Have you started cleaning up a vacant unit only to discover an excess of nail holes in the wall? Have you ever discovered sloppy DIY patch jobs where someone squeezed toothpaste into nail holes hoping you wouldn’t see them? What about finding a soft spot on the wall and discovering the tenant did a bad patch job or stuffed flammable material in the wall behind the hole?
If you’ve been a Houston landlord for a while, you’ve encountered at least one of the above scenarios. There are plenty of things tenants do that drive landlords crazy; excessive holes and bad patch jobs are at the top of that list.
Tenants understandably want to hang photos and art on the wall and if you don’t set limits or prohibit hanging pictures entirely, you’ll end up with extensive damage to your walls.
Repairing holes in drywall is cumbersome
Drywall is easy to repair, but that doesn’t mean you should have to do it all the time. Although most landlords know how to repair drywall, it gets old fast. Filling small nail holes doesn’t take much work, but larger holes require cutting out a bigger hole and replacing the section with new drywall.
If you get tired of fixing drywall and hire a professional, you can expect to pay several hundred dollars in labor in addition to the cheap cost of materials.
When you don’t limit holes, your walls (and your wallet) pay the price
By not limiting the number of holes a tenant can put in the walls with a specific number, you’re asking for trouble. For instance, many landlords use wording in the lease that allows tenants to put a “reasonable number” of nail holes in the walls. This sounds perfectly fine, but a “reasonable number” is subjective. A number your tenant finds reasonable might be excessive to you.
How many nail holes can you fill before getting stressed out? How many fist-sized holes can you patch before you start questioning why you became a landlord? Are you willing to face the day you discover a tenant used masonry nails in the wood trim to hold up a curtain?
If the above scenarios sound stressful, you can ease some of your worries by restricting the number of holes a tenant can put in the walls. To be fair to your tenants, limit nail holes to one hole per wall and prohibit wall-mounted TVs and shelving. That way, tenants can hang enough photos or artwork to make the place look cozy, but they can’t destroy the walls.
Allowing holes encourages bad DIY patch jobs
You never want a tenant to leave a hole in the wall, but it’s inevitable. When it happens, you want that hole to be repaired properly. If you don’t restrict the number of allowable holes in the walls, some tenants will interpret that as a free-for-all to hang everything on the walls.
Tenants who hang a large number of items on the wall might try to fix the holes before they leave so they don’t get charged for repairs. That might sound like a good deal, but unless a tenant is experienced with fixing drywall, it’s probably not going to turn out well. Even if a tenant is experienced, that doesn’t mean they’ll fix your wall the right way.
Prohibit tenants specifically from repairing holes in the wall
Imagine walking into a vacant unit and you find a spot on the wall bubbling out. Your tenant put a fist-sized hole in the wall and tried to fix it, but used too much plaster and had to patch and re-tape the hole a few times. Now you’ve got to undo the bad patch job and have it fixed professionally.
You can avoid this type of scenario by explicitly prohibiting tenants from making repairs to the wall in the lease. It’s a good idea to prohibit tenants from making any kind of repairs, but you should specifically prohibit fixing the walls.
An easy way to add this specific prohibition to your lease is to prohibit any and all repairs and then give examples. Use fixing a hole in the wall as one of your examples of a prohibited repair. The specificity will discourage some tenants from even trying.
Verbalize your policy to new tenants
Tenants know they’re responsible for the damage they cause during their tenancy, but for some reason, many tenants don’t consider nail and screw holes to be damage. Hanging things on the wall is second nature.
When going over the lease with a new tenant, verbally acknowledge the rules about putting holes in the wall to make sure they understand.
Give new tenants some nail-free picture hangers as a gift
Give your tenants nail-free hangers as a housewarming gift to encourage damage-free decorating. Many of these hangers can hold up to 500 pounds, so they’ll support your tenant’s photos and artwork. Some of the best nail-free hangers are made by 3M and are called Sticky Nails.
Make exceptions for tenants with disabilities
Regardless of your hole limits, you’ll need to make exceptions for tenants with disabilities. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, landlords are required to accommodate reasonable requests from disabled tenants. A tenant who needs to move around the unit in a wheelchair might require a wall-mounted television to limit obstacles. In this situation, you’ll need to allow the tenant to install a TV mount on the wall.
Disabled tenants also have the right to make reasonable accommodations for things like installing grab bars on the wall, in the shower, and possibly even a trapeze above their bed. A tenant might even request permission to install wall shelving so they can store personal items near their bed without needing to have bulky furniture.
While you can’t reject a reasonable request, a tenant must make the request before performing the modification. If a tenant requests a modification you’re not sure falls under the scope of “reasonable,” contact an attorney for advice. Don’t try to determine for yourself what’s considered reasonable because your perception might not align with the ADA.
Want to hand over your hole-patching to a property manager? We can help
If you’re tired of repairing holes in the wall and trying to figure out how to get tenants to slow down with the nails, you need a property management company. A property management company will handle all repairs and maintenance for you.