Rental Property Maintenance Checklist: Why You Should Have One & Points to Include

As a landlord, using checklists can help keep your rental properties in good shape and avoid potential issues down the line.

By
Nichole Stohler
|
Last Updated
November 13, 2023
Rental Property Maintenance Checklist: Why You Should Have One & Points to Include

Are you swamped trying to stay on top of rental property maintenance? As a landlord, you know proper upkeep is fundamental for your tenants' safety and satisfaction, but constant repairs can drain your time and money.

A rental property maintenance checklist can be the answer to your problems. Simple checklists can help you stay organized and catch maintenance issues early. In this article, we'll provide you with maintenance checklists for every season and help you decipher when to call the pros for fixes tenants can't handle.

With smart planning, you can master maintenance and keep your rentals running smoothly. Let's dive in and keep your properties in tip-top shape!

What is a rental property maintenance checklist?

A rental property maintenance checklist is a guide that helps landlords keep track of repairs and maintenance tasks for their rental properties. The list typically includes items that inspectors or repair personnel must address to verify that the property is safe and comfortable.

Checklists help landlords maintain their property and provide the best living experience for their tenants.

Benefits of using a rental property maintenance checklist

Anyone can remember a list of a few things in their head. When to-do tasks start to pile up, though, especially if you're managing more than one property, a checklist can help keep you organized in the following ways:

  • Happy tenants: Quick response times to your tenants' issues will help keep them satisfied with their rental arrangement, making them more likely to stay longer and care for your property.
  • Protected investment: Regular maintenance helps keep your investment safe and valuable.
  • Adherence to rules: Every rental property has federal, state, and local laws regarding property maintenance to which it must adhere. A checklist to validate and handle regular maintenance helps to keep you compliant.
  • Budgeting: A checklist allows you to better visualize and plan for your maintenance expenses, meaning you can plan your spending appropriately.

A rental property maintenance checklist is a roadmap to keeping your tenants happy, your property safe, and your investment secure. It makes your job easier and helps you avoid stress in the future.

Why landlords and property managers should prioritize maintenance

When managing one or several properties, non-urgent maintenance requests may not live at the top of your to-do list. Although, at first, you might not see the benefits of prioritizing tenants' requests, doing so will benefit both you and your tenants.

Some reasons why landlords and property managers should make property maintenance a priority include:

  • Providing safety: Regular maintenance can help keep your rental property safe for your tenants. Fixing loose handrails or repairing damaged flooring can keep accidents and injuries from happening.
  • Preventing issues: Performing routine maintenance tasks can help prevent more serious issues from occurring in the future. For example, fixing a leaky faucet now can prevent extensive water damage in the future.
  • Enhancing the tenant experience: A well-maintained rental property can increase tenant satisfaction and retention.
  • Saving money: Addressing maintenance issues while they're still minor helps keep serious damage at bay. Though you'll have to spend some money now to make repairs, it's a fraction of what you'd have to pay if you ignored the damage and allowed it to grow in severity.

Property management maintenance checklists for each season

Caring for your rental property is a year-round responsibility, with each season requiring distinct tasks. Effective property management requires one rental property maintenance checklist per season to keep your property in top shape throughout the year.

To help lighten your workload, we've created checklists for each season below:

Winter maintenance checklist

Winter brings cold temperatures, snow, and ice. To keep your rental property safe and warm throughout the winter season, here's what you need to do:

  • Snow removal: To prevent accidents, keep pathways and driveways clear of snow and ice. Use shovels or snow blowers to remove snow quickly after it falls.
  • Heating system inspection: Before the cold sets in, have a professional check your heating system and confirm working status.
  • Check fireplaces and chimneys: To prevent any fire hazards, clean out any debris, and make sure they're safe to use.
  • Seal drafts: Cold air can sneak inside through gaps around your doors and windows. Seal these gaps with weatherstripping to keep your rental warm and energy efficient.
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors: Heating up a space comes with a fire risk and carbon monoxide risk. Confirm that your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly to keep your tenants and their units safe.
  • Ice dam prevention: Snow on the roof can melt and refreeze, causing ice dams. To prevent roof damage and leaks, remove excess snow from the roof while it's fresh.

Spring maintenance checklist

Spring brings milder weather and new growth. During this time of year, seize the opportunity to do the following:

  • Inspect the roof: Examine the property's roof for any damage caused by winter storms. Clean gutters to prevent water from overflowing and damaging your property.
  • Clean the exterior: Use a pressure washer to clean the property's exterior, including siding and decks, to eliminate winter dirt and grime and maintain the property's fresh appearance.
  • Lawn care: Take responsibility for lawn maintenance by regularly mowing, fertilizing, and seeding grass where necessary.
  • Check irrigation system: Inspect the efficiency of the property's irrigation system to confirm it waters the lawn and plants effectively without leaks or blockages.
  • Inspect windows and screens: Check the property's windows and replace damaged screens to prevent pest infiltration.
  • Service air conditioning: Before summer, arrange for a professional to inspect and maintain the property's air conditioning system to guarantee comfort during hot weather.
  • Inspect plumbing: Look for plumbing leaks or drips within the property and assess the water heater's efficiency to confirm it delivers hot water reliably.

