How to Prevent your Rental Property from getting Damaged or Ruined?

PropertyGuru Editorial Team
How to Prevent your Rental Property from getting Damaged or Ruined?
Some of us may have read stories about horrible tenants and the severe damages they’ve caused to the rented property as well as the furniture and appliances.
But as a landlord, there are many things you can do to prevent such issues from happening to your prized investment property. These actions may require spending some time or amount of money, but the perks and advantages are huge.
Aside from the things that landlords can do to safeguard their property, which are listed immediately below, the second part of the article tackles what tenants can do to avoid paying too much for damages.

Implement Rigorous Tenant Screening

If you availed the services of a property agent to look for suitable tenants for your HDB flat or private condo, don’t forget to instruct him or her to thoroughly assess the would-be occupant. This is perhaps the most important damage prevention method that a property owner can take.
Doing so ensures that only responsible tenants get to temporarily stay at your investment property, safeguarding it from possible damage caused by neglect and laziness, or wilful disregard for your belongings.

What tenants should I watch out for?

  1. Those with bad credit score and low income. A bad credit score from Credit Bureau Singapore suggest that there’s a plausible chance that the tenant could be late in his or her rental payments or fail to pay the rent. As for income, financial experts say that landlord should only accept occupants, who will only spend up to 30 percent of their monthly income on rent.
  2. Those who were evicted before. While people could be kicked out of the place they had previously leased for various reasons, bear in mind that the most typical reason for eviction is failure to pay rent.
  3. Those with criminal history. Always ask for a copy of “Certificate of No Criminal Conviction” issued by the Singapore Police Force. Don’t entertain those who have committed violent crimes as they could damage your property or endanger you.
  4. Those who show up under the influence of drugs/alcohol. This warns you that the tenant has a propensity to hold parties or bring illicit drugs into your property.
  5. Those with unkempt appearance or dirty car. If would-be occupants neglect their personal hygiene, or the cleanliness of their vehicle, there’s a good chance that they’ll fail to take proper care of your property.
  6. Tenants with pets. While some animals are behaved and people with expensive pets typically have good income, there’s still a risk to renting to such people. Aside from damaging your flooring and furniture, the existence of pets may also dissuade other tenants from renting with you, particularly those who have allergies.

Demand Sufficient Security Deposit

Asking for ample security deposit is not only a good financial move, it will also help protect your investment property. A security deposit is not only intended as a safety fund that will compensate the landlord for damages, but also serves as a vital reminder for occupants to look after and take care of the rented premises.
A high deposit will spur your tenants to properly maintain your property. On the other hand, if you charge a low security deposit, they are likely to be less serious in looking after your property due to the weaker financial repercussions for neglecting it.

Provide a Maintenance Checklist to Tenant

Even a good tenant can sometimes forget about maintaining a property. One common reason for this is that renters, especially first-timers, usually don’t have much experience when it comes to property repairs or basic preventive measures that must be done to pre-empt costly remedial works later. As such, landlords are advised to give their occupants a simple maintenance checklist to remind them of essential maintenance work, like cleaning and replacing the filter to the air-conditioning unit.

Install a Smart Moisture Sensor

Landlords and tenants currently have at their disposal numerous hi-tech gadgets and gizmos to make their lives easier. Among those that can prevent damage to rental premises are smart moisture sensors.
These things can detect the accumulation of water and can be installed in least-used areas that are prone to water damage, such as under the sink. This handy piece of equipment is typically affordable, and will alert the landlord if there is a leakage, averting a potential mishap that occupants may not bother to watch out for.

Check your Property Periodically

Conducting routine inspections of your investment property at least three to four times per annum is a good way of pre-empting minor issues from escalating. Think of it as a medical check-up of your property as you can spot the signs of damages caused by the weather as well as those arising from the building’s old age or the tenant’s negligence.
As much as you attempt to inculcate your tenants to look after the premises and report issues to you as soon as possible, nothing beats seasonal physical visits and inspections. By doing such, you will personally know the current state of your properties and not just solely depend on your occupant’s reports.
Some tenants may lie about damages due to fears over the financial consequences, while others may choose to ignore minor issues and don’t report them to you, unmindful of the ramifications and the benefits of quickly resolving it.
Important: Landlords should take note that they need to inform tenants beforehand that you will be entering the leased room or property as per the signed tenancy agreement.

