It is easy to let your investment home go without small repairs or preventative rental property maintenance from time to time. As a landlord, you are a busy person, and if you have other tasks to tend to besides your rental property, time can easily slip away. You miss one annual checkup, and you think, “I’ll just do it next time.” However, before you know it, you have added a dozen things to your do-it-later list. Putting off small items can cost you ten times more money in the long run if not tended to promptly. To help you make the most of your investment, we have compiled the common types of inspections, detailed rental property maintenance checklist, and tips for communicating with tenants, so you do not miss a thing.
The Importance of Rental Property Inspections
Regular property inspections are vital to the health of your investment. There are four main types that landlords commonly perform. Below we take a look at each one and why it is crucial.
- Move-in Inspection – A detailed walk-through inspection takes place as the tenant takes occupancy. The goal here is to thoroughly document the unit condition and identify any concerns for the tenant. These inspections allow easy comparison to the move out examination to determine possible damages above normal wear and tear.
- Routine Maintenance Inspection – Semi-annual or quarterly property inspections serve many purposes that are beneficial to landlords. By periodically checking in, you can proactively address maintenance concerns, perform preventative repairs, or uncover any lease violations before they damage your property. Whenever intending to inspect your property in person, you must give proper notice to the tenants, typically 24 to 48 hours. The lease agreement should reserve the right to enter or inspect the home with adequate notice.
- Periodic Drive-by Inspection – The upkeep of the outside of your property can shed light on the condition that might be inside. Therefore, a periodic drive-by of the unit is necessary to spot potential issues or even an unauthorized pet.
- Move-out Inspection – The move out inspection determines any damages the tenant may have caused throughout their occupancy. When compared to the move-in inspection, landlords can evaluate what, if any, of the security deposit can be held to address the repairs beyond normal wear and tear. This inspection gives you an idea of the required repairs to complete before renting to new occupants.
Why is Preventative Rental Property Maintenance So Important?
The words “repair” and “expense” are synonymous with a property owner’s mind. While it is true that preventative maintenance does not eliminate the need for repairs, it does save money in the long run. Therefore, any way you can avoid costly emergencies or major system breakdowns is for the better. The goal here is not to have no costs but to evaluate and correct small problems before becoming bigger ones. For example, a little dripping leak may not seem like a pressing matter. However, that leak can cause further damage to drywall, flooring, fixtures, or, if left untreated, could result in devastating mold growth.
Another reason preventive and regular maintenance is essential is to establish a standard of care for your home. If tenants know and see that the house is well kept and handled professionally, they are more apt to respect your property. If, as an owner, you allow issues to go untreated or repairs to be sub-par, why would the tenant go out of their way to care for the home?
Rental Property Preventative Maintenance Checklist
- Change Your HVAC Filters Quarterly
- Turn Off Water to Outside Spigots Every Fall
- Clean Your Gutters Every Autumn
- Remove Leaves from Your Yard Each Fall
- Stain Your Deck and Fence Now and Then
- Power Wash Your Porch and Siding Every Few Years
- Test Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
- Check for Activity that Violates the Lease Agreement
- Drain the Water Heater
- Re-caulk Showers and Bathtubs
Change Your HVAC Filters Quarterly
Your HVAC system accumulates a lot of dust, dirt, dander, and pollen every day. Its filters have a huge job, and if you are not changing them regularly, your HVAC system will become inefficient. By you or the tenants changing your HVAC filters each quarter, you enable the HVAC system to function at the highest level possible, preserving its overall life.
Turn Off Water to Outside Spigots Every Fall
Winter can settle in without warning. We recommend turning the water off that leads to your outdoor spigots every Fall. This prevents water from freezing in the pipes, leading to burst lines when temperatures fall below 32 degrees for extended periods. Broken pipes and leaks are an expensive endeavor that can eat into your budget from many different aspects.
