Property damage is unavoidable. If you haven’t had to deal with destruction yet, you will at some point in your career.
Some tenants simple aren’t able to avoid harming walls, screens, closet doors, and ceilings. Small holes, scuffs, and scratches beyond normal wear and tear are often caused by carelessness.
For example, a tenant might not watch the walls as he or she moves furniture in and out of the house, and an edge might scrape the wall. Holes in the drywall often result from tenants roughhousing with their kids or in a mishap when swinging a bat or golf club.
It doesn’t really matter why or how a tenant harms your property. Damage is damage, and it can be annoying and costly to address. You should be aware of the potential for tenants to damage your Houston property in the following strange ways.
1. Installing a zipline on the ceiling
It sounds bizarre, but some tenants have installed ziplines inside an apartment they didn’t own. Really, who wouldn’t want a personal zipline?
It’s a fun way to work off some energy and take a break from working or studying hard. It’s also an effective way to damage the ceiling, even if you install one correctly.
Indoor ziplines are popular
It’s not uncommon for wealthy people to install indoor ziplines in their apartments and homes. In 2019, Insider.com published an article that featured a $7 million apartment in New York City that contained a huge slide, a rock wall, and a zipline, among other cool playground toys for the homeowners’ kids.
That sort of thing is not common for renters, fortunately, because it’s not allowed. Unfortunately, some landlords have inspected vacant units and discovered the damaged remains of a zipline installed in (and removed from) the ceiling.
Sometimes, neighbors get tenants evicted after continually reporting strange noises that turn out to be a zipline in use. If you discover a tenant has installed a zipline in your rental unit, don’t hesitate to use their security deposit to fix any damage. One hopes you collected a high enough deposit to cover all of the repairs.
2. Building a secret room under the floor
Another strange way tenants might damage your rental is by building a secret room under the floor. This usually happens in bedrooms, but it’s been done in kitchens and living rooms, too.
Sometimes it sort of makes sense, even though it’s illegal. Certain tenants feel safer with a place to hide that can’t be readily seen or accessed from within the standard living spaces. However, certain tenants may build such rooms to conduct illegal activities.
If you discover a tenant has built a secret room, you may not want to know why. But if you find such a space, you’ll have to deal with the damage to the floor in order to restore your property to its original condition. Worst-case scenario would be that you’ll have to advertise the secret room as a perk.
Secret rooms are more common than you think
People all over the world find secret rooms and hidden passageways in their homes that they were never told about when they bought the property. Some of these rooms turn out to be creepy, but most are fairly normal.
Secret rooms in older buildings might actually be old hiding spaces where entire families would hide during World War II.
A New York woman found a secret room that was almost an entire, separate apartment hidden behind her bathroom mirror. She felt a draft and traced it back to the mirror.
When she investigated the source of the airflow, the mirror moved and she removed it from the wall to reveal a small passageway. She was brave enough to climb through and film the entire adventure, which she posted to TikTok.
We trust your tenants won’t create a hidden room for illegal purposes. But if you happen to encounter this strange situation, you may want to call the police to conduct a formal investigation … just in case.
3. Human waste on the carpet
No landlord likes to deal with animal urine in the carpet. Although dog urine is problematic, cat pee is worse: it can continue to smell terrible even after the area has been professionally cleaned. It almost never comes out of carpet padding.
However, if you discover urine in the carpet, it may not necessarily be from a cat or dog. Sometimes, tenants leave their own bodily fluids (and excrement) behind when they move out.
Elderly people may have accidents on the carpet that can’t be cleaned completely, but that’s typically a small issue. On the other hand, certain tenants have been known to leave their own urine and/or feces on the carpet intentionally before leaving.
This usually happens in an eviction scenario, after the tenant has violated the lease, refused to leave, and compelled the landlord to file a lawsuit. One tenant in New Zealand left black trash bags full of human waste in the house for the landlord to find. That tenant was ordered to pay the landlord $4,684.80 in cleaning-related costs.
It’s a horrific possibility to contemplate, but if it should happen to you, you’ll likely have to replace the entire carpet and padding. The chances of cleaning a carpet fully after such an event are slim.
As with other damage, make sure you pass along to your tenant the full cost to remedy the problem. You may need to attempt a carpet cleaning first, in case your former tenant tries to sue you for the deposit.
Once a judge hears what your former tenant did, however, the court is not likely to rule in that person’s favor.
4. A messy hobby or job
When a tenant pursues a messy hobby or job on the premises and doesn’t protect the carpet or hardwood floors, you could face a big mess to have to clean up. For example, someone might screen print T-shirts in the living room and spill the paints on the carpet.
You could have a tenant who creates batik artwork that entails melting wax . . . and that’s not easy to get out of a carpet.
The best way to prevent this type of situation is to explicitly prohibit home-based businesses in the lease. You can tell your tenants you’re willing to consider granting permission if they propose a home-based business that is unlikely to damage the property.
But an all-out ban is best. When you prohibit home-based businesses, the tenant’s activities will instantly qualify as a lease violation and as legal grounds for an eviction, rather than only a mess you have to clean up.
Don’t want to deal with property damage? We’ll handle it for you
If you don’t want to deal with property damage to your Houston investment property, we can help you by managing all your landlord duties, including maintenance, repairs, and evictions. At Green Residential, we have extensive experience creating strong leases, enforcing lease terms, and taking action against destructive tenants.