Invest in Annual Professional Cleaning

Employing professional cleaners at least once per year can still be costly. However, this is a good preventive measure against serious problems caused by unsanitary conditions, like pest infestation and rot, which are substantially more expensive to rectify.
As such, it’s a good idea to consider hiring professional firms to perform a thorough cleaning of your rental property. By doing so, you will not only be spurring your less responsible tenants to meticulously clean their occupied space. You will also prolong the life of your carpet if you engage cleaners that specialise in taking care of such flooring. If shouldering such cost doesn’t appeal to you, consider asking your tenants to split the fees during their annual spring cleaning.

Establish Convenient Ways for Tenant to Report Issues

Always leave your phone number or email address to your tenant, through which they can quickly message or text about issues. Or better, install a smartphone app that alerts you and ask the tenants to do the same. This ensures that even the busiest or laziest lessee can spend a short amount of time to warn you about problems. An easy reporting system can mean the difference between a quickly resolved minor issue and a problem that has taken a turn for the worse.
Moreover, consider communicating with your tenants regularly. A quick text, email message or phone call could prompt an occupant to mention an issue that may otherwise go unreported.

Foster Warm Ties with Tenant

Cultivating a good relationship with your tenant is a foundation to creating a profitable long-term partnership. Upon moving in, be upfront and tell your occupants your expectations and let them know that you’re also thinking of their interest.
Landlords want a stable tenancy without any problems, while tenants want to get back their security deposit. Achieving both is mutually beneficial.
Aside from informing your occupants that you will strive to tackle their problems, try to be compassionate and friendly, even if there was a problem caused by a tenant. This makes you more approachable and lessees are more likely to report issues to you than if you’re a cold and unapproachable property owner.

What tenants can do to avoid paying too much for damages?

If you’re the tenant, at the end of the tenancy period, the landlord needs to return the security deposit to you, provided there is no problem with the rented premises after an inspection by the landlord.
However, it’s not reasonable for the property owner to expect no changes to the space, along with the provided fixture and furniture, after someone resided there for some time.

What does fair wear and tear mean?

As such, the tenancy agreement typically stipulates that the premises must be returned to the landlord close to its original state or condition. In particular, the common phrases used in rental contracts are “fair wear and tear excepted” and “excluding reasonable wear and tear”.
This means that the tenant does not need to pay for damages arising from reasonable usage or normal aging of a property. As such, it is unreasonable for the landlord to ask the tenant to replace a door and wooden furniture just for a few scratches, retile the entire floor due to dirt stain and shoe marks, repaint whole flat due to discoloration and waning of paint.
But unless the tenancy agreement specifies what is reasonable wear and tear, the landlord and lessee may have different views on this. For example, the tenant could consider some slight scratches on the table top as damages caused by fair wear and tear. But the landlord may interpret it differently and charge you over S$500 to do some repair works.

What is the best way to protect your security deposit?

The best way of preventing conflicts over reasonable wear and tear is for tenants to photograph or video the entire rented property upon moving in. We mean everything. The clearer the pictures and the more detailed they are, the better. This way you will have proof upon vacating the property that you are returning it close to its original condition.

How to prevent landlords from overcharging you?

But before moving out and there are really some damages to the property, fixtures or furniture, there’s a good chance that the landlord may charge you more than what they will actually pay for fixing such issues. So instead of letting the landlord do this, we strongly advise that you handle it so you won’t get overcharged.
To further help tenants, we browsed PageAdvisor’s smartphone app and looked up the typical costs of Singapore service providers like plumbers, electrician, upholsterers, carpenters and handymen and listed 10 services and other stuff where you can save a substantial amount of cash.

1. Hire Professionals for General Cleaning

For a typical three-bedroom condo or apartment, even if it’s not too filthy or messy, hiring professional cleaners will cost about S$300. As such, you can save a lot of money if you had regularly taken care of the rented property.

