Landlording & Rental Properties

5 Things to Show Your Tenants About Their New Home (to Save You From Costly Repairs!)

Expertise: Real Estate Investing Basics, Real Estate News & Commentary, Personal Development, Flipping Houses, Landlording & Rental Properties, Personal Finance
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The maintenance and upkeep on your rental property is your responsibility. You are obligated to take care of it and maintain it to habitable standards. But you aren’t there 24/7. Emergencies can pop up at any time — and they can cost you thousands in repairs.

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Your tenants ARE there more frequently than you, and if you aren’t walking them through the entire house before you hand over the keys, make that a habit starting now.

Pointing out those things that are unique to the house can go a long way in helping your tenant adjust to their new home — AND in protecting your investment. Here are 5 things to show your tenants about their new place.

5 Things to Show Your Tenants About Their New Home

#1: How to Perform Emergency Water Shutoff

Water can quickly destroy your home — and kickstart some serious mold growth. Show your tenants exactly how they can turn off the water to any toilet, sink, or appliance that uses water.

Do you know where the main water shutoff valve is located? If you don’t, you need to find it. Once you know where it is, share the location with your tenants, too.

Unless you live right next door to your rental property, how many minutes is it going to take to get there, once the tenant calls? Those precious minutes can be the difference between a wet floor and a destroyed one.

Assuming you have properly screened your tenants, they should want to help you take care of your home. However, if you get resistance from them when you are showing them how to do these things, make sure they know that this protects them, too. It’s their belongings that are going to be ruined if somehow there is water flooding into the house.

In my current house, the water shutoff is located in the crawlspace. But to get to it, I have to weave my way around the water heater and then climb over the furnace. Really, it’s one of the worst setups I’ve ever seen. Not a huge deal since I live there, but no way would I shut off the water if I were a tenant.

Related: Zen & the Art of Property Maintenance: How to Gracefully Handle Tenant Repair Calls

If your main shutoff valve isn’t very easy to access, have a plumber come out and move it so that it IS easy to access. You want to make it easy for your tenants to turn it off.


#2: The Basics of the Electrical Box

Take the time to go through the breaker box and clearly label everything. Label each actual breaker with a number, and label the inside door, identifying each numbered breaker with everything it powers.

Show your tenants exactly how to reset the breaker. Sometimes they get overloaded or have a short. Stress the importance of making sure the outlet is visually OK before going back to the breaker box to reset it. Black scorch marks are a good indicator that they shouldn’t reset that breaker, but should instead notify management that there is an issue.

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Many times, an overload is a one-time thing. Ask them to inform you of any electrical issues that occur more than once. Again, stress the importance of their safety.

#3: How to Shut Off the Gas

If your home has a gas leak, your tenants need to get out IMMEDIATELY. There is no time to mess around with shutting off the gas if they smell a leak. They need to get out first, then call the gas company, then call you.

However, if your home has a gas supply line, it’s a good idea to show them where the whole house shutoff is located. Again, emphasize that they are NOT to do anything with it, that the first thing they should do after getting out of the house is to call the gas company.

#4: What the Water Alarm Is — And How to Work It

One of my neighbors lives on top of an underground lake. OK, maybe not on top of an underground lake, but she definitely has water issues. She’s been dealing with them for four out of the five years she’s lived there. The issues have gotten increasingly worse, and hopefully she has figured them all out.

This last round was significant — she ended up having her floor jackhammered, a french drain placed around the perimeter, then concrete poured back over the drain. The drain tile flows into a double sump pump.

She installed a water alarm, which makes an ear-piercing squeal when water hits it. It actually physically hurts your ears when you get close to it.

If you’ve got an oddly located water heater, a sump in the basement, or any place where water shouldn’t pool, install a water alarm and show your tenants where it is, how to silence it, and what to do if it goes off.



#5: Where to Locate the Guide Book

Point out any quirks about the property. On my own house, you have to pull on the handle when you lock the front door. Certainly not a deal breaker, but it’s helpful to know that. My sliding door sort of bounces open a little if you close it too hard.

(Broken items should be fixed, no question about that. If the toilet handle needs to be jiggled or it will run, then fix it so that doesn’t happen.)

Related: The 10 Most Common Rental Property Repairs (and How to Deal With Them!)

Provide emergency numbers, utility contacts, and basic information about the city in your guide book as well. Noting where the parks are located — both playground types and dog parks — can be very helpful to a new resident.

Making a note of the closest grocery stores, pharmacies, even a great ice cream place will go really far toward tenant relations — and it costs you just about nothing.

Treat your tenants well, and show that you care about your property. Your tenants are your first line of defense when it comes to protecting your home. Make sure they know how to take care of it and what to do in case of emergency.

What things do you show your tenants about their new home?

Let me know with your comments.

