Normal wear and tear on a unit is... well, normal. Depending on how long the tenant lives within your house or apartment unit, you'll see wear on carpets, on walls, and on appliances. This is all just a part of life in a person's home, but there are certain things you can do to minimize the damage even before you choose your tenant. This will help when it's time to turn the property over. The shorter the turn around period, the better your income.
There are many ways to protect your property, but protecting for beyond-normal wear and tear (even if it's not done maliciously) begins during the advertising/screening process. While certain groups are protected by law that does not mean that you cannot be picky over your next renters. You can't market your rental to 'singles' or 'families without children', of course, but you can make other choices that will help keep your property in better shape.Smokers
Smokers are not currently a protected class. Indoor smoking can cause damage the the paint on the walls and to the carpets and make it difficult to eradicate the smell even after the tenant has moved out. You may be required to paint over nicotine stained walls and do a deeper clean on the unit than you would have with a non smoker. Many landlords are marketing their properties as 'smoke free' now. Smoking will be prohibited inside these units, and you may choose to only accept applicants who do not smoke at all. This will also help with renting the property again when it becomes time, as the new applicants see that your property is smoke free and they don't have to worry about lingering smells.Pets
Unless the applicant is requesting to keep a service animal, a pet is not a protected class. You'll want to put some thought into how you want to approach pets, though, because while they're not protected many renters do own them and you may risk cutting off a significant number of potentially excellent applicants from your pool to choose from. Though some landlords prefer to keep pets out of their property entirely, some choose instead to limit the breed, size, and number of the pets they allow in. Meeting the pet is also an option you may choose to entertain as well. You can tell a great deal about the animal from the meeting, such as how well they behave and listen to the owner. You may also choose to charge a pet deposit and/or pet rent to cover any potential costs associated to the clean up.Irresponsible Tenants
This one is going to be a bit harder to detect, and you won't always be able to pinpoint it. There's a difference in people who live with a bit of disorganization and those that simply do not take care of the property. When a tenant signs a lease with you they are agreeing to take care of the property as their own. They are meant to keep it clean and maintained. There are a couple things you can do to try to catch tenants that might cause real damage to the property before you ever sign the lease with them. The first is to meet them in person. Sit down with them, talk, and discuss what they're looking for. This won't always give you a clear view of their habits, but it might. You may also wish to follow up with their prior landlords. Check and see how they left the last two or three properties that they lived at. Were they left in the same condition as received, save the wear and tear? If so, then there's a better chance they'll take care of your property as well.Regular Property Inspections
Granted, this won't help you catch the problem before you sign the lease, but may help save you money before a small problem grows into a big one. Make sure to abide by your local laws and give your tenant the appropriate amount of warning before dropping by so that you don't encroach on their personal space. You should be able to see any signs if they're not living up to their end of the lease or if there's a small maintenance issue that could do real damage if left unattended. In the end these inspections help both you and your tenant so that the home is safe and secure.