Author: Alex Delaney
It’s a boring topic, for sure. But preventative maintenance is an important factor in your investment strategy. Ignore it and you set your property up for failure.
We all know happy tenants are long term tenants. Anything we can do to avoid a yearly vacancy and turnover expense is another year in the black. Happy tenants are tenants who receive prompt responses when requesting maintenance or who have no reason to make maintenance requests at all.
Tenants who start off their tenancy having to make reasonable maintenance requests, are tenants who start seeing something wrong at every turn. This starts a vicious cycle of complaints. If their requests are denied, or postponed, they become irate and move, creating expensive turnover costs and empty properties with no income.
So how do you keep your property structurally sound and your tenants happy and satisfied, avoiding continual work orders and vacancies? Preventative maintenance is the key. It is best handled while the property is vacant, and by having yearly inspections.
When a property is vacant, and the turnover has been completed, conduct a quality and control inspection. Note any issues, then rate them according to potential long term damage, impact on comfort and security, and cosmetic. Make sure all lingering issues are resolved and note what cosmetic issues might raise interest in the property. Cosmetic issues can be put aside if funds are needed for more important issues, but it’s good to note if you run into problems renting the property. While cosmetic issues can help market the property, structural issues should receive the bulk of your maintenance dollars.
Likewise, when a property has a current, paying tenant, conduct yearly, or bi-yearly inspections to note any issues that may crop up. This is also a good time to see how the tenant is taking care of the property. As an aside, if you have a long term tenant who takes care of the home and does not make a lot of repair requests, and the property is in good shape, consider increasing your tenant’s satisfaction by putting money into cosmetic fixes such as new countertops or flooring. If the property is being cared for, this will only increase its value should the tenant need to move, but most importantly, it gives your tenant all the more reason to sign that yearly lease renewal. In addition, if you are raising the rent, the tenant will feel better about paying an increase.
So what are the most important preventative issues to handle?
The biggest bang for your maintenance bucks is a solid roof. Roof leaks create some of the largest repair costs. Not only does the roof have to be dealt with, but if not caught in time, it can cause serious structural damage, flooding, mold and potential electrical issues. Check the roof regularly to forestall any problems.
Tree limbs can damage roofs and create a pathway for rodents. Keep trees trimmed away from the roof and electrical wires and remove dead trees quickly.
If a tenant complains of mold, act swiftly. Mold spreads, creating serious structural damage and potential health risks. Mold is the cause of many vacancies and costly remediation. The quicker it is handled, the cheaper the costs. In addition, mold is usually a symptom of another problem, such as a leaking roof or a plumbing issue.
Speaking of plumbing issues, always flush toilets and run water in the tubs and sinks during inspections. Plumbing issues are also a source of expensive repairs if left unchecked.
Schedule yearly maintenance to keep your systems working smoothly. Have a schedule for changing filters and encourage your tenants to do so by sending regular reminders. If they know it cuts down on their utility costs and helps improve air quality, they can become good stewards of your HVAC system. Make sure they know how to change the filter.
Make sure gutters are cleaned and inspected regularly. Clogged gutters can cause water to back up into soffits and roofs, creating leaks that lead to mold. The most important time to clean gutters is after the Fall leaves have fallen.
Smoke & Carbon Detectors
Ensure smoke and carbon detectors are working adequately to avoid potential liability issues. A quick check when coupled with another maintenance issue doesn’t add much to the cost. When your vendor goes to check the HVAC system, have them go ahead and change the batteries. Or send the tenants notices to check the batteries when the time changes in Spring and Fall.
Keeping up with preventative maintenance and dealing with issues as they arise make you the hero in the landlord tenant relationship. Heroes promote goodwill and that goes a long way in the rental business.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the blog are for general informational purposes only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual or on any specific security or investment product. You should not rely upon the material or information on this blog as a basis for making any business, legal or any other decisions. We encourage you to always check with your attorney or professional service provider for all legal questions and matters. The views reflected in the commentary are subject to change at any time without notice.