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How to Handle Foul Odors in Your Rental Property

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Marina Shlomov - Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Ew, what is that smell!? Has that ever been your thought as you do a walk-through in one of your rental properties? It is so easy to turn your nose up and run out. But, the truth is, someone has to live there – which means, as the owner, you need to figure out how to handle the odors. And, by handle, we mean get rid of them!

Nobody wants to rent a stinky property. Let’s repeat that: Nobody wants to rent a stinky property. So, what do you do? How do you get fresh air to return to your rental unit? 

First, it is important to recognize that your tenant may not have left the odors on purpose. In fact, he or she may not have even realized it stunk! Oftentimes, those who live in a certain condition, such as with a smoker or with pets, become neutral to the smell. So, don’t be so quick to point fingers. 

Second, do a thorough cleaning as you normally would after a move-out. Sometimes this is all it takes to remove any unwanted odors – especially if they stem from tenants who were just, well, unhygienic. If necessary, hire a professional cleaning service to do a deep cleaning. 

Odors still there? Determine what the cause of the foul smell is. Then, attack it directly. Here’s a guide to the 4 most common stinky culprits and how you can help it. 

  • Cigarette smoke: Did you know that simply covering the scent of cigarette smoke (which is incredibly hard to do) can put your new tenants at risk thanks to thirdhand smoke? You will need to remove all soft surfaces – and any removable parts – such as blinds, curtains, carpets, smoke detectors, and so on. Hire a duct cleaning service to thoroughly clear out the ventilation system and replace any necessary filters. Don’t simply paint over the walls – clean them first. 
  • Strong food smells: Depending on your tenants’ favorite cuisine, strong odors from food and spices could have permeated the space. Do a deep cleaning of the space – especially the kitchen – and use baking soda. If it still smells, consider removing all soft surfaces from the unit. 
  • Pet odors: Soft surfaces, such as carpets, rugs, and curtains hold smells. Consider removing them from the property. A blacklight can be used to spot check areas to locate urine.
  • Garbage smells: Remove all garbage from the premises. Wipe down all cabinets, countertops, and other surfaces. Empty any left behind food. Baking soda is a great option to use as it is cheap and effective, reducing odors and cutting through grime.

So, how can you reduce the chance of encountering this issue in the future? Consider offering your tenants a cleaning service if they opt to renew their lease, remove carpeting as an option for all your rental properties, and consider scheduling a routine inspection if you incline that there could be a problem. 

Now, go find yourself some fresh air!

Marina-Shlomov-Photo-ThumbnailMarina Shlomov, a managing partner at ALH|Podland Rental Homes Property Management is the author of many articles on Landlording, Property Management, and Real Estate Investing. A residential builder in the state of Georgia since 1999, Marina is an investor herself. Her property management company is intended “For Investors” and “By Investors” for a simple reason – she knows what investors’ goals are and she works hard to reach their goals. In her spare time, Marina likes to spend time with her family, friends, garden, read and travel. Check her out You can find Marina’s articles and comments at @rentalhomesatl on Twitter, on Facebook, Google+, Blogger. and YouTube, Bigger Pockets and REI CLub and LinkedIn.

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