Summer maintenance checklist

During the summer, landlords should focus on the following maintenance tasks:

  • Landscaping: Continue overseeing lawn care, including mowing, trimming bushes, and planting seasonal flowers to enhance curb appeal and the overall appearance of the property.
  • HVAC system: Maintain the air conditioning system by cleaning or replacing air filters. This helps promote a comfortable living environment and efficient energy use.
  • Pest control: Be vigilant for signs of pests such as ants or rodents, and promptly address any infestations to maintain tenant comfort and safety.
  • Deck and patio care: Inspect and repair any outdoor deck or patio damage. For wood structures, consider sealing them to protect against weathering.
  • Outdoor lighting: Verify that outdoor lights function correctly to enhance safety and illuminate the property at night. Replace bulbs as needed.
  • Window and door seals: Check for drafts around windows and doors, sealing any gaps to preserve cool air indoors and reduce energy costs.
  • Pool maintenance: If your rental property includes a pool, perform regular cleaning and maintenance. Test water chemistry and check that safety equipment like life rings are in good condition.

Fall maintenance checklist

As temperatures start to cool back down, you should take the time to prepare your rental property for colder months. Here's what you should do:

  • Leaf removal: Confirm that gutters and the property's yard are free of fallen leaves to prevent clogs and maintain the property's overall appeal.
  • Tree trimming: Trim branches that may pose a hazard to the property during strong winds or storms.
  • Heating system inspection: Schedule a professional inspection and servicing of the heating system before winter sets in. Clean filters and verify their efficient operation to keep tenants warm and comfortable.
  • Seal cracks: Check for gaps in the property's foundation, windows, and doors, sealing them to prevent drafts and maintain energy efficiency.
  • Pipe insulation: Insulate exposed pipes to prevent freezing and avoid costly repairs.
  • Ice and snow prevention: Stock up on winter necessities like ice melt and snow shovels for tenant safety.
  • Chimney and fireplace maintenance: If your rental property includes a fireplace, verify that it's clean and the chimney is clear before tenants use it during colder months.
  • Test emergency systems: Verify that smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are working properly. Replace batteries as needed.

Handling emergency maintenance situations

Having a maintenance checklist in place will help mitigate the risk of emergency situations; however, it's important to be prepared in case they do happen. Here's what landlords should do when faced with each of the following maintenance emergencies:

  • Water leak: Immediately shut off the main water supply and contact a plumber for repairs.
  • Gas odor: Evacuate the property if you detect a gas odor. Call the gas company and refrain from using electrical switches or appliances.
  • Power outage: In the event of a power outage, locate the circuit breaker panel and reset tripped breakers. If the issue persists, contact the utility company.
  • Fire or smoke: If there is a fire or smoke, confirm that everyone exits the property promptly, call 911, and use a fire extinguisher if it's safe to.
  • Lockout: Follow established procedures to assist tenants locked out of the property.
  • Storm damage: After severe weather, inspect the property for damage and take necessary safety measures. Call professionals for repairs as required.

Legal considerations in property maintenance

When drafting your checklist, you'll need to make sure you consider your legal responsibilities as a property manager. Below are the obligations landlords must abide by:

  • Implied warranty of habitability: This law requires landlords to provide livable and safe housing for their tenants. Landlords must confirm that the property has functional plumbing, heating, and electricity, and they must address pest infestations, mold, and other health hazards.
  • Local housing codes: Local housing codes establish standards for rental properties, such as requirements for smoke detectors, fire exits, and ventilation. Landlords must comply with these codes to verify their properties are safe and habitable.
  • Lease agreement: The lease agreement may specify routine maintenance responsibilities for tenants and landlords. It may require tenants to keep the property clean and report any maintenance issues on time, while landlords are responsible for major repairs and upkeep.
  • State landlord-tenant laws: Each state has specific laws governing the landlord-tenant relationship. Some states require landlords to provide 24-hour notice before entering the rental property to perform maintenance or repairs.
  • Fair housing: The Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from discriminating against tenants based on protected characteristics, such as religion, race, or disability.

By understanding these laws and ensuring they're adhered to using tools like a checklist, landlords and property managers can fulfill their maintenance responsibilities and provide safe rental properties for their tenants.

Estimating rental property maintenance costs

Landlords should budget for property maintenance costs to keep their rental property in great shape without straining financial resources. Here are 3 simple ways to estimate these costs:

1. The 50% rule

Under this rule, you should estimate that maintenance and repairs will equal 50% of your total operating costs.

2. The 1% rule

The 1% rule is another easy way to estimate maintenance costs. You should budget around 1% of your property's total value each year for maintenance. For example, if your property is worth $200,000, you'd budget $2,000 yearly for maintenance.

3. The square footage rule

This rule suggests that you budget a certain amount for maintenance per square foot of your rental. The actual amount can vary, but a common rule of thumb is about $1 to $3 per square foot annually. So, if your rental is 1,000 square feet, you might set aside $1,000 to $3,000 a year for maintenance.

