One of your most vital duties as a landlord is to stay on top of property maintenance. Keeping your rental in great shape will preserve its value, minimize the risk of severe damage over time, and provide tenants with a comfortable and safe living environment.
However, property maintenance also demands a sizable investment in time and money. If executed poorly, it can produce more harm than good. In this detailed guide, we’ll outline some tips and strategies for managing maintenance in your rental property.
Pro tips for preventive rental property maintenance
Rental property maintenance is fraught with unpredictability. It’s nearly impossible to anticipate when something will break down. Estimating the amount of money you need to set aside to get the job done can also be challenging.
For these reasons, adopting a preventive maintenance approach for rental maintenance is wise. Preventive maintenance involves detecting, tracking, and resolving issues as early as possible to avoid facing more significant problems down the road. Being proactive will save you plenty of time, money, and stress in the long run as a landlord.
Here is a list of preventive maintenance tips to get you started.
Conduct regular inspections
Conducting periodic inspections is the foundation of successful property maintenance. By establishing an inspection routine and sticking to it, you can spot trouble early and take the appropriate measures to fix an issue before it can escalate. That isn’t to say you’ll never face emergency repair work—only that you can reduce such incidents by addressing them sooner rather than later.
A good rule of thumb is to conduct at least two routine inspections per year, covering every aspect of your property. Older properties or those in poor condition may require more frequent checks.
Remember, you don’t always need to enter the property to see how things are going. You can stop by occasionally to view the exterior, noting things like window damage or excessive garbage piling up in the yard.
Establish a maintenance schedule
Not all maintenance duties require the same level of attention. Depending on the nature of the item, you may need to perform maintenance every week, every month, every quarter, every year, or every year. A detailed checklist will be incredibly helpful for staying organized and up to date with each task.
For example, you’ll likely only need to inspect the furnace and clean the eavestroughs annually. Some areas require frequent upkeep, such as the lint trap in the dryer. However, it’s best to assign your tenants responsibility for everyday tasks. Just don’t forget to do a thorough review of all items, even the mundane ones, during your regular inspection.
Document your property maintenance work
It’s crucial to keep track of all issues affecting your property and document the work performed to address them. Doing so will give you timely knowledge of your rental’s condition, allowing you to budget accurately and prioritize tasks accordingly. You can also better predict the need for large-scale repair work or replacements based on the age and condition of different components of your rental.
Take detailed notes of what you uncover during each inspection. Summarize the results and note any necessary repairs or replacements. Once the work is complete, track what was done, the time it took, the total cost, and any other information you deem valuable.
Standardize your maintenance materials
Decide which tools and materials you’ll use for repairs and maintenance beforehand—and stick to them. That way, you can maintain consistency and avoid planning the same activity from scratch in the future.
Standardizing your maintenance routine is especially beneficial if you own multiple properties of a similar build and style, such as a set of condo units in the same building. For example, by choosing the same color scheme and finish for paint jobs, you’ll save time and money. The same goes for door handles, kitchen cabinets, lighting fixtures, and flooring.
Staying consistent with your repairs and maintenance routine will make renovations more manageable and efficient as well. You’ll know what materials are needed ahead of time and can easily forecast your costs.
Choose the appropriate level of quality
It’s unwise to disregard quality and opt for the cheapest fix when it comes to property maintenance. However, there’s no need to spend a fortune to keep your rental in top shape and satisfy the needs of your tenants.
Remember that a rental property is an investment, not your home away from home. To ensure your rental generates a healthy profit, budget modestly for items that need fixing, restoring, or replacing. Strive for a balance between quality and practicality. When attending to repairs and maintenance, consider the needs of your tenants first and foremost. Prioritize safety, cleanliness, and functional amenities that enhance their well-being.
Tenant-proof your property
Fortifying your rental against the inevitable damage and increased wear and tear is worthwhile. Over time, you’ll spend less time and effort revamping or replacing any worn-out items. This also means your repair and maintenance bills will be far lower, too.
The way to accomplish this is by being savvy with your choice of materials. Opt for durable, easy-to-clean materials that can withstand excessive use over a long period. Avoid those that are delicate and require extensive upkeep. For example, hardwood looks stunning but is prone to damage and expensive to repair. Sturdier materials like laminate are better alternatives.
