Attentive rental property owners make it a point to visit their properties regularly and keep them looking neat and tidy. Clean and tidy properties reflect pride of ownership and encourage tenants to follow suit. It’s not unlike the “broken windows” theory in criminology—broken windows in a neighborhood send the signal that crime and vandalism are tolerated. Likewise, untidy buildings send a signal to tenants that they don’t need to clean up after themselves. However, there are simple things you can do each and every time you visit your properties to keep them looking good and keep your tenants happy.
The nice thing is, you don’t really have to set aside time in your schedule for the sole purpose of ensuring your properties are tidy. You likely already visit your property on a routine basis for any number of reasons—meeting tenants for move-in, checking on repairs, posting notices, placing lockboxes on properties, and so on. So, why not just keep an eye open during your regular routine visits and make a point to fix anything that seems out of place or looks like an eye sore. A good Fort Lauderdale property management company will do this for you, but you can always do it yourself.
Here are a few suggestions of what to look for during routine property visits:
1. Start by checking for trash and debris in the yard. If you see something, pick it up and throw it in the trash. Just don’t forget to keep hand sanitizer or rubber gloves in the car!
2. Look for anything that wouldn’t be considered trash but still creates an impression of disorder or neglect. Examples including cleaning and straightening picnic tables and umbrellas, cleaning out ash from barbecue grills, winding up unraveled hoses, closing gates that may have been left open, and picking up children’s bikes that may have been left lying in the middle of the yard.
3. Make a note of lease violations. Depending on the specific terms of your lease, common examples include cigarette butts around the front door, indoor furniture being used as outdoor furniture (for instance, someone took a chair from the kitchen table and left it sitting on the front porch), and evidence of pets when no pets have been disclosed on the lease.
4. Check for landscaping issues. If you have lawn care and other landscaping vendors servicing the property on a regular basis, then hopefully you won’t find anything major to take issue with. Check for anything that looks like it’s been missed or neglected. Examples include unkempt shrubs, overgrown weeds, weeds in the driveway, grass that looks like it has not been mowed recently, and leaves piling up. Of course, keep in mind that there are some landscaping issues that would not be addressed during a routine landscaping appointment. Things like large branches hanging close to the roof, leaning or unsteady trees, and anything else that could potential create a hazard during a hurricane are items to look for. If you spot any of these, make a note to get someone out to take care of the problem.
5. Check the common areas that might not be readily visible from the street or garden. These would include laundry rooms, storage rooms, electric rooms, shared hallways, etc. Pay special attention to laundry filters, as we find they are regularly overlooked by tenants. Also check that signage in the laundry room has not been removed or vandalized. Another common problem is the use of common areas for unauthorized storage of belongings. Bikes in hallways, boxes in laundry rooms, grills in the parking lot…the list goes on. Sweep the stairs, shake off mats, and generally try to keep common areas clean and orderly.
6. You or your Fort Lauderdale property management company should require your tenants to provide the make, model, and tag of their vehicles. During routine property visits, check the vehicles and parking facilities. Over time, you’ll probably become familiar with the registered vehicles and will be able to easily spot unauthorized vehicles. Perhaps these belong to friends of tenants, but if you suspect they are being parked for extended periods or belong to undisclosed tenants, it could potentially turn into a problem. Something else we often see in South Florida is the unauthorized storage of boats in the parking area. Finally, make sure sufficient parking is available for your tenants and no one is double parked or parked in areas that are not designated parking areas (e.g. the lawn).
If you implement these simple checks during your routine property visits, you’ll find that your properties will start to stay tidy for longer, and you might even find that your maintenance bills go down. Just remember, if you find any major violations or problems that cannot be immediately resolved, make a note, take a photograph, and take the necessary steps to get it fixed promptly. If you’re working with a property management company, a simple call to your property manager should do the trick—another one of the many reasons it’s great to hire a Fort Lauderdale property management company!