These rules are just guidelines to help you plan for rental property maintenance expenses. These expenses are not fixed and may vary depending on your property's age, location, and condition. Keep detailed records of your expenses and adjust your budget to keep your rental property in good condition. Planning makes it easier to handle maintenance without financial stress.

Hiring professionals for reliable rental property repairs

Maintaining a rental property involves tasks that require specialized skills and expertise. While landlords or even tenants can handle some minor maintenance, there are situations where hiring professionals is advisable.

Here's how to go about finding the right repair person:

  • Identify the issue: The first step is to identify the maintenance issue. Is it a plumbing problem, electrical issue, structural damage, or something else? Understanding the problem in its entirety will help you determine the right professional to hire.
  • Find licensed and insured contractors: Prioritize hiring licensed and insured contractors. Licensing guarantees that the individual or company has met certain standards and regulations in their field. Insurance serves as protection in case of accidents or damage during repairs.
  • Ask for recommendations: Seek referrals from other property owners, managers, or online forums, such as Azibo's marketplace. Word-of-mouth referrals can be a valuable resource for finding reliable contractors.
  • Request multiple quotes: Don't settle for the first contractor you come across. Instead, request quotes from several contractors to compare prices and services.
  • Check references: Request references from past clients. Reach out to these references and ask them about their experience with the contractor and the quality of the work. Check if the contractor completed the project on time and within budget.
  • Verify credentials: Verify that the contractor has the necessary credentials for the job. For example, if you're hiring an electrician, verify their electrical license. If you need structural repairs, confirm that the contractor has experience in handling such projects.
  • Get a written agreement: Once you've chosen a contractor, ask for a written agreement. It should outline the scope of work, costs, timelines, payment schedules, and any warranties or guarantees the contractor offers.
  • Review the contract carefully: Before signing any contract, review it carefully and, if necessary, seek legal advice. The contract should list routine tasks like HVAC system inspections or pest control.
  • Emergency contacts: When faced with emergency repairs, have a list of reliable 24/7 service providers, such as plumbers or electricians, readily available. Quick response to emergencies can prevent further damage.
  • Regular maintenance contracts: Consider entering into regular contracts with professionals for ongoing maintenance needs. It can streamline the coordination of regular maintenance tasks.

Make requesting maintenance easy for tenants

A solid communication system is central to efficient property maintenance. Have a system in place that allows your tenants to quickly and easily report issues, as everyone will benefit from repairs being addressed quickly. Key elements to facilitating the maintenance request process include:

  • Clear communication: Provide tenants with a copy of the maintenance checklist and explain its importance.
  • Regular reminders: Send gentle reminders to your tenants when it's time for seasonal maintenance tasks. A simple text or email can keep everyone on track.
  • Access to tools: Verify that your tenants have easy access to basic maintenance tools like a plunger, a wrench, and a broom. This can motivate them to handle minor issues independently.
  • Maintenance requests: Encourage tenants to report any maintenance issues promptly. Make it easy for them to do so through a designated channel, such as a maintenance request portal or by calling a phone number.
  • Flexible scheduling: Be flexible with scheduling maintenance visits. Try to accommodate your tenant's availability as much as possible when arranging professional services.
  • Provide resources: Offer resources like trusted service providers or do-it-yourself tutorials for simple tasks. This can help tenants address minor issues on their own.
  • Prompt response: Use communication tools to address the issue when tenants report a problem. It shows that you value their comfort and safety.
  • Appreciation: Show appreciation for your tenants' cooperation in maintaining the property. A simple thank you can go a long way in building a positive landlord-tenant relationship.

Maintenance checklist for rental property: Nice-to-have

Keeping your rental property in good shape doesn't have to be complicated, but it does require diligence.

Protect your investment and keep your tenants happy by following this simple yet thorough rental property maintenance checklist. From seasonal upkeep to knowing when to call in professionals, this guide provides the key tasks and schedules to set you up for rental success.

With regular preventative maintenance, you can avoid costly repairs down the road and ensure your property remains profitable for years to come. Don't let maintenance be an afterthought -- follow these proven steps to make it a breeze.

Rental property maintenance checklist FAQs

Why having a rental property maintenance schedule is important?

A rental property maintenance schedule is important because it helps landlords and property managers stay on top of repairs and upkeep. It can prevent small problems from building up and becoming more costly issues in the future.

How can I make my rental property more energy-efficient?

To make your rental property energy-efficient, replace old appliances, upgrade light bulbs to LEDs, install a programmable thermostat, seal air leaks, add insulation, and encourage energy-saving habits. These measures will make your rental property more appealing to tenants, reduce environmental impact, and lower utility costs.

What should I do if a tenant damages the property?

If a tenant damages the property beyond normal wear and tear, you may deduct repair costs from their security deposit. Be sure to document the damage and repairs carefully.

Nichole Stohler

Nichole co-founded Gateway Private Equity Group, with a history of investments in single-family and multi-family properties, and now a specialization in hotel real estate investments. She is also the creator of NicsGuide.com, a blog dedicated to real estate investing.

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