Keeping up with rental property maintenance is about more than just keeping the property looking great. Property maintenance for landlords is an essential part of fostering a great landlord-tenant relationship. In addition, regular preventative measures help to avoid more costly repairs down the line. Today we take an in-depth look at the types of rental maintenance, how to plan for it, and some essential rental maintenance checklists to stay on track!
How to Budget for Rental Property Maintenance
Whether it is preventative property maintenance for landlords, routine repairs, or emergency disasters, owners must prepare for various expenses. Unfortunately, the time to plan is not once the damage has occurred but before an issue arises. However, anticipating expenses and how much you may need is not always straightforward. That said, there are a few options owners can rely on to help estimate potential maintenance costs.
- The 50% Rule – This 50% formula theorizes that total operational costs should equal about half of the total rental income. Operating costs encompass repairs and maintenance as well as taxes, insurance, and administrative needs.
- The 1% Rule – The 1% rule helps owners plan by assuming that annual maintenance costs could add up to at least 1% of the property’s value. Therefore, if the property value is $150,000, an owner can expect to spend around $1,500 in annual maintenance.
- The Square Footage Rule – Generally, expect to pay a minimum of around $1 per square foot in annual maintenance needs. So, for a 1,000 square foot rental unit, estimated maintenance costs should be approximately $1,000.
While the above formulas only estimate expenses, they are quite helpful to landlords. Keep in mind; actual rental maintenance can depend on many factors such as the age of the home, the age of appliances, and current condition. So, when planning for unexpected repair bills, err on the side of caution and plan extra savings.
Types of Property Maintenance for Landlords
Property maintenance for landlords involves more than responding to emergency repair calls. Therefore, understanding specific maintenance needs is essential. So, to best plan for potential needs, let’s review the different types of property maintenance for landlords below –
Routine Preventive Maintenance
The goal of preventative maintenance is just that, to prevent potentially costly and damaging repairs. Therefore, keeping major systems running at peak performance is essential. Check out our list of common routine property maintenance for landlords below –
- Change the HVAC Filters Quarterly – Repairs to a property’s HVAC system can be some of the costliest for landlords. Over time, systems can accumulate dust, dirt, pollen, and pet dander, clogging up the internal filters and diminishing air quality. So, ensure you or your tenants change the filter at least once every 3 months.
- Test Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors – Emergency alert devices are essential for safety but also to comply with local building code. However, if they are not functioning properly, they are no help to anyone. So, per the manufacturer’s instructions, test devices a minimum of once per year to ensure they are in working order.
- Re-caulk Showers and Bathtubs – To prevent costly repairs, it is essential to inspect caulking and grout at each property turnover. If any deterioration in the seams is found, water can infiltrate and cause damage or promote dangerous mold growth. Therefore, recalk as needed to maintain a proper water barrier.
- Drain the Water Heater – Property maintenance for landlords includes some lesser-known tasks such as periodically draining the water heater. But did you know that sediment can build up over time and clog or damage the unit? To ensure the unit functions appropriately, flush the water heater each year before cold weather hits.
- Perform Inspections – Yearly inspections offer insight into maintenance needs and lease compliance. In addition, a semi-annual walk-through provides an opportunity to ensure that no maintenance concerns go unaddressed.
Seasonal property maintenance for landlords may vary based on the property’s location. However, whatever season you experience, there is surely something to do in and around the rental property to help limit costly repairs or damage. Check out some of the most common seasonal maintenance tasks any landlord should add to their list below.
Fall/Winter Property Maintenance for Landlords
- Inspect Pipes – Help prevent frozen pipes by ensuring tenants know the warning signs, steps to take in an emergency, and how to prevent frozen pipe conditions. For exposed pipes or in high-risk areas, consider installing pipe insulation for added peace of mind.
- Look for Water Damage – Check for any leaking pipes under cabinets, around water heaters, or in the basement. Also, do not forget to check around doors or windows!
- Reverse Ceiling Fans – If you have ceiling fans, reversing the direction can improve energy efficiency. Thus, forcing warm air back down into the room and more effectively regulating the room temperature.
- Prevent Rodent Infiltration – Colder weather brings rodents. So, seal up any holes or entry points around the exterior.
- Inspect the Roof – Remove any debris and inspect the surface for signs of damage, missing shingles, or leaks.
- Clean the Gutters – Leaves can quickly build up and clog gutters, leading to improper drainage. So, before the weather brings snow and ice, take time to remove any debris.
- Winterize Outdoor Spigots and Hookups – Cold temperatures can cause pipes and fittings to freeze and crack. So, disconnect, drain, and properly store outside hookups and hoses. Then, turn off the outdoor water supply and ensure no water remains in the pipes.
- Chimney Cleaning – If your rental has a fireplace, have a professional inspect and clean chimneys before any seasonal use.
- Plan for Snow Removal – If the tenant is not responsible for snow and ice removal per the lease, plan to handle this early. Secure a snow removal contract with a reputable company early because they book up quickly once winter hits.
Spring/Summer Property Maintenance for Landlords
- Inspect the roof and repair areas of concern immediately.
