General Landlording & Rental Properties

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Jennifer Torino
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  • Madison, WI
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Rogue tenant tampering with smoke detectors

Jennifer Torino
  • New to Real Estate
  • Madison, WI
Posted Jun 15 2022, 17:54

I have a tenant who just randomly “fixes” stuff without telling me. For example changed out hard wired smoke detector and messed up the ceiling in the process.  I want to keep better tabs on the situation by doing regular walk throughs.  Do I need to specify this in the lease or can I just give the requisite 24 or more hours notice.  

Hartford, Connecticut

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Mike Dymski#3 Investor Psychology Contributor
  • Investor
  • Greenville, SC
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Mike Dymski#3 Investor Psychology Contributor
  • Investor
  • Greenville, SC
Replied Jun 15 2022, 18:02

Give them a couple of days notice...and inspect semiannually...quarterly at the most.  Fix the damage, put it back to original, and bill it back to them, which will be the primary deterrent going forward (along with a conversation about no future property alterations).

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Nathan G.
  • Real Estate Broker
  • Cody, WY
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Nathan G.
  • Real Estate Broker
  • Cody, WY
ModeratorReplied Jun 16 2022, 05:23
Quote from @Jennifer Torino:

I have a tenant who just randomly “fixes” stuff without telling me. For example changed out hard wired smoke detector and messed up the ceiling in the process.  I want to keep better tabs on the situation by doing regular walk throughs.  Do I need to specify this in the lease or can I just give the requisite 24 or more hours notice.  


When tenants are higher-risk, I think once every 3-4 months is necessary. Most tenants will be fine with one inspection per year.

If he's doing repairs incorrectly, you need to stop him. Give written notice that all repairs must be reported to you and that you will handle them. If the tenant does another unauthorized repair, terminate the lease. You could hire someone to correct the repair and charge the tenant, but I get the feeling that wouldn't resolve the problem and would rather get rid of them.

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Dominic A.
  • Property Manager
  • Nova Scotia
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Dominic A.
  • Property Manager
  • Nova Scotia
Replied Jun 16 2022, 09:11

 We started routine semi and quarterly inspections after a similar situation and it's been a great way to stay on top of things and build a better relationship with tenants. It's great if tenants are independent but as you've demonstrated here...it's good that they also know their (and our preferred) limits. I'd give them about a week's notice, usually, it means they'll clean things up in preparation of your arrival...but that doesn't hurt (good idea to check storage areas for junk they might be piling up or storing though).

You don't need to invest out of the gate, but we use an app called Happy Inspector to actually schedule and standardize inspections. I've found it helps to keep everything on track and is a major help if you have any sort of team or division of labour (same inspection no matter who or where it's done). It plugs into Buildium and a few other PM software as well (the app creator has their own maintenance software as well) which makes it easy for record-keeping.

Damage is bad, no matter the intent; they need to know to be careful and cautious. Definitely provide written notice of the concern (a copy of the inspection report is usually the best summary record). 

If you haven't already, it's a good idea to provide a guide of building rules and processes. We have also created a live spreadsheet on Google docs that we update with maintenance rules and expectations (for both the tenant and owner) that can be updated as you go (for when you inevitably encounter something you hadn't even thought of lol). We give the link out as part of the lease signing process and we send it over if we ever get an inquiry from a tenant. Give me a shout if you'd like to learn more about that option, I can also create a "short link" for you that is a bit easier for tenants to remember/use.

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Scott Trench
  • President of BiggerPockets
  • Denver, CO
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Scott Trench
  • President of BiggerPockets
  • Denver, CO
Replied Jun 16 2022, 09:14

This is quite... alarming.

Sorry, couldn't resist. I agree that the best thing to do here is to repair the damages and charge the tenant for the repairs while making it clear that further changes will result in similar charges. This will prevent future tampering with the property. The inspection cadences mentioned by others here are also great calls. 

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Jennifer Torino
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Jennifer Torino
  • New to Real Estate
  • Madison, WI
Replied Jun 19 2022, 07:17

Thanks all…all sound like sound and wise and practical steps to take!!