Landlords managing a rental may be all too familiar with a tenant’s weekend call or an occasional late-night text informing them that there is a leaky pipe, water is pooling on the floor around the dishwater, or the sink is clogged.
Whether you manage an old house or a relatively new property, we highly recommend creating a list of household and repair professionals, including a plumber. We’ll dive into why it’s essential to have a reliable plumber or plumbing company poised to help if a plumbing emergency occurs.
If you want to compare a good plumbing quote with a bad quote, click here.
Why is having a professional plumber necessary for your rental?
Even handy and skilled property managers are reluctant to try and repair plumbing issues themselves. Indoor plumbing can be risky with inexperienced hands. A lot can go wrong. You don’t want to be responsible for attempting to fix a problem and making it worse.
Here’s some information you’ll need as a landlord and reasons why you would need a professional plumber:
- Repair the water heater if a pipe leaks or bursts
- Toilet clogs
- Clogged sink
- Waterline break
- Dishwasher leaks
- Leaky pipes
As a precaution, you can warn tenants about what not to put down the drains. Food waste in the sink and excessive toilet paper can contribute to plumbing issues. Schedule plumbing contractor visits for annual maintenance, and ask your tenant to report leaky pipes or plumbing-related issues.
How to review a plumbing quote
You’ll come across different types of plumbing estimates as a property manager. A good and trustworthy plumber will charge for their time and materials, such as plumbing fixtures. Their quote should read like a well-organized, itemized receipt.
As you’re reviewing the itemized quote or receipt, look for material markups. There is no rule of thumb regarding what the markup should be in materials, but depending on the size, shipping costs, and the effort it takes to obtain the material, the markup should not exceed 20%. The average profit margin for plumbers is generally 20-35%.
Here is an example of a good plumbing estimate template that should list fair quotes versus one that isn’t as thorough.
Cost estimates must accurately reflect the project, supplies, quantity, and services needed. When reviewing a plumbing estimate, look for the following components to ensure it is a thorough and professional assessment:
- Each line item should have an associated cost
- Each item must clearly describe the proposed work the plumber will complete
- Each line item should include the labor cost, materials, quantity of materials, and hours.
- The estimate should include call-out fees, hourly rates, and travel fees to diagnose problems
When speaking with a plumber, ask these general questions to get an idea of the repair costs:
- What’s your lead time?
- What else should I know if there’s a repair?
- How much do you estimate the repair work will cost?
- What are the timelines/steps for the repair or maintenance?
- What warranties come with your work and can you provide them in writing?
Mac’s Pro Tip: Make sure you shop around. Go to a more expensive, well-established company and compare their quote with one from a more cost-effective company.
Budgeting for plumbing repair jobs
Landlords should expect different pricing models when asking for estimates from experienced plumbers. Plumbing rates will include either a flat rate or an hourly rate. Sometimes, plumbers won’t present an accurate figure until starting the job. If it is a significant job, and the plumber prefers to work under an hourly rate, that is reasonable as long as the plumber provides you with regular updates on the estimated completion time and cost of materials. When budgeting, a fixed flat fee is usually better than paying hourly wages because you know the cost estimate upfront. You can also agree with the contractor to implement billing deadlines based on agreed-upon deliverables.
Here are key considerations for budgeting material and labor costs:
- There’s always an element of uncertainty with construction and indoor plumbing. There could be unexpected and additional work if the walls need to be removed to make plumbing repairs.
- If the plumber charges an hourly rate, ask relevant questions to give you a price range. Learn how many hours the plumber expects to work on the project and provide different scenarios if unexpected issues arise.
- Get multiple quotes and the estimated time of project completion.
You can learn more about rental property renovation with this guide from SingleKey. While inexpensive remodels and plumbing projects are possible, be flexible with your budget for major repairs.
Common plumbing repair issues
There are minor and significant plumbing signs to be aware of in your home. If the drains are clogged or the water pressure changes, it’s a sign that something is wrong with your plumbing.
Significant signs, like musty odors, bulging walls, or sagging and darkened ceilings, could indicate severe mold or an undetected leaking drain line. If you find a sagging ceiling or bulging walls, this may be a sign you have water damage.
If you need emergency plumbing services, research master plumbers beforehand so you have professional resources to contact.
Mac’s Pro Tip: Ask your supplier for recommendations of contractors in the area.
What to look for in a professional plumber
Ensure you look for plumbing companies with experienced qualifications, licensing, and certifications. Does the company have a quick response time, appear organized, and are their quotes reasonable?
Check with your state agency to see if the plumber is licensed and if they’re listed with the Better Business Bureau. Some states require that a plumber has the following types of insurance:
- Worker’s compensation insurance
- Public liability insurance
- Property damage insurance
Reading online reviews is the best way to learn how ethical, experienced, and prompt your plumber is. Landlords can be more discerning when they have more information.
Working with your tenant during repair projects
When plumbing repairs are needed during a tenancy, the landlord must schedule repairs with the tenant, keep them informed of what to expect, and let them know when they should expect the repairs to occur.
If you plan to conduct annual inspections for repairs, ensure you understand the local laws on how often you can conduct inspections.
Here are some landlord tips when scheduling repairs:
- Inform the tenant that you have a plumber and inform them of the necessary repairs.
- Ask the tenant when they will be available to allow the plumber inside the house.
- Meet the plumber the first time they visit the rental to get an estimate of the plumber’s labor and material costs, and ask all your questions.
Providing reviews for a plumbing business
Whether your plumber did a simple drain cleaning job or worked on several major improvement projects, it’s essential to leave online reviews and give the plumber feedback.
First, before you make a payment, ensure the job is complete. The plumber’s costs should closely align with the estimate or quote. Document the before-and-after photos. This way, the process is documented and can be used for insurance claims. If the plumber did an exceptional job, leave a good review online to describe your experience.
FAQ: Plumber costs and what to look for in contractors
The quote should include the extent of the work, the timeline, the labor and material costs, and whether the cost is a fixed flat fee or whether the plumber intends to work hourly for more significant projects.
Hourly rates vary depending on experience level and the contract the landlord has worked out with the plumber. An experienced plumber can charge between $100-$200 per hour.
Calculate the hourly wage and multiply how many hours the plumber expects to work on the job to get an estimate of what the labor costs will be.
Our final thoughts
When you’re faced with plumbing maintenance issues at your rental property, cost and quality become major factors. Research and find an affordable plumber before you run into an emergency repair, and be sure to review plumbing quotes in detail before making a decision on any plumbing work. Learn more tips on how to manage rental maintenance issues, including different methods to prevent maintenance concerns from becoming more serious problems.