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 “What’s that smell?” might be one of the worst questions a potential tenant can ask you as a landlord. In my experience, the showing of the property almost always goes downhill from there. Odors play a major role in our lives, with many of our most impactful memories tied to a specific smell, whether good or bad. I mean who doesn’t love the smell of bacon, fresh baked bread (my mouth just started watering) or a campfire. Those smells instantly transport us to a time or place; that’s the power they have over us. Knowing how powerful odors are should cause landlords to take a deep breath, preferably through the nose, and examine what their policy is regarding smells and obnoxious odors on their properties.

If you are like many landlords, this is probably something you have either overlooked or inadequately addressed with your current and future tenants. While most of us are familiar with a “No Smoking” policy for our properties, with the invention of new types of inhalants and other innovations, it is time to take a deeper look at the three major things to consider as you develop a policy around scents and odors in and on your property.

Create a Rental Criteria- If you don’t already have one, now is the perfect time to start creating a criteria regarding scents and obnoxious odors. You likely have a rule about smoking in the property, but how about even on the property? If you’ve ever been in a public place that allows smoking, you are already familiar with how far and powerfully the smell associated with smoking can travel. Does your criteria include a no vaping in or on the property component?

How about smoking of marijuana? Although you would expect that a “no smoking” policy would cover all types of smoking, you are better off being very thorough and including specifics such as cigarettes, cigars, pipes, vaping and smoking or manufacturing of legal or illegal drugs. Don’t stop there though as other odor causing things like spices, incense, sprays and even candles can cause long-term damage to a property. The more specific you are in your criteria, the better protected your property will be.

Advertise Your Criteria- Now that you have taken the time to develop a criteria, put it to work. In your property advertisements, point out that the property has specific rules regarding scents and obnoxious odors. Then again at the time of showing reemphasize to your potential tenant that you have specific rules for your property and go over them in detail. Lastly, always have a clause in your lease that addresses your rules. Failure to do so can result in the property being damaged by your tenant, creating excessive expenses for you when you have to turn the property. At a minimum you have to repaint, tear out the carpet and pad, clean out ductwork and perform a deep cleaning on all hard surfaces. Eliminate the “I didn’t know” excuse by being specific and thorough in explaining and adhering to your property specific rules.

Know Your Neighbors- As mentioned before, obnoxious odors travel well, including into your rental property’s neighbors’ homes and yards. We always recommend knowing the neighbors of your investment properties as they can serve as an extra set of eyes, ears, and in this case a nose, since they are in daily contact with your property. No one wants the peaceful enjoyment of their property to be destroyed by the offensive odors of a neighbor. Share your contact information with the adjoining neighbors and enlist them in your efforts to maintain the value of your property. At the least they will appreciate having someone to turn to if they see/hear/smell anything and at most they serve as a first line of defense if something that may impact the value of your property is taking place.

Rent Perfect has recently created a “Scent and Obnoxious Smells Clause” that can and should be added to your property lease. This is available at no charge to you; just request it from info@rentperfect.com and we are happy to share.

By creating a rental criteria that addresses odors, advertising and emphasizing it to applicants, and engaging with the neighbors, you are taking the first critical steps to preventing damage to your property and protecting your investment. That way the next time someone enters your property and asks, “what’s that smell?” it’s for the right reasons. Smells like success to me.

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Scot Aubrey is Vice-President of Rent Perfect, a private investigator, and fellow landlord who manages short-term rentals. Subscribe to the weekly Rent Perfect Podcast (available on YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts) to stay up to date on the latest industry news and for expert tips on how to manage your properties.

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