What to Do About a Messy Lease-Option Tenant

August 31, 2018 by Marty Orefice | Real Estate, Rent to Own

A messy kitchen can attract bugs and rodents into your property.

Normally, landlords expect their tenants to keep their units in good shape. However, when you’re the seller of a rent to own property, you’re caught in the middle of owning and not owning the property. The buyer is in the same boat.

At what point should you step in to stop your tenant from making a mess of the property?

Important Considerations

While the goal of any rent to own situation is to have the buyer purchase, there’s no guarantee of that. You want to ensure that the property is in the best possible shape in case the worst-case scenario happens, and the property is returned to you.

At that point, you won’t want to deal with restoring the property back to its original shape – and you shouldn’t have to either.

You can either give up and hope the security deposit is enough to cover the damages, or you can lay down some ground rules from the very beginning. These rules should not intrude on your tenant’s natural way of life, but they should protect your property from damage.

Take Out the Garbage at Least Once a Week

Trash that’s left out can cause an array of problems for your property.

Unwanted Visitors

First, food that’s left out can attract bugs and rodents, which will cost you money to exterminate. A great way to encourage buyers to take out their trash is informing them that you will not pay for an exterminator.

They need to make sure the property is clean so that there is no need for an exterminator.


Second, some foods tend to leak when they’re put in the trashcan. A trash bag can hold it in for a few days, but after a while, it might give up the fight. If the trash “juices” leak out into the trash can, they could eventually leak out onto the floor. Honestly, very few people actually clean their trash cans.

Food that leaks onto the floor can cause permanent damage to the flooring. It might cause wood to lift, it can stain tiles, etc. It costs a lot to redo flooring, and it’s kind of difficult to make the buyer responsible for redoing it if they ultimately choose not to purchase the home.

When it comes to recyclables, you can let your buyer throw them out on an as-needed basis. Recyclables should not have any oils or liquids from foods on them (i.e. you should wash them before they’re put in the recycling bin). Therefore, recyclables should not attract bugs or rodents to your property, if they’re recycled correctly.

You should do all you can to make this task easy for the buyer. Inform them what days waste management collects garbage and about any local ordinances that affect trash removal.

For example, some areas will not allow you to have a trash can that overflows, put trash into other people’s bins or throw away cardboard boxes without breaking them down.

After you’ve given the buyer all of this information, you should let them know that you will pass all fines from improper waste management over to them. You should also include that in your contract.

Keep Your Pets Under Control

As long as there isn’t a homeowner’s association rule against it, you shouldn’t impose any restrictions on your buyer about having a pet. This place is hopefully going to become your buyer’s home. Telling them they cannot bring their family member with them 100 percent works against that goal.

Nonetheless, you should add an addendum to your contract if the buyer does have pets that stipulates any damages caused by the pet is the buyer’s responsibility to fix prior to inspection or moving out. That way, you cover your bases on repairing damages, but your buyer is still comfortable and happy.

You may also want to ask your buyer for a pet resume before they move in. Encourage them to have the dog trained to use the restroom outside of the property.

They can include that training in their pet’s resume. A pet resume is a great way to have assurances of the pet’s behavior in writing before they move in, in case anything serious happens.

Clean Appliances After Using Them

Your buyer may not know how important it is to clean out the oven after using it. Or they may be unaware about clearing off crumbs and liquids from the stove top. You should inform them of the permanent damages that these things can cause.

It’s important to remind the buyer that these appliances will belong to them once they own the home. They need to care for them properly to avoid having to purchase new ones.

You can recommend YouTube tutorials on cleaning appliances or a monthly maid service that can take handle cleaning for them. They should know that the cost of this is their responsibility.

Additionally, in the long run, they will live a healthier life as a result of taking these extra precautions, in addition to saving money on purchasing new appliances prematurely.

Messy Rent to Own Buyers

Overall, most rent to own buyers will do a good job of caring for your unit because they want to make sure it is in good condition for themselves. Following the tips mentioned above can prevent permanent damage to your unit.

Nonetheless, you need to overlook minor messes, like clothes or toys on the floor. These things will not cause permanent damage to your property and they’re what make this property your tenant’s home.

Dirty Dishes in Sink by CC BY 2.0

Marty Orefice

About The Author

Marty Orefice

Martin Orefice is a real estate investor who has been in the industry for over a decade. He has experience with rent to own deals from all sides—as a buyer, seller and investor. He created RentToOwnLabs.com to provide the #1 resource where people can find information about all things rent to own.

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