Companion Guide: Rental Property Maintenance Checklist for Landlords

leaking bathroom faucet at rental property

No landlord enjoys paying for maintenance.  Repairs are the largest variable cost when operating rental properties. This is true for single-family homes or large apartment buildings.   Some landlords might tend to hide from these expenses, however we firmly believe staying on top of routine repairs saves money in the long run. Fortunately, we believe you can avoid costly mistakes using a rental property maintenance checklist. We’ve created a sample which you can use as-is or as a starting point in creating your own.

This is the first of our 3-part series on maintenance that needs to be addressed regularly and proactively – especially those that are important but commonly overlooked.

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Preventative steps you can take to avoid plumbing catastrophe

Many landlords list plumbing problems as their most common service calls.  Having an emergency plumber or rooter come out is never convenient or affordable.  Worse yet, the damage water (or sewage!) leaks cause is very expensive and also leads to lost rent revenue if a tenant has to be relocated temporarily. For this reason we believe plumbing should be at the top of every landlord maintenance checklist.

Here are plumbing issues we suggest you monitor regularly:

  1. Water heaters:  Record the installation date of all water heaters and schedule replacement based on the manufacturer’s estimate of lifespan.  These CAN AND DO fail (I’ve had it happen) and can cause huge amounts of damage when they dump water into your building. We strongly suggest adding water heater inspection to your property management maintenance checklist.
  2. Clean main drain & “stack”:  Cleaning main drain lines regularly reduces the chance of having a line back up, potentially flooding your building with sewage and grey water.  High pressure water jetting is the best method because it clears grease and buildup from the entire drain line. It is best to jet-clean from the roof, where the main vent for the building terminates.  If this is not possible or desirable, send a snake down a clean-out, or access the line by removing a toilet. Jetting attachments for a pressure washer and heavy duty snakes are available from Amazon if you’d like to tackle the job on your own.
  3. Scope main drain:  Most rooter companies have cameras they can run down the sewer line in order to video the condition.  The cost of these cameras has come down dramatically and they are now accessible to homeowners and landlords.  Especially with older buildings it is wise to know the condition of the drain line, so that it doesn’t fail suddenly causing damage and disruption.  Old concrete or clay lines have a limited lifespan and failure NEVER happens at an opportune moment!
  4. Bathroom Sinks:  These often clog with hair and soap buildup.  Tenants with long hair that goes down the drain cause clogging most often.  We recommend removing the trap and sink stopper to clear any obstruction between each tenant.   If there is a drain stoppage during the next tenancy we know it is their responsibility and charge them accordingly.  Communicating this expectation at the beginning of a tenancy is best. We first try to clear drains without disassembling the plumbing, using products such as the FlexiSnake.
  5. Leak Detection:  Leaks under the kitchen and bathroom sinks are very common, and often go undetected (or ignored!) by tenants.   Leak detectors that will sound an alarm are now readily available and inexpensive.  “Smart” detectors can even alert a landlord via a phone app.
  6. Leaking fixtures:  Paying for water is a large expense for landlords.   At all turnovers and at every routine inspection, check all fixtures to make sure they are not wasting water.  Look for drips at faucets and showerheads.  For toilets put a few drops of food coloring in the tank and come back 10-15 minutes later.  If the color shows up in the bowl you’ll know water is escaping the tank.  Replacing the flapper and fill valve is easy and fixes most problems.   We recommend using a quality product to avoid future problems.

Garbage Disposal Tip!

Consider removing garbage disposals. (Here is one that’s highly rated if you decide you want to install or replace one.)  We’ve found, due to all manner of misuse and neglect, that they represent one of the most frequent service calls.   Tenants will put all kinds of strange and harmful things down a garbage disposal, often causing clogs that are difficult to bill for.

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Landlord Gurus Takeaway

We chose plumbing as the first topic when thinking about a maintenance checklist for rental property because we believe landlords stand to save the most money and time by staying ahead of these problems. You can read the second part, on security, pest control, and exterior maintenance here. Or the third installment here, on electrical, fire safety, and HVAC. In any case we hope you’ll fill out the form below so we can send you our complete guide on how to avoid costly repairs with a rental property maintenance checklist.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and Landlord Gurus may earn a commission. Our mission remains to provide valuable resources and information that helps landlords manage their rental properties efficiently and profitably. We link to these companies and their products because of their quality, not because of the commission.

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About Eli Secor

Eli Secor, Co-Founder, Landlord Gurus Eli purchased his first rental property at the age of 20, a fourplex in Gold Canyon, Arizona. He was lucky to have the advice of a shrewd real estate investing grandmother, as well as special incentives for first time buyers following the savings and loan meltdown in the late ‘80’s. In 2004 Eli and his wife purchased their first property together, a triplex in Portland, Oregon. The neighborhood was improving, light rail was coming in, and the property needed a significant rehab. They traveled back and forth from their then home in California, improving and managing the property. Eli did a full remodel on the biggest unit, living in the construction zone while doing so. The property has been cashflow positive since day one, and is now worth 3-4 times its original purchase price. Eli has been involved in residential construction since 2001, having remodeled several houses from top to bottom, rehabbed or improved rental units, and built his family’s primary residence. He leverages his knowledge of buildings to improve and maintain rental properties cost and time-effectively. Since 2007 Eli has been managing property in Seattle for family members, and now oversees 20 apartments and 3 commercial spaces. He has a great handyman, who helps make repairs, maintenance, and improvement smooth and easy. Otherwise Eli is a DIY landlord, and single contact for all of his tenants.When Eli isn’t managing rental property he is working on home projects, sailing, mountain biking, skiing, or spending time with friends and family. Once or twice a week Chris and Eli get together to run their dogs, Lola & Peanut. These meetings do double duty as Landlord Gurus planning sessions!Credentials: - BA in History from Whitman College - General Contractor (Ex) - USCG Licensed Captain (UOPV Six-Pack)
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