Preventive vs. reactive property maintenance
Despite your best efforts, rental property upkeep can get chaotic. That’s when you need to act strategically. Keep in mind that not all maintenance issues require equal attention—some are more urgent than others, especially if they pose an immediate danger to your property or tenants.
For example, electrical hazards should be dealt with promptly, given the risk of fire breaking out. Other emergency repairs include burst pipes, major leaks, and a malfunctioning furnace during the winter.
As a landlord, it’s vital to prioritize maintenance issues that can render your property uninhabitable or significantly impair the quality of life for tenants. In doing so, you can avoid steep repair bills, insurance deductibles, and potential lawsuits by attending to these issues promptly.
Key areas to maintain in your rental property
Creating a detailed checklist is the best way to stay organized and deal with maintenance for each rental property. You should generally include the following categories to maintain in your rental:
- Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC)
- Appliance repairs and maintenance
- Structural maintenance
- Exterior and yard maintenance
- Parking areas
- Pest control
- Attic insulation and chimney
Troubleshooting rental maintenance issues
When something in your rental needs fixing or replacing, you have two options: do it yourself or hire a professional. Explore your options below.
Some landlords prefer a hands-on approach when it comes to property maintenance. If this is you, you need to be familiar with identifying and diagnosing a wide range of issues and know how to remedy them step by step. You’ll also need access to various equipment and be able to source parts at competitive prices to keep your costs down.
Choosing the DIY route can be tempting, as you stand to save a lot of money. However, carrying out the work yourself may be frustrating if you lack the proper skills, tools, and time to do the job. You also risk causing irreparable damage to your rental or making the living space inhospitable for your tenant.
Hiring a professional
If you’re uncomfortable doing property maintenance tasks yourself or lack time to do it, you can outsource the work to local vendors. This option is wise, as you’ll benefit from the professionals’ experience. Skilled tradespeople also have the appropriate tools and equipment and will usually source all the materials needed for the job themselves. They can also complete the work with a higher degree of quality and precision.
A significant drawback of enlisting a skilled tradesperson is the higher price tag. In addition, you relinquish control over scheduling and how the job is conducted. Therefore, it’s always essential to get multiple quotes, assess the quality of the work once it’s completed, and follow up with your tenant to ensure they’re happy with the results.
How property maintenance impacts your rental business
Maintenance isn’t simply a chore as a landlord—it’s a direct investment in your property’s integrity and profitability. Failing to keep your rental in good condition can lead to these negative consequences:
Damage brewing in the background will worsen over time, leading to costly repair bills in the long run. Sometimes, the problems can be so severe that you may need to evict your tenant temporarily to perform the necessary restorations. Your property may sit empty for months, resulting in a loss in rental income.
As a landlord, your tenant relies on you to keep the property habitable. This includes handling any issues that arise in a reasonable time frame. No one wants to live in a home with a broken-down fridge, clogged toilets, and cockroaches. Failing to carry out proper rental maintenance can harm a renter’s quality of life, leading to complaints and a refusal to renew their lease.
Tenants who are distressed by your rental’s disrepair will likely move elsewhere as soon as possible. Convincing new residents to take their place may be a formidable task, especially if you’ve developed a poor reputation. Each month that your property sits empty is a direct hit to your bottom line.
Ensuring your property is well maintained is not only necessary for your rental’s success—it’s required by law. While regulations vary from region to region, each jurisdiction has specific building and fire codes, as well as health and safety standards that rental property owners must observe. Violating one or more local ordinances can result in the local housing authority declaring your property unsuitable for habitation, which means your tenant must vacate the premises. You may also incur fines and penalties.
Our final thoughts
Rental maintenance can be tedious and sometimes unpleasant. It’s also another expense that directly reduces your profit margin. But it’s a crucial and unavoidable part of being a successful landlord. Without routine maintenance, you risk extensive damage to your property, prolonged vacancies, and legal trouble with local authorities.
What makes maintenance tasks easily manageable is proper planning with a focus on preventive measures. Establish an inspection routine and maintenance schedule, standardize and document your processes, and focus on fixing the most pressing issues quickly. Tenant-proofing your rental by supporting it with durable materials and hiring professionals to do any repair work outside your expertise are also sound strategies.