23 Ways You’re Ruining Your Rental Without Even Realizing It

published Oct 22, 2019
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Will you get a full refund? Will you get a sliver of a refund? Will you end up owing even more? Find out in 12 months on a real-life episode of “Security Deposits: How Much Damage Did You Do To Your Rental?”

In all seriousness, though, when it comes to being a good tenant and getting rewarded with your deposit like it’s a prize, you need to strike a balance. Yes, you live there. It’s home. You need to be comfortable! But, there may be some bad habits, lifestyle choices (some are simply unavoidable), or little things that contribute to the wear and tear of your rental and eat up that deposit check.

With that in mind, here are 23 things that could ruin your rental. Avoid some of these mistakes and pitfalls and you could win the grand prize jackpot: Your full deposit back!

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1. Not using a trivet

“I’ve seen countertops that have very noticeable burn marks from a hot pan not put on a trivet,” says New York City real estate agent Rebecca Blacker of Warburg Realty. “That one mistake is detrimental to the entire countertop.”

2. Cleaning your bathtub or sink with harsh chemicals

They can cause the glaze in many bathtubs to erode, Blacker notes. For example, abrasive cleaners such as scouring powders, white vinegar (or any other cleaners with a high acidic content), and steel wool shouldn’t be used on porcelain because they can wear down the surface.

3. Smoking cigarettes indoors

“The odor sticks to carpets and curtains and makes your white ceilings turn yellow,” says Robert Rahmanian, broker with REAL New York. (Here, four more reasons it ruins your home.)

Credit: Apartment Therapy

4. Ignoring a crack in the foundation

If you spot a crack, bring it up with your landlord right away. While small cracks can typically be fixed with a spray or waterproofing paint, others may require costly professional repairs.

5. Putting too many clothes in your washer or dryer

If you’re lucky enough to have these appliances in your unit, check the weight limits so you’re not overloading your washer or dryer.

6. Walking around with shoes on

Though it’s up for debate as to whether you should ask your guests to remove their shoes, too much foot traffic with heavy shoes can ruin carpet.

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7. Forgetting to put felt bottoms on the bottom of furniture

Felt bottoms and furniture sliders can help prevent your floors from getting scratched up, says Jessica Swersey, a real estate agent with Warburg Realty in New York City.

8. Pouring grease down the drain

It congeals and gunks up the pipes. Don’t put your clay mask down the drain, either. Or coffee grains, bones, or stringy vegetables—even if you have a garbage disposal. They wrap around the blades like asparagus or celery.

9. Not drying your dishes before putting them away

Damp dishes and cookware can warp the cabinet’s wood.

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10. Living with pets

We love them, we really do. But, yes, Blacker says, pets can damage some apartment floors by scratching or peeing. (And, my Boston Terrier is a known offender for pawing at vinyl blinds and scratching the door when he wants to sunbathe). 

11. Sleeping on a waterbed

Last we checked, this 1970s trend was possibly trying to mount a comeback. But, if a waterbed leaks, it can cause considerable damage to not just your unit, but the one below you.

12. Not using a shower liner

Yes, a shower mat can absorb some of the moisture, but any additional puddles could warp the linoleum underneath.

Credit: Apartment Therapy

13. Leaving damp towels on the floor

See above!

14. Not keeping on eye on the space heater.

They scare landlords for a reason: If too close to flammable objects or left unattended, they can catch on fire.

15. Ignoring a dripping faucet

The leak could end up causing some considerable water damage.

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16. Cleaning marble with baking soda

Got a fancy rental with marble countertops? Beware of scrubbing with baking soda, as it can wear away at the sealant.

17. Using melamine foam on the wrong surfaces

Melamine foam pads (aka Magic Erasers) are great for erasing away marks on your wall. Just don’t use them on countertops or stainless steel; they’re too abrasive.

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18. Not patching holes where artwork once hung

Grab some spackle and cover up any holes you’ve left behind. Or, if you don’t like too many tasks to do come move-out time, try leaning your art on a mantel or above a credenza. 

19. Using adhesive tape on the walls

Not only can it ruin the drywall, it can also discolor it.

20. Drawing on the walls

Not you! The kids! Get them an easel or art station because this is one of the most common rental damages that occur when you’re renting with kids. 

21. Forgetting items in the storage units or closets

It won’t ruin a rental, per se. But it’s the most common reason why landlords take a portion of your security deposit.

Credit: Apartment Therapy

22. Storing cleaning supplies under your kitchen sink

You actually want to keep this area clear because you don’t want supplies bumping into your pipes and also you’ll be able to notice if there are any potential leaks when the area isn’t cluttered.

23. Not changing HVAC filters

Check with your landlord as to who will be responsible for this task. When this chore goes overlooked, it’s not just energy costs that increase; dirty HVAC filters also potentially damage the heating and cooling systems.

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