- Replace or repair damaged window screens
- Inspect door and window locks to maintain security
- Clean exterior vents and remove any outside debris or obstructions
- Inspect and clean out gutters and ensure water drains away from the foundation
- Test the thermostat and schedule a qualified technician to service the HVAC system
- Test all emergency alarm systems (smoke and carbon monoxide detectors)
- Inspect the attic for signs of roof leaks, evidence of mold, or any openings where pests could infiltrate
- Check basement to ensure proper ventilation and consider installing a dehumidifier if needed
- Inspect pipes and connections and verify there are no “sweaty pipes.”
Landscaping and Exterior Maintenance
Outdoor maintenance will vary depending on the terms of the lease and the specific needs of the property. However, landlords and tenants will likely share some responsibilities. Typically, tenants may be responsible for lawn cutting, while landlords address larger tasks. Let’s look at more property maintenance for landlords below –
- Inspect the Exterior – Exterior pathways, patios, stairs, and decks can become damaged and disrupt a property’s curb appeal. So, ensure surfaces are in good condition and safe for tenant use.
- Prune Trees and Bushes – Wind and ice can bring down limbs onto the roof or yard. So, inspect trees for dead spots and hire professionals to remove or prune large trees when needed.
- Power Wash and Stain Your Deck – A property’s wooden features are exposed to the elements all year long. Therefore, power wash decks as well as sidewalks, siding, and any areas with dirt or algae accumulation. If the decking is starting to wear, use a quality stain and sealer to prevent the wood from chipping, peeling, and cracking.
- Take Care of the Lawn – As spring approaches, address any discoloration or dead areas in the lawn. This may require reseeding or replacing the area with new sod. Additionally, aeration is essential for grass growth and improving drainage during the wetter spring and summer months.
- Boost Curb Appeal – Curb appeal is essential to attracting quality tenants. That said, evaluate landscaping as you turn over the property and consider adding some pops of color, greenery, or low-maintenance perennial plants that will come back strong year after year.
Property turnover is the process of readying the home for a new tenant after the previous lease ends. Using detailed move-in and move-out inspections, landlords can determine what maintenance is needed and if the tenants caused any damage. While the property turnover process will vary for each unit, some property maintenance for landlords will remain the same. Check out these common property turnover steps below –
- Change the Locks – Once the tenant vacates and returns all keys, landlords should rekey all locks.
- Service Major Systems – Appliances and major systems need routine maintenance to extend their life as much as you can. So, hire a qualified vendor to service, repair, or replace appliances or equipment.
- Complete Repairs – Based on what the move-out inspection reveals, landlords must complete any necessary repairs. This may include replacing burned-out lightbulbs, replacing HVAC filters, inspecting for leaks, and verifying emergency detector function.
- Repair and Paint Walls – Use patch compound to repair any holes and sand down before touching up paint. Choose a durable and neutral colored paint for the best results.
- Replace or Deep Clean Carpets – Carpeting in a rental property can become dirty, worn, and stained. Additionally, carpet traps dirt and allergens, so it is important to deep clean carpeted areas between each tenant.
- Professional Cleaning – Presenting a clean rental property to your new tenant is essential. While landlords can tackle this alone, hiring a professional cleaning company will produce a more efficient and thorough result.
Maintenance issues do not care if you are asleep, attending a wedding, on vacation, or busy working. But, when disaster strikes, tenants need to get ahold of someone who can quickly take action. Whether it is a broken-down water heater, gas leak, unsecured entry, or burst pipe, these issues require immediate attention.
Therefore, having the right processes in place to handle emergencies is critical. So, to ensure owners can handle any emergency that comes their way, follow along with the tips below.
- Be Reachable – An owner or their representative must be reachable in the event of an emergency. Therefore, hiring a qualified property manager with 24/7 assistance will help handle those late-night calls.
- Know Your Responsibilities as the Landlord – Landlords must differentiate between an immediate need and what can wait. For example, emergency repairs threaten the occupant’s health or safety or could cause extensive damage to the property. Thus, immediate action is critical. However, if the repair is not an emergency, follow standard maintenance procedures and address the issue within 24 to 48 hours.
- Provide Instructions and Emergency Contacts – When disaster strike, tenants need to know who to call and what to do. Therefore, provide written maintenance instructions along with emergency services numbers such as police, fire, and utility services.
- Keep Communication Lines Open – Responding to an emergency requires quick action. That said, landlords must keep in consistent contact with tenants and inform them of any questions, progress, or developments until the issue is resolved or immediate threat is diminished.
- Establish Documentation – Emergency repairs do not always come through typical channels. Therefore, there may not be a standard paper trail. So, landlords must be sure to documents the initial complaint, relevant actions, and any communications involved in addressing the repair.
Leave Property Maintenance for Landlords to the Experts
Property maintenance for landlords is only one of many tasks rental owners face. Creating an efficient way to handle repairs requires availability and a strong network of trusted vendors. This can be easier said than done for individuals juggling life’s many responsibilities.
Professional property management companies take the guesswork and stress out of owning income properties. Firms like Bay Property Management Group have experienced managers to oversee every aspect of your rental business, from leasing to maintenance. That, along with our easy online maintenance reporting system and extensive vendor relationships, means handling repairs has never been easier. So, if you are looking for a better way to tackle maintenance and free up your valuable time, give us a call today.