Rental Property Maintenance: Help and Advice For Landlords
Whether you are a first time landlord or an experienced property manager, it is important to be proactive when dealing with maintenance issues at your rental property. Unfortunately, repairs seem to happen at the most inopportune moments. However, there are steps landlords and apartment managers can take in advance to minimize the damages, or even to prevent them from happening in the first place. Ongoing, regular property maintenance and apartment inspections can help landlords prepare for upcoming maintenance work and hire handymen and maintenance service professionals to deal with small issues before they become large problems. If you are a landlord or rental property owner, consider the following property maintenance tips and advice to help protect your investment property from unnecessary damage and repairs:
1. Regular Grounds Inspection
When assessing your property’s condition, make sure to take time to thoroughly inspect the exterior and grounds at regular intervals, such as every quarter, or at the changing of each season. Learn more about Rental Property Maintenance: Exterior Inspections .
If you notice anything out of the ordinary during your regular inspection, it may require a further inspection or getting expert advice from a maintenance professional.
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You will also need to inspect the inside of your property for maintenance needs on a regular basis. Probably the most convenient time to do this is when you have a tenant moving in or moving out. In some cases, if you are a new or first time landlord or recently purchased the property, this may be your first chance to inspect the interior of a particular unit. Even if your tenant is renewing his or her lease for another year, you should still schedule regular annual inspections. Read our apartment inspection guide here.
If you identify any maintenance problems, definitely consider dealing with them as soon as possible. If you are unable to make the repairs yourself as the landlord, enlist the help and advice of your on site resident manager, or if you don’t have one, a trustworthy handyman. There are many specialize in apartment and rental property maintenance services who have experience with the many issues that landlords regularly face.
Communicate with your tenants. You can reach out regularly to your tenants to let you know of any small issues before they become larger problems. If you don’t want to inundate your tenants with too many messages, simple, regular reminders might be all you need.
You can also create an easy notification process for tenants to notify you of problems or to request repairs. This can be a form you give to each of them to send to you, an email with a specific subject line or a text message in a particular format that gets your attention. There are also several online tenant management software solutions that have built-in landlord-tenant messaging systems or maintenance ticket submission forms.
Buildium offers a mobile app that makes it easy to create and file an inspection report while “in the field”. All you need to perform an inspection is your phone or tablet. Sign up for a free trial.
As discussed earlier, many property maintenance issues occur outside your apartment or investment property. If you do regular landscaping at your property, it is important you regularly clear leaves and debris, walkways, and anywhere water might drain or collect. Make sure your landlscaping contractor or gardener communicate with you regularly. If they see anything unusual or potentially harmful to the property, they should notify you immediately with a description of the problem, along with photos.
5. Resident Manager or Property Assistant
If you own a larger apartment building, you may want to consider hiring a part-time on site apartment manager or assistant. The duties of the manager or assistant could include:
- regular grounds inspection, litter pickup and/or cleaning;
- communication with other tenants regarding issues and repairs;
- first responder to any maintenance emergencies
- quick, simple repairs, ie. clogged toilets or leaky faucets, if they have the ability;
- prompt notification and description of problems;
- covering hose bibbs in winter to prevent pipes from freezing
This assistant can be full time or part time, depending on the size of your property. If they are a resident, they can be compensated with a reduction in rent, or some other method both parties agree to.
6. Do It Yourself
Many property owners have already have a variety of maintenance or repair skills. You may possess the knowledge, skill and tools to build a fence, or paint a bedroom, for example. There are several trade-offs to doing DIY maintenance, however. Read our DIY vs. Handyman article to determine if you should do the maintenance yourself.
7. The Importance of a Handyman Relationship
For those of us who are unable to do all the maintenance work on our property by ourselves, finding a good, trustworthy, and reliable handyman (or two) can make all the difference in the world between frustration and relief.
If you can create a trusting relationship your handyman and show that you will give him or her the opportunity to do the work, a good contractor will value the relationship. In turn, it will become easier to contact them and get better responsiveness and service. You may also see reduced costs as the handyman becomes familiar with the property. As this relationship builds, you know you can trust the handyman to charge a reasonable price and prioritize your work. While maintenance issues will never become enjoyable, having a handyman you can count on will at least make it somewhat palatable.
8. Reserve Account
Finally, if you own investment property there will inevitably be maintenance issues and costs. While the above steps can help landlords prepare for and reduce major issues from rearing their ugly head, there will be unexpected maintenance work that must be taken care of. To not get caught off guard, it is recommended that landlords maintain a reserve account to be specifically used for maintenance and capital projects. Rather than spending the entirety of your monthly rental income, it would be wise budget a set amount each month to set aside in your reserve account. If you have prior years’ data, you can estimate how much you need to set aside for maintenance every month. One common rule is about 1% of the property value each year. So for a $480,000 property, save $4800 per year, or $400 per month for property maintenance.
Remember this is just a rough guess. Your actual expenses will likely vary from year to year. However, if you are prepared to handle these when they do come up, you can rest easy knowing it won’t break the bank.
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