rental after seeing the previous renter in the middle of living there. It just becomes difficult for the potential renter to visualize themselves in the rental with all the distractions.
Time, Patience & You
With time and patience, your chance of renting to a conscientious renter will be greater. The ability to maintain property will earn you good renters with a nice income. Taking the time to clean up the rental space properly is certainly a reflection of you. It also sends a positive message out that you care about your renters. In the end, this will earn you the kind of renters that any landlord would want. These ideal renters maintain the property as best as they can and report anything that needs attention immediately. Take the time to care for your rental space and you will find renters that you will never want to get rid of!