Mindy Jensen has been buying and selling homes for more than 20 years. She buys houses, moves in, makes them beautiful, sells them, and starts the process all over again. She is a licensed real est...
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    Julie O. Real Estate Investor from Westminster, Colorado
    Replied over 4 years ago
    These are all important things for a tenant to know, and I always try to show them after the inspection. Reading your awesome article has made me think that I should probably add this as a checklist to the end of the inspection, or maybe a separate form for the tenant to sign saying they’ve noted where all of these things are and how to work them. Seems like the inspection can take so long, they’re impatient to be done and gone by the time it’s over, this will make sure they pay attention. I actually had to have my electrician out to one of my properties once just to flip a breaker.
    Mindy Jensen BiggerPockets Community Manager from Longmont, CO
    Replied over 4 years ago
    Ugh. I can imagine the frustration of paying the bill for the breaker flip. Thanks for reading, Julie!
    Douglas Skipworth Rental Property Investor from Memphis, TN
    Replied over 4 years ago
    Great post, Mindy. The water cutoff and the break box are high our list, too. We also show our residents how to change the filter on the HVAC system. There’s nothing worse than having to replace a dusty system due to neglecting to service the filter. Thanks for the good list!
    margaret smith
    Replied over 4 years ago
    Wonderful truths here, Minday! You could also add pest control info- and materials- for DIY spraying or mouse traps for potential attic issues. I like to discuss the importance of renewing the caulk as needed in a shower before a tiny leak becomes an inside-the-wall mold build up issue- Very costly indeed! I have a tenant who just doubled his water bill for two months- had no idea that a running toilet would cost money (our water is very expensive)- a great tenant, but young and inexperienced in these matters. Info about changing out the AC filters- and providing a year’s supply of the right filter- is a good investment in your AC system, saves on your tenant’s electric bill.
    Mindy Jensen BiggerPockets Community Manager from Longmont, CO
    Replied over 4 years ago
    Thanks, Margaret! I didn’t include the ac/furnace filter change, because I have found that most tenants have no interest in changing them – even if you buy the replacement filters for them! Also, it’s a great way to get into the property to keep an eye on it. “I have to change the furnace filter. I’d like to come by next week. Can you tell me what day/time works for you? Do you need anything else while I’m out there?” You don’t look like you’re checking up on them, but you are able to keep tabs on the property without being intrusive. Plus, you can get a sense of any issues while you’re there. However, everyone has different management styles, and if this is expected of your tenants, AND you let them know, then by all means show them how to do it properly. I would provide filters so they don’t buy the wrong size and try to use them anyway, or worse, just don’t change them at all. You can buy in bulk online, ship right to the property.
    Rick C. Rental Property Investor from Collingswood, NJ
    Replied over 4 years ago
    Great article, Mindy! I especially appreciated the advice about the electrical box and water shutoff valve. Going forward, I am going to do that for my existing buy and hold properties!
    Mindy Jensen BiggerPockets Community Manager from Longmont, CO
    Replied over 4 years ago
    Thanks for reading Rick. Glad to help!
    Don Johnston from Chula Vista, California
    Replied over 4 years ago
    I just had an idea while reading all the posts. Why not buy an inexpensive calendar, one you have already determined they will like. Attach your “guide” to the inside of the back cover and memos to the dates on the calendar for when they should change the a/c vent filters and the smoke detector batteries if you still have the non-ten year battery life type. Add any other important dates they might be interested in or that would be helpful to you to have on the calendar. Just a thought. Thank you for the great tips in this article, Mindy and for you other articles.
    Mindy Jensen BiggerPockets Community Manager from Longmont, CO
    Replied over 4 years ago
    Thanks for reading, Don. This is an excellent tip! And calendars are super cheap about mid January…
    Mary lou L. Investor from Wichita Falls, TX
    Replied over 4 years ago
    As part of our walkthrough checklist I have added this addendum Tenants acknowledge that all smoke detectors and fire extinguishers were tested/displayed in their presence and found to be in working order, and that the testing procedure and how to use was explained to them. Tenants agree to test all smoke detectors at least once a month and to report any problems to Landlord/Manager in writing. Tenants agree to replace all smoke detector batteries as necessary. Location of electrical panel and how to shut off demonstrated. __________ Location of water and how to shut off demonstrated. __________
    Mindy Jensen BiggerPockets Community Manager from Longmont, CO
    Replied over 4 years ago
    Great tips, Mary Lou! Thanks for reading!
    Replied over 4 years ago
    Another great article Mindy! These are all great suggestions on how to take your real estate game to the next level.
    Ashish Patel from Boston, Massachusetts
    Replied over 4 years ago
    A great way to build trust and confidence with your tenants while saving yourself money in the future. Great advice!
    Jerry W. Investor from Thermopolis, Wyoming
    Replied over 4 years ago
    Mindy, Really good article. Thanks for sharing.
    Timothy F.
    Replied over 4 years ago
    A…water alarm? Never heard of such a thing. Ya learn something new everyday.
    Casey Cotter Investor from Columbia Falls, Montana
    Replied over 4 years ago
    A guide book… BRILLIANT! I am definitely adding that to my repertoire. Thanks for the great article and keep them coming.
    David Roberson from San Jose, California
    Replied over 4 years ago
    Nice article. Your advice is precisely what I do with all of my tenants. During the Go-Go late 1990-2000s my wife and I bought multiple properties with no money down – which cost us anywhere from $3000 to $5000 to close. We’ve managed to keep all of them. We now have 22 properties in several states. Moreover I manage 100+ properties for clients in the Silicon Valley. My wife has successfully handled over 650+ transactions for clients in the Silicon Valley.