If you currently own a rental home, you probably already know that tenants typically don't respect your home as much as you do. If you are planning on purchasing a rental home, you will soon learn this fact. This is especially true for lesser expensive, low income, or section 8 homes.
To protect your investment, you should install interior finishes that are nearly indestructible to reduce or eliminate maintenance issues. You may choose to leave the rental home as-is until something breaks, or switch out a few things now to save the hassle of replacing items in the future.
Even if you install lesser expensive finishes that can be replaced without breaking the bank, you still have the hassle to replace and either inconvenience your tenant or be without a tenant while the work is being completed.
Some higher quality and more durable interior finishes cost the same as lower quality finishes, however some cost more but will last much longer and not require constant maintenance, money, time, and headache.
Here is a list of some more durable finish options and low maintenance suggestions that should work well over a long period of time in a rental home.
Carpet is a cheaper option (but not cheap in a larger home), however it easily stains and will need to be replaced every 2-10 years.
Wood and wood-look laminate is sensitive to moisture, so it definitely should not be used in a kitchen, bathroom, near an exterior door, or in a laundry room.
Ceramic or porcelain tile can crack and is nearly impossible to match after 5+ years. If you do install tile, opt for porcelain tile and make sure to have extra tiles in case they need to be replaced in the future.
Slate flooring can be relatively inexpensive compared to other tile, however it often costs a bit more for installation. It is durable and it can be easily matched years later due to the slight variation in each tile.
Laminate (brand name Formica) is typically the cheapest kitchen countertop option, however it can burn, scratch, and chip.
Tile countertops get very dirty in the grout areas. They can crack and be hard to match if a replacement is needed.
Stainless steel is a good solution for kitchen countertops in a rental because it is nearly indestructible, however it can scratch. Look for lesser expensive stainless steel countertops at used restaurant supply stores.
Any light fixtures with a portion that needs to be removed in order to change the light bulb should be avoided in a rental home since a renter might break it.
Light fixtures with glass shades should be avoided since glass is breakable.
Recessed can lights work well because they are hidden and out of the way.
Invest in LED light bulbs that do not need changing for many years, if ever. Luckily, the price of LED light bulbs has gone down greatly over the past few years.
Opt for the most basic appliances because fancier appliances have more things that can break.
Your freezer does not need an ice maker.
Your sink does not need a disposal.
You may not even need a dishwasher or microwave.
Fewer items with moving parts means fewer items that can break and you be called for repairs.
The glossier the paint you use, the easier it is to wipe clean.
Avoid flat paint everywhere in a rental home, except maybe the ceiling.
Use eggshell or semigloss wherever possible.
If you have multiple rental homes, use the same color in all of your homes to make it easy on yourself because you will only need to keep one color of paint around for touch ups.
Replace sheet glass with glass block wherever possible since glass block is nearly impossible to break.
This includes interior glass, exterior glass (where egress is not needed), and shower glass.
Clogged toilets tend to be a common problem in rental homes.
If possible, replace your toilets with no clog toilets to reduce potential service calls from clogged toilets and overflowing toilets as well as the water damage from an overflowing toilet.
If using a shower curtain, supply a shower rod that is bolted to the wall, not a tension rod that can fall and damage something (such as chipping the finish on your tub).
Sliding glass shower doors tend to work better if you are concerned about water getting on the floor (especially important for bathrooms on the upper floors).
Exhaust fans are very important in reducing the moisture in a bathroom to avoid an overgrowth of mold. Excess mold can lead to endless problems that are extremely expensive to remediate.
Put bathroom exhaust fans on the same switch as the light fixture to ensure the exhaust fan is being used whenever the light is turned on.
If your older home's bathrooms do not have an exhaust fan, consider installing one.
Select a bathroom faucet that is very durable, not one that is very pretty but less durable. If shopping online, read every comment and purchase a faucet with the most 5 star ratings.
Consider installing a commercial grid drain to avoid the sink overflowing and things getting stuck in the drain.
Kitchen and Bathroom Cabinets
Install a piece of plywood or some vinyl tile covering the entire bottom of your base cabinet under every sink so the wood or vinyl gets wet when there is a leak, not the cabinet. Replacing the plywood or vinyl tile is very cheap compared to replacing an entire cabinet.
Also consider installing shelf liner (also called contact paper) to your cabinets to protect them from wear and tear. Some shelf liner is actually repositionable and easily removable, which is ideal in case it gets damaged and needs to be replaced.
Towel bars, TP holders, and Clothing Rods
Since people often hang or pull on anything attached to the wall, ensure that everything is securely attached.
Add a large block of wood that is securely fastened to a wall stud behind all towel bars, toilet paper holders, coat hooks, and clothing rods so they won't disconnect from the wall.
Protect Walls from Door Knobs
Use door knob wall shields on all walls that might get hit by a door knob if opened too forcefully. Paint them to match the color of the wall so they are less unattractive.
You can also add a hinge pin door stop to 2 or 3 of each door's hinges, however be careful of the door stop putting a hole in hollow core doors.
Many people who rent homes remove closet doors because they tend to get damaged very often.
Renters can make their own closet door using a grommet topped curtain on a tension rod.
Consider removing extra plants and bushes because minimal landscaping is best for a rental.
Most landscaping should be easily maintainable using only a lawn mower.
Whatever landscaping you have should require minimal pruning and weeding.
If you decide to have seasonal flowers to make the rental home more desirable, add the flowers to a pot instead of the ground for easier maintenance.