A Landlords Guide to Headache- and Hassle-Free Maintenance
A landlord is required to keep their rental property habitable, meaning that as a landlord, you are responsible for regular as well as emergency maintenance and repairs. Maintenance costs can fluctuate greatly and are one of the more difficult expenses to estimate accurate for your budget. You could find that you’re spending large amounts some months, and possibly nothing others — over time the amounts will average out but it is still important to plan for the possibility of a larger or sudden repair.
We’ve compiled some tips to help you manage and save on these expenses.
Build and Maintain a List of Reputable Vendors
Keep track of the vendors used for issues with your rental property so that you’ll know who to (and not to) call with similar issues in the future. In addition to the cost and quality of repairs, note the contractor’s response time and any comments or concerns expressed by your tenant.
Further, keep track of repair requests and the maintenance that is performed. Not only can you possibly write off the expenses involved in maintaining your property, but the information could prove useful if there are future disputes from your tenant.
Professional property management companies will not only keep records for you, but have an established list of contractors who provide competitive volume pricing and top-notch service.
Use a Professional
Unless your tenant is a licensed contractor, it is not advisable to allow renters to make their own repairs to your property, as they could end up causing additional damage or even injury with poor repair work. Using a professional for maintenance issues will also help ensure the work is done in full and will not continue to be a problem.
The lease for your rental property should clearly state who is responsible for the maintenance and repairs of the property. In general, utilities are cared for by a tenant and most property and structure repairs are cared for by the landlord (with the exception of tenant negligence), but it is still important to list this information.
Some items to consider when listing these responsibilities include:
Lawn care (both mowing and other care)
Lightbulbs (it may seem obvious that this is cared for by the tenant, but some renters can be uncertain about this especially with common or shared areas, and it doesn’t hurt to cover as much as possible)
Damages done to property during rental (broken windows, damages beyond normal wear and tear, etc.)
Appliances (heating, water, fuel and electric systems also)
Maintaining common areas (staircases, hallways, laundry rooms)
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
When your property is rented to a new tenant, complete a walk-through with them and document the current condition of areas that will or could need maintenance. This is also a convenient time to ensure that tenant and landlord maintenance responsibilities are clear and expectations for notice (how to handle emergencies, requiring issues are reported within 24-hours, etc) are set and understood.
Establish a timeframe for additional walk-throughs (eg. yearly) so that you can inspect the property for possible maintenance concerns that have not yet been addressed. Some issues may seem minor to a tenant, and being able to catch these early could save big repair costs down the road.
Keep Up With Preventative Maintenance
There is unfortunately no way to be sure that your tenant is doing everything possible to keep all rented systems in top condition. Air filters for HVAC systems and regular full cleaning of the property and rented appliances can sometimes be neglected. Completing some yearly maintenance items yourself can help ensure that these items are kept in working order. Suggestions for seasonal maintenance can include:
Check for leaks and water damages.
Check and replace batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Pressure wash exterior.
Inspect and change air filters.
Have AC system serviced.
Trim trees and overgrown shrubs that are rubbing against the roof or walls.
Check drains and visibly inspect plumbing.
Recaulk and regrout any areas that have deteriorated.
Check fencing and gates.
Inspect for signs of pest infestation.
Don’t forget to check common areas and shared spaces like elevators and stairwells.
Keep a Budget
A common guideline in real estate is that your maintenance costs should be around 1% of the property’s total value. Having this amount reserved for repairs will help you to make sure any needed repairs can be completed in a timely fashion without taking on the stress of an unexpected expense.
Most renters will understand that things can happen, but they still expect a prompt response and action to fix their issues. Keeping your renter updated regarding when and how (contractor/inspector/etc) the repairs will be made will set realistic expectations. If you’re working with a property manager, verify their required response time, which should be within 24-48 hours for non-emergencies and within an hour for emergencies 24-7. Keep your or your tenant updated. Notify your tenant if there are any changes or special requirements (such as access to the property) that are needed. A happy renter is more likely to renew and take care of your property, and less likely to leave the rental a mess upon vacating.
Regular maintenance can help you catch issues before they become a much bigger problem, but even with regular inspection, unexpected repairs can be necessary and it’s important to be prepared.
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