Owning a rental property is a great source of income. It’s also, as you’ve probably learned by now, a lot of work and responsibility. Not only do you need to keep your tenant satisfied, but you also need to invest the time and money into maintenance and upkeep to ensure your rental property retains its value and avoids major repair needs. In this article, we’ll provide you with five ways you can go about keeping your rental in great shape.
1. Work with Your Tenant
This starts by finding the right renter for your property. In contrast to some of the cautionary tales and horror stories other landlords might tell you, most renters are responsible people who won’t cause unexpected damage to your property and will generally care for it within reason. It’s all about finding the right renter, which is why you should ask for prior rental history and references from all prospective tenants. This will allow you to weed out problematic renters ahead of signing the lease.
It’s important that you set up a good relationship with your renter. This doesn’t mean you have to be friends, but both parties have a shared responsibility and interest in making sure the property is well-cared for. Set up an easy way for the renter to contact you about issues in the rental property, and do your best to respond to them quickly and take quick action in emergency situations. This creates a positive feedback loop where your renter will keep you better informed about the condition of your property and any problems they’re noticing. Of course, the opposite is also true: if you don’t respond to your renter’s complaint about the thermostat not working, why would they go out of their way to call you to tell you about water pooling under the water heater?
2. Take Care of Your Property’s Essentials
No matter how great your renter is, your rental property is going to endure some degree of wear-and-tear. Baseboards get scuffed up, cabinets get greasy, and tile floors get chipped. It’s just the nature of owning a rental. It’s important for property owners and managers to have perspective and focus on the things they can control that really matter to the long-term value of their property: the roof, structure, electrical, and plumbing. If you do nothing else to maintain the property, at least caring for the upkeep of these essential elements will allow it to retain its value.
Our recommendation is that you schedule regular professional inspections to ensure that these essential aspects of the property remain in good condition. For example, an annual roofing checkup can identify the warning signs of leaks or roof problems early, allowing you to act and prevent the need for emergency roof repair. A sewer backup is a property owner’s worst nightmare, so having a plumber out every few years for a sewer line camera inspection provides much-needed peace of mind.
3. Schedule Seasonal HVAC Tune-Ups
In most states and municipalities, a functioning air conditioner or furnace isn’t just a luxury: it’s a necessity for rental properties, mandated by law. In many cities and states, your tenant can legally vacate the property after a certain period of time if the air conditioner is not fixed in the summer or the furnace is not repaired in the winter. After all, would you want to live in Minneapolis in January without a working heater, or Houston in July without a working air conditioner? Functioning HVAC systems impact the habitability of the rental property.
This is why seasonal cooling and heating tune-ups are so vital. A professional tune-up and inspection can help prevent major issues with your air conditioner or furnace in the season ahead. Preventative maintenance also extends the lifespan of your HVAC systems and makes them run more efficiently, which your tenant will appreciate when their utility bill comes in. Overall, a spring AC tune-up and fall heating tune-up just make sense.
4. When the Stakes are High, Hire a Professional
It’s important to know your own limits. Many property managers, especially those first starting out, see handling their own repairs as the quickest and easiest way to squeeze more return on investment out of their rental property. It only takes one disaster for them to learn how ineffective this strategy is. For all of those essentials we mentioned earlier—the roof, HVAC systems, plumbing, and electrical—you really need to bring in a licensed and insured contractor. DIY work in these areas may make the problem worse, put yourself or your tenant in danger, or result in the property’s value being diminished. All-in-all, it’s a bad deal.
The day (or night) you have an emergency is not the time you want to be vetting out potential contractors to work with. Do this now, in advance, so that you have 2-3 trusted contractors in each specialty you can call for emergency service. This will allow you to deal with the rental property’s issues more responsively.
5. Organize Your Property’s Maintenance Into a Calendar
Keeping up with a property’s ongoing maintenance is hard enough. If you own multiple rental properties, it gets even more difficult. Put all of the property’s maintenance and upkeep needs into a calendar and tackle things seasonally. We’ve already discussed heating tune-ups, but it’s also best to complete other projects—such as cleaning out the gutters, having the fireplace cleaned, or having the sump pump inspected—in the fall before winter arrives. In the spring, schedule an AC tune-up and then hire a landscaper to get the property’s grass lawn and trees ready for the warmer months of the year.
You don’t have to do everything at once. Dividing the property’s needs into seasons can help you spread out your expenses across the 12 months and really reduce the stress that otherwise comes with property management and maintenance.
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