Property maintenance is a shared responsibility between landlords and tenants — but ultimately, it’s up to the landlord to ensure their investments are kept in good shape. Here are some of the most important property maintenance tips that landlords should know.
When landlords are trying to maintain profitability, spending money on maintenance can seem like a step in the wrong direction. But there are several key reasons why landlords should proactively maintain their rental properties before major problems arise.
Most rental property owners know to plan ahead for maintenance expenses. However, some landlords can end up delaying maintenance tasks without considering the potential consequences. This can be expensive — maintenance costs are usually accumulative and issues that are ignored tend to get worse over time. Partial roof repairs that start out at a few hundred dollars can, if ignored, worsen enough to warrant a full roof replacement, which can cost many thousands of dollars.
Regular maintenance slows down the depreciation of your rental property, helping to keep it close to the original home value. By preventing key building components such as plumbing, gutters, and HVAC systems from falling into disrepair, you can continue to rent out your property for the long term, and maximize your profits when you’re ready to sell it.
The modern renter has high expectations from their landlord. Landlords are expected to maintain communication with tenants, quickly repair defective items, and ensure that their residence is always safe and comfortable. Conducting regular maintenance is an important part of keeping your tenants happy (and in turn, minimizing turnover).
Tenants who live in rented homes expect regular maintenance, and some states even empower tenants to take control if their landlords renege on their responsibilities. For example, if a repair impacts the habitability of a home, California, Pennsylvania, and many other states allow tenants to withhold rent until a repair is completed or conduct the repair themselves and deduct it from their rent payment. This can affect rental income and it can be more economical for landlords to complete maintenance themselves or through a contractor they trust.
With the right strategy, landlords can avoid unnecessary expenses while maintaining their property value and tenant satisfaction. Here are some best practices for rental property maintenance.
Preventative and seasonal maintenance can help landlords reduce the likelihood of an unexpected repair or replacement. It can also help landlords limit the fluctuation of costs they experience across seasons. For instance, the average household experiences a 30% increase in heating costs during winter, but this rise can be mitigated with simple maintenance such as changing the filter in heating vents and ensuring the windows are properly sealed.
Many of these maintenance tasks are recurring and must be conducted at regular intervals — so it’s relatively easy for a landlord to track, predict, and plan for them with a clear budget for rental property expenses. This can be done with a simple schedule that consolidates all the maintenance procedures required every year and an estimated cost for each of these items.
Another way to gauge the need for maintenance for a rental property is to conduct inspections. Such inspections can also help landlords maintain a positive relationship with their tenants by checking in to see if they need anything or if they are experiencing any issues in the property.
Landlords must maintain compliance with local real estate laws when conducting such inspections and when they enter the premises for repairs. States such as Maine and Iowa require landlords to provide 24 hours' notice before entering the rental property while Washington asks that landlords try to provide written notice 48 hours before entering the premises to conduct repairs or inspections.
Some landlords wait for problems to arise before finding a contractor to resolve them. This usually means they end up having to scramble to find a reliable, available repair professional — and they’ll be unable to negotiate better prices in an emergency situation. Instead, landlords should find and build relationships with recommended contractors in the area ahead of time.
Landlords who do this are more likely to save money during negotiations and can request emergency repairs faster than other landlords in the queue. As more Americans spend big on home improvement projects, contractors will be in high demand and a prior relationship can ensure more consistent availability and faster response times.
Past spending can give landlords a clearer picture of how much they can expect to spend toward repairs and maintenance in the future. Keeping records of maintenance events also allows landlords to see trends across their property portfolio, and also helps them stay organized for tax season.
Despite a landlord’s best efforts, unexpected repairs can derail budgets and force landlords to accept lower profits in a given accounting period. Landlords with no contingency plans can find themselves in financial trouble if they’re not prepared for unexpected expenses. A good rule of thumb for landlords is to set aside one to three months’ worth of expenses to cover emergency repairs and other unexpected events.
Open communication can help landlords serve their tenants quickly and resolve issues more efficiently. It’s important for landlords to emphasize that even minor problems such small leaks should be reported before they grow into larger, more expensive problems.
Maintenance is an essential part of every landlord’s rental property management. By taking the time to plan, budget for, and carry out regular maintenance on their rental properties, landlords will ensure that their property is attractive both to current and future tenants while maintaining the property's value and profitability.
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