WOOD FLOORS - How do you educate tenants?

12 Replies

I recently renovated my duplex and refinished the old wood floors. Now I get to turn strangers loose onto my beautiful new floor! (It's still old and somewhat uneven, but it's polished, stained and beautiful!)

What do I need to tell, ask, or educate tenants about? Should I have special provisions in my lease? What would you do? I'd like to minimize the damage done, although, I know, it's a rental. This is probably a B or C class property - older but in a decent neighborhood.

You don't. You cover with lvp or carpet or in my first rental, stain the concrete. It's just the reality of it.


Screen your tenants properly and you will probably not have a problem. Talk to the present landlord and 1 previous landlord to determine if they take care of the property or not. Don't forget to run a credit and criminal report as well. Then, go over the care of wood floors with them, put instructions in the special provisions and have them initial them. Take a lot of photos before they move in. Have your AC guy inspect twice a year when they do the HVAC check ups in spring and fall.

I agree with @Stephen J Davis proper screening of the tenants is number one. Educate them and show them you care about the wood floors. Your worst enemy here is moisture, so yes make sure your HVAC system is working properly and make it clear to the tenant that they notify you of any dramatic changes to the floor or noticeable water damage. But at the end of the day, you must be prepared for the tenant to ruin anything on the property. If you love those floors and don't want to lose them cover them up with LVT or something that doesn't absorb moisture.   

Hope this helps.

I found that very few people read leases, that's why we went back to paper leases and signing in person, because that gives me an opportunity to explain a few things, go over home operation, safety and maintenance.

But still, people don't listen very well (or remember everything I said) - so I leave them with two house warming gifts: Command brand picture hanging strips and quality snap-on felt bottoms for their chairs.

This serves as a physical reminder of what I want them to do: not make holes in the walls and scratches in the floors. 

Picking the right tenant is critically important too. We rent fully updated single family homes in the suburbs of Milwaukee, so can attract nicer applicants, but the interview process is critical and goes well beyond their credit score. My biggest question always is - how well will they take care of the property?

Most people think of the property as an asset and put a lot of effort into finding the right house. But the property does not pay you, the tenant does - which makes the tenant the real asset. So it makes sense to pick with care.

What do I need to tell, ask, or educate tenants about?

90% won't care, so why bother?  They'll wear shoes with rocks inside, won't clean up dirt so they can grind it into the surface and set planters that leak onto the wood floor that you won't see until they leave.

You should've put in something like LVP.  Expecting a renter to care as much as you do may be a fool's errand.

@Carrie Purkeypile

The wood floors will likely take a beating. You will need to avoid renters with large dogs and also all other animals will negatively effect the wood from their water bowls. They will purchase and slide around chairs with metal legs / bottoms. Slide “whatever “ across them, and generally not really think to much about what it costed (or will cost you to fix). Have in your lease a provision about significant wood damage (gauges, deep scratches, water damage, etc) and plan (and budget) for eventual resurfacing (about $2 per square foot) which will require restaining and lacquer) or if your lucky, a “screen and coat” where they just rough up the surface lacquer (with a screen like sander attachment) and re- coat with lacquer only which is a bit cheaper . I found that my hardwoods would go without either treatment for 2 or 3 turnovers (1-2 yr tenants) but would need complete redoing after one long term renter (>5 yrs)

You can let the tenants know how much you would appreciate them keeping the floors in good shape...but at the end of the day its a rental.  Personally - I would put more emphasis on finding the next deal instead of worrying about the floors :)

@Carrie Purkeypile

I’m going to second providing some felt tabs along with education and good screening. Especially tell them about how much wood floors hate pet urging and direct contact with potted plants.

I’ve had pretty good results with this overall.

Unfortunately, over time there will be more damage from tenants than if it was your house though-just part of the game I guess


@Carrie Purkeypile

Yes put it in the lease. Area rugs over high traffic areas. Cleaning with a slightly damp rag of dish soap and water. No cleaning products! Budget for a light buff and recoat every 2-3 years. 

@Carrie Purkeypile the first step is to release all emotional connection to the floors because if they mess them up...you will be upset. Give tips and whenever you enter the home for repairs or issues, quickly asses them to see how they’re maintaining.

Your first line of defense is to make sure you have a very thick top coat on your floor.  I also watched video there other day where a landlord said he used a triple coat top layer on his floors but did not stain them,  then when there was a scratch he could just reapply the top coat material and the color would not be off.