The 4 Core Tenant Responsibilities Every Landlord Should Know

The 4 Core Tenant Responsibilities Every Landlord Should Know

3 min read
Chris Clothier

Chris Clothier began building his rental portfolio in 2003 as a successful entrepreneur looking to diversify his investments. He quickly gravitated toward passive investing, establishing a portfolio of over 50 single family homes in Memphis, Tenn. As an original client of his family’s firm Memphis Invest (now REI Nation), Chris experienced firsthand what a passive investor endures when purchasing out of state. In 2007, Chris moved his company and family back to Tennessee, wound down his brokering company, and joined REI Nation as a partner and director of sales and marketing.

Experience
Since joining REI Nation, the business has grown into the premier turnkey investment company in the country and a standard bearer for best practices in the industry, managing over 6,000 investment properties for 2,000 passive clients. In addition to managing the development and implementation of sales and marketing processes, Chris serves as an ambassador for the company, working with the team to help potential investors define their purpose for investing in real estate and educating peer companies on best practices.

REI Nation clients’ portfolios hold a value of close to $800 million in single family assets in seven cities. The company has been featured as a six-straight year honoree in Inc. magazine’s list of the 500/5,000 “Fastest Growing Companies in America.”

In 2019, Chris’ team assisted 600 investors with purchasing just under 1,000 fully-renovated and occupied turnkey homes. Chris led the re-brand of his family’s company on January 1, 2020, from Memphis Invest to REI Nation.

Chris is also an experienced real estate speaker and addresses small and large audiences of real estate investors and business professionals nationwide several times each year, including IMN single family conferences, the PM Grow property management conference, and the Ignite conference in Las Vegas each December.

Chris continues to hold a sizable single-family rental portfolio in both Tennessee and Texas. Along with his family, he owns several commercial buildings in the greater Memphis area.

When not working with the team at REI Nation, Chris is busy raising five kids, operating a racing company in Memphis, and serving as CEO for The Cancer Kickers Soccer Club, a Memphis-based 501c3 providing comfort and care for kids battling childhood cancers.

Founded in 2017 by Chris and Michelle Clothier, the non-profit organization focuses on providing a team environment for kids to find encouragement and strength in their battle. The company worked with over 500 children from six countries in 2019.

Press
Chris has been featured in stories published in Money Magazine, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and DN News, as well as the Memphis Business Journal. In 2018, McGraw-Hill Publishing purchased Chris’ manuscript, The Turnkey Revolution, and worked with Chris to publish his first book in May 2018.

Chris also publishes two weekly blogs at ChrisClothier.com and REINation.com. Chris has also published articles on the BiggerPockets Blog since 2009.

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All of us are well-versed in what property management is designed to do for our tenants and our investment properties. When we consider property maintenance, we usually think of those responsibilities: fixing or replacing broken appliances, changing locks and performing major repairs.

At the most basic, core level, owners and managers are required to provide a safe, habitable space for tenants. What this means can vary based on local law, but these standards always involve things like safety, health, and cleanliness. Some tasks, however, don’t necessarily always fall to property management. Your tenants have responsibilities, too. This is where the lines get blurred for many real estate investors who put the wrong responsibilities on the wrong party and then wonder why they can collect for some maintenance from the tenants and not other maintenance.

While they may not be vital to the habitability of the property, there are things tenants have to do. Because those lines can get blurry and cause contention, let me clarify.

Remember that these guidelines are typical and may vary under different legal regulations.

4 Core Tenant Maintenance Responsibilities

Cleanliness & Sanitation

At the top of the list of a tenant’s maintenance responsibilities is simply keeping things clean. Tenants are expected to take out the trash, cut the yard, keep cars off blocks and out of the yard, and keep the property neat — just to name a few basics. That means regular housework: cleaning toilets and countertops, dusting, mopping, vacuuming, mowing, edging and so on. While some mess can be understandable, tenants can’t neglect these basic tasks. Sometimes, they may even be required to take care of cleaning the gutters, though some management companies may offer to do it for an additional fee to the tenant. The same goes for small, regular tasks, like changing air filters and light bulbs.

Related: Are You OVER-Screening Tenants? How Background Checks & Credit Scores Can Fail

When properties aren’t kept clean, they can be a breeding ground for mold and infestations of bugs and vermin. Keep an eye out for warning signs of this kind of neglect, as it can cost owners a lot to fix in the long run. Easy warning signs are visible from the street. Other signs need to be regularly inspected or watched after by a repairman visiting the house for an issue and keeping a keen eye on cleanliness. They then report back to you on the condition and whether there is a need for a bigger inspection.

Reporting Issues in a Timely Manner

Tenants may not be responsible for fixing major property issues, but they’re responsible for reporting them as soon as possible. If they don’t mention a problem (leaking pipes, for instance) to the manager, they may be held liable for additional damages that wouldn’t have happened had the issue been reported and rectified earlier.

It’s vital for the health and condition of your investment property that tenants are actively encouraged to communicate with the property management when an issue arises. While it may be inconvenient at times, leaving a problem unaddressed is far more damaging.

Covering Personal Errors & Accidents

We know that tenants aren’t responsible for covering regular wear and tear. Things get damaged and worn just by virtue of being used, whether that’s the carpet or appliances. Still, that doesn’t mean that you’ll always have to foot the bill. Tenants who cause damages with carelessness are responsible for fixing the damages. That could be anything from cleaning the carpet after a wine spill to replacing a broken window.

Using the Property Properly

We all want and expect tenants to use the property as it was intended and without illegal activity, but we know that unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. If a tenant uses a room, fixture, or appliance in any way that is not within its intended use and it is damaged or broken as a result, they are absolutely liable for those damages. 

Related: Landlords: Forget Being “Nice.” THIS is the Key to a Good Tenant Relationship.

Tips for Owners & Property Managers

  • Value regular inspections. The most sure way to catch a problem is to look for it. Managers shouldn’t neglect routine inspections in case the tenant missed or didn’t report a problem. Inspections also are a chance to see that the tenant is living up to their end of the bargain with their basic maintenance responsibilities. If there are damages, be sure to document them with photographic evidence, just in case.
  • Be diligent with property repairs. Tenants aren’t very incentivized to care for a property if you’re not doing it, either. When a problem is reported, the ball is in your court to see that it gets fixed in a proper and timely manner. A lack of property repairs can impact habitability standards and land you in legal hot water — not to mention the potential to further damage your property.
  • Be clear in your contract. Do your renters know what you expect in terms of tenant maintenance responsibilities? In your lease agreement, ensure that these requirements are clearly defined, particularly when it comes to specifying regular wear and tear and situations in which tenants will be held responsible for damages.

Has a tenant’s failure to properly maintain your property made a negative impact on your investments?

Share your cautionary tales in the comments.