10-05-2016 Tips and Advice

Here are a few great pointers to ensure that tenants are prepared for any situation their home can throw at them.


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.

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.

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.

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.)

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.



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