2. Cleaning Mattress of a Queen-size Bed

Before returning the security deposit, the property owner could ask you to clean a dirty mattress or replace it. If it’s just slight discolouration or marks, you can have it cleaned for about $55. However, cleaners will charge you more for more serious stains. In addition, some landlords won’t accept a mattress with significant damages like cigarette burns and tears so be careful with how you sleep. Also, don’t eat or drink on the bed.

3. Cleaning Bare Floor and Carpets

The cost of expert cleaning for bare flooring depends on the size and material to be cleaned, likewise for carpets. For instance, that for wooden floorings is priced from S$25 to S$45 per square meter (psm), while the cost for marble floors is roughly S$2 per square feet (psf). For carpets, the price tag ranges from S$68 to S$280.

4. Cleaning Sofa and Reupholstery

This can get pricey. Cleaning and reupholstering a synthetic leather sofa that can fit one person is priced from S$350. But doing that for a larger sofa made of more expensive materials like genuine leather will cost over S$3,000. Basically, the price mainly depends on the size, design and materials of the sofa.

5. Fixing Furniture damage like Scratches

Always ensure to include a provision on fair wear and tear on your tenancy agreement. That way, the landlord can’t ask you to replace an entire furniture set just because of some minor scratches. But if there are many scratches or minor marks, you can ask a carpenter to touch-up and varnish the furniture for about S$150 to S$200.

6. Replacing Broken Toilet Seat

Replacing a conventional toilet set would set you back around S$70. However, this could increase to over S$200 depending on the brand and specification of the toilet.

7. Engage General Plumbing Services

If there are no complicated works involved that need special apparatuses and no components must be changed, the cost is unlikely to go beyond S$30.
However, the cost for clearing clogged toilets ranges from S $80 to S$300, while fixing water pipe leakage will set you back S$100 to S$350, depending on the length of pipe to be replaced.

8. Hiring a General Handyman

If you need to avail the services of a handyman, please keep in mind that they typically charge a minimum turn-up fee of S$30 to S$50. Therefore, tenants should photograph the thing that needs to be repaired and send it the handyman, or clearly explain the problem by phone and ask for an estimated price. Do this before asking him to come over. You don’t want to pay a turn-up fee, but later back out after hearing the actual price of the service.
Service cost, including the said turn-up fee, starts from S$80 for replacing and installing faucet, to S$150 for setting up a water heater tank. The handyman will also charge you a small fee (about S$30) to replace a light bulb, but this is easy. Just watch Youtube how to do it and don’t forget to turn off the home’s main electrical switch, before changing the light bulb.
For fixing electrical appliances like dryer, washing machine, refrigerator and air-conditioning, the handyman could charge you S$58 and above, depending on the damage, the scope of work and the equipment’s brand.
Important: Some appliances should only be fixed by firms and professionals accredited by that brand.

9. Repainting Entire Flat

This can leave a hole in your wallet. If you want experts to repaint you entire flat, the cost will begin from nearly S$1,000 for a medium-sized condo. The price will mainly depend, on the area to be painted and kind of paint to be utilised. Also, please keep in mind that painters will charge you more if you want the job to be carried out during weekends instead of a weekday.
If you have some experience painting your home, wall or fence, you can save a lot of money on labour, but you still need to spend on the paint and other materials to be used.

10. Removing/transporting Furniture

Some tenants think that they are doing a good deed if they leave behind their furniture. Some occupants also prefer to do this, especially if they live in another country. However, some landlords may charge your security deposit for removing furniture. Please note that movers typically charge S$50 to take away a sofa set or table. But removing larger furniture will cost more.
If you don’t want to get your security deposit reduced, you should first ask your landlord if it’s okay to leave behind furniture you bought, especially good ones. Another option is to sell it or give it away to friends, if you really don’t want to bring along when you leave.
You may also browse our resale HDB flats or private condos for sale or rent. If you want to know about future property hotspots in Singapore that will benefit from ambitious government plans, check our AreaInsider.
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