What to do About Foul Odors at Your Rental Property

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Odors at Your Rental Property

Property odors are nothing to sniff at. A foul smell in your rental can be more than simply an embarrassment, it can have an effect on your ROI. If your former tenants’ activities caused the apartment or home to smell, there are some actions you can take to ensure that future tenants won’t turn up their nose at your listing.

How to Get Rid of Odors at Your Rental Property

Few people like a smelly property, but unfortunately, some noses are less sensitive than others. If your former tenants were unhygienic, had pets, or smoked on the premises, there is a chance that you will notice an odor permeating from the dwelling.

Step One: Address the General Move-Out Cleaning

With any tenant-turnover, you will want to thoroughly clean and make needed repairs to get the unit ready for the market. A general unit cleaning will take care of a lot of stenches resulting from debris or unhygienic conditions. 

Step Two:  Identify the Smell and Clean Accordingly

 The first steps to dealing with a specific foul stench? Identity its source. Just like stain removal or other delicate cleaning processes, there are tips and tricks that work best for some types and worse for others. Consider hiring a professional cleaning service to ensure that the unit is properly cleaned and disinfected; professional cleaning can also be beneficial when it comes to removing tough stains or odors. 

How to Get Rid of Rotten Food and Refuse Smells:

Rotten food and other garbage can cause unpleasant odors and pose health issues if left unchecked. Your primary goal when approaching this odor is to eliminate the cause. Remove all refuse and residue from any affected areas, this will have an immediate impact on the odor problem. For mild food odors and mildew, a simple baking soda can be an effective cleaning tool that will be a natural but surprisingly-powerful solution to the mess and stench. It can also be used to brighten white kitchen surfaces. For more substantial odors and sources, you may need to resort to industrial solvents

How to Get Rid of Pet Odor:

Pet odors, particularly stench from cat urine may be the number one reason landlords create no pet policies within rental properties. While there are some useful tricks for dealing with pet odor, you may find that the easiest–and most effective–is to remove and replace soft surfaces within the rental unit. Carpet, in particular, is notorious for holding onto bad odors from pet dander and pet urine and may need to be removed. A blacklight can be used to detect where pet urine stains are located, allowing you to determine if spot treatment or carpet replacement will be the best course of action. 

How to Get Rid of Cigarette Smoke Smells:

Cigarette smoke is one of the more volatile scents to clean as a landlord or property manager. Not only is the odor removal difficult, if it is not accomplished effectively studies have shown that new occupants may be facing risk due to thirdhand smoke. To truly tackle this foul odor at your rental property, you need to do more than simply mask the scent. Remove and replace any soft or removable surfaces. Items like miniblinds, smoke detectors, carpet, draperies and any furniture should all be replaced, if possible. If you have central air, hire a duct cleaning company and change your filters. Walls should be cleaned and repainted, to further reduce smells, consider adding an odor-removing solvent to your paint.

How to Get Rid of Curry Smells or Other Strong Foods and Spices:

The scent of strong foods and spices can linger long after the occupants enjoyed their meal. If your unit has the lasting scent of curry or other spices, you may need a surprisingly robust approach to remove the smell. Another example of a scent that can seep into soft items, if the odor is pervasive after a general cleaning, removing this odor will require replacement of some items or professional-level cleaning. Your response may require an approach similar to cigarette smoke, though thankfully strong food odors do not pose the health risks associated with smoke odors.

How to Address Marijuana Odors:

While your lease may prohibit marijuana in your rental property, with the growing number of states legalizing recreational marijuana, you may find yourself dealing with these odors regardless. Similar to cigarette smoke and strong foods or spices, these odors and oils can permeate soft items within the property making it difficult to remove the scent. Your cleaning and odor eliminating tactics will be similar to that of smoke or spices.

How to Address Smells Caused by Methamphetamines:

If your previous tenant was illegally methamphetamines at your property, you may notice a strong chemical odor that may smell like ammonia or ether. These odors have been compared to the smell of cat urine or rotten eggs. If you suspect that your rental property has been used as a meth house, you will need to have the property tested for contamination and hire a professional cleaning crew. The process of cooking meth can result in toxic combustible residues. It is also imperative that you check your local and state laws to find out about regulations regarding how to handle getting your property suitable to rent again.

 How to Prevent Bad Smells in Your Apartment or Rental

Preventing bad smells in your apartment or rental property requires you to take extra precautions, but it can pay off in the long run. While some preventive measures may involve an up-front investment, you may find it is offset by the time and cost of cleaning your unit during turnover. 

Conduct Routine Inspections:

While it’s not always the case, most long-term odors are a result of lease-breaking behavior. Whether the smells are from irresponsible pet owners, lack of hygene, or the odor in your rental property is the result of smoking or criminal activity (such as illegal drug use), these issues can all be addressed more quickly with routine inspections. A seasonal inspection can give you the opportunity to conduct necessary maintenance and remind tenants of cleaning expectations. It can also provide the opportunity to take note of any suspicious behavior that may indicate illegal activity.

Offer Yearly Cleaning Packages:

Tenant perks and amenities can set your rentals apart from others on the market. Offering free or discounted professional cleaning services (by your maintenance team or your preferred vendor) can be an excellent way to give back to your tenants while at the same time ensuring that years of grime do not accumulate for long-term tenants. Prepping for annual professional cleanings will encourage your less attentive renters to bring their space up to standards, and a regular professional carpet cleaning could save your flooring from additional wear.

 Rethink Your Flooring:

Carpeting is sound-dampening and warming at its best, but it quickly can wear and harbor stains and stenches long before it should be due for replacement. Consider your flooring options before jumping to carpet, vinyl flooring, for example, can be a cost-effective option that will be easily-to-clean and less likely to harbor odors.

Tenant-turnover is always a time-consuming process. Adding removing foul odors to your already extensive list of tasks during turnover can feel overwhelming. Addressing odors at your rental property can be a burden, but it may be the perfect time to plan for preventative measures before you turn the keys over to your rental’s newest occupant.


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