Clean Your Gutters Every Autumn
Gutters begin to accumulate dead leaves as soon as summer changes into Fall. Those filled with debris prevent water from draining off the roof properly. This situation often leads to unexpected water damage because the water that has gathered needs to escape somewhere, often forcing its way underneath shingles or down the side of your house. The result is very costly water damage.
Remove Leaves from Your Yard Each Fall
Some homeowners do not realize the importance of removing leaves from the lawn when trees start to go bare. In fact, dead leaf debris might equal dead grass, too. A buildup of organic matter on your property leads to something called thatch—a thick mat of material that starves your grass’s roots of oxygen and minerals. This results in a lawn that never gets a chance to grow when spring arrives. The cost of redoing your landscaping will be considerably more than the time it takes to rake leaves regularly.
Stain Your Deck and Fence Now and Then
Your home’s wooden features are exposed to sunlight and weather elements all year long. If you have a deck or fencing, they are particularly susceptible to premature aging if not kept protected. Staining these items can preserve the life of the wood by three times as opposed to untreated materials. A quality stain and sealer can help prevent the wood from chipping, peeling, and cracking as it swells and shrinks in hot and cold temperatures. The higher the quality stain you choose for this task, the less frequently you will need to apply a new stain.
Power Wash Your Porch and Siding Every Few Years
Power washing is part of standard maintenance. This removes mold and mildew, which can cause damage beyond the exterior of your home if it continues to grow, finding its way inside of your walls. Additionally, the freshened curb appeal will help attract potential renters and keep your rental looking its best. That said, power washing isn’t for amateurs. Consider hiring professionals because misapplication of the water pressure can wind up splintering and damaging your wood.
Test Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
These devices are required by law and need to be installed close to bedrooms according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Devices should be tested at a minimum once per year to ensure they are in working order.
Check for Activity that Violates the Lease Agreement
A yearly inspection can offer more than just insight into maintenance needs. Unfortunately, some tenants do things they are not supposed to. A thorough walk-through provides an opportunity to ensure that no lease violations are occurring.
Drain the Water Heater
Draining the water heater is another routine step in property maintenance. Over time, a water heater can build up sediment that can clog or damage the unit. So, to extend the life of your unit and ensure it functions appropriately, flushing the water heater once per year (usually before cold weather) is essential.
Re-caulk Showers and Bathtubs
An essential step to preventing possible leaks and mold growth is to inspect caulking and grout. Any cracks or breaks leave the door open for mold to take hold, and water damage is an expensive thing to remedy. Once you notice deterioration in any seams, take the time to re-caulk as needed.
How to Communicate with Tenants Regarding Inspections?
Yes, you are the owner of the property; however, with tenants occupying the home, you are not allowed to enter at will. Most states set boundaries for the required notice landlords must provide, but it is also common courtesy. Typically, 24 to 48 hours is the standard, and terms of entry should be defined clearly in the rental agreement. The only instance in which you can enter without notice would be an emergency such as a burst pipe. If you do not provide documented prior notice to the tenant for standard repairs or inspections, you may be sued by the tenant or even fined by the state jurisdiction.
It is vital to schedule inspections and maintenance with your tenants properly. Notify them using whatever means of contact you have on file. Text messages, emails, or phone calls are the easiest, but you can also post written notice at the home if all else fails. Keeping a professional and friendly line of communication open with your tenants for the duration of their occupancy.
Pro Tip: To learn tips for cultivating a great landlord-tenant relationship, check out our blog.
The truth is it is very easy to overlook preventative rental property maintenance items. Day to day processes can bog down your schedule, and things will inevitably fall by the wayside. Why not let a property manager handle maintenance and inspections for you? At Bay Property Management Group, we strongly feel the value of your home will be optimized when you follow preventative rental property maintenance guidelines. We employ a team of trusted handymen, contractors, and rental property maintenance professionals to ensure our clients’ investment properties are well-cared for all year long. If you are ready to experience a better way to manage your rental property, contact Bay Property Management Group today!