Over the life of an investment property, flooring can be a minor or major maintenance issue and expense. Much of the time, it is minor. Sometimes it becomes a gray area.
Many times, you can prolong the necessity of replacement by using a reputable contractor to repair the areas in question or even possibly replace a damaged area if suitable materials are available. However, when the decision to repair or replace is cloudy, it may be a wiser choice to move on to replacement.
When it's Time to Replace Flooring
Sometimes it just becomes a necessity to replace flooring. There are various reasons for having to take this step and they are all related to an investor's bottom line.
The flooring becomes unsafe and is a habitability issue; this is the most important reason for replacement. Exposed tacks, dangerous holes, open seams, rips or tears, damaged stairs or runners, and mold are some of the most common problems. If these or other conditions occur, it is best to act quickly to avoid any other issues. Keeping flooring that is uninhabitable and unsafe can lead to unnecessary legal expense and it is much less costly to just replace it.
The flooring may just not be suitable. For example, the previous owner put a very white or pale carpet throughout the property, including the bathrooms. Maintenance of unsuitable flooring becomes difficult to control when the property becomes a rental unit, and it is not a reasonable expectation that everyone will remove their shoes, or not drop anything. No one can police this situation. In addition, you cannot violate Fair Housing laws by saying no to children or service animals. It may simply be more practical to change out the flooring in question.
The flooring is preventing the property from renting. It is important to remember that although an older carpet or linoleum is still serviceable, if it is turning away prospective tenants, it can be costly. It may be the color or the overall appearance. Well-qualified tenants want to live in clean updated properties. It may be time to stand back and look at the flooring objectively. One question to ask is, "if I were renting, would I want to live with this flooring?" Another would be, "how much must I drop the rent to occupy the property?" Two months of lost rent may pay for a large part or all of the flooring replacement - taking the time to pencil out projected income loss can help.
The flooring has been damaged by previous tenants. Unfortunately, it happens and there is no way to know when a tenant is going to cause damage. They may have paid their rent and kept the property in reasonable condition but they were not careful in their treatment of the flooring. Just ask the same questions - would you want a vacancy loss or possible liability? Would you want to live with patched linoleum or ugly stains in the carpet? Instead, collect the security deposit if applicable; investigate your insurance to see if your coverage will help offset the damages; change the flooring; and move on to more suitable tenants.
Doing it Right
Once you make the decision for replacement, make sensible choices in any new flooring. Avoid cheap products unless you want a short life for the new flooring. For example, extremely cheap linoleum in a bathroom or kitchen is prone to ripping and damage. Choose flooring that is attractive but neutral to work with all types of furniture and living styles. Don't chase down a fire sale and put in another unsuitable material. Consider choices that will reduce the possibility of damage. For example, choose laminate flooring rather than hardwood materials that will easily dent and scratch.
As your property management company, we are here to assist you in making the best choices for your investment. When flooring becomes a maintenance issue, we will contact you and help your with your decisions. We have the experience with what will work in repairing or replacing flooring.