A good property manager knows that regular maintenance reduces costs and unit downtime in the long term. Short term gains from deferred maintenance never work out in the long term. Unexpected maintenance can cause extra work, tenant turnover, delays in renting units and lost revenue. In many cases this lost revenue could have been prevented with a good preventative maintenance schedule.
Here are my top “Do’s and Don’ts” for property maintenance in rental properties:
Do use a Maintenance Schedule
You can use the maintenance schedules in your Property Management Software to keep track of scheduled maintenance or you can use a free excel template like this one: Free Property Maintenance Template. You just enter the maintenance item and frequency and then you have a great tool to help you stay on track. If you can, tie it back to your property budget-even better!
Equipment like boilers and air conditioners really need to have regular maintenance. An air conditioner with plugged air filters makes the unit work harder putting more stress on the pump and increased energy consumption.
I spoke with one of the techs at Geotility – a company that designs, installs and services heating and cooling systems including geo-thermal systems.
Here’s what he said:
“Clogged and dirty filters block normal airflow and reduce the system’s efficiency significantly. Keeping filters clean can lower your energy consumption up to 15%.”
What’s his number one piece of advice?
“Clean or replace your air filter or filters every month or two during the cooling season. Filters may need more frequent changing if the air conditioner is in constant use, is subjected to dirty, dusty or greasy conditions.”
Do Take Care of the Little Things
That leaking fridge or broken stove element might seem like small potatoes now but a leaking fridge can cause all kinds of damage to the flooring, sub-floor and even leak into units below. If left for a long time, even mold can develop and then you’re looking at a very expensive remediation. A single broken element can short out causing a fire. Smoke and fire damage can require the entire unit to be vacated and the repair costs can be astronomical. Over time, small repairs that are deferred can lead to big repair bills, which can end up costing a lot more in the long term. Plus, keeping up with even minor maintenance requests will keep your tenants happy.
Do Use Qualified and Experienced Trades
It might seem easier (and nicer) to use your retired Uncle Jim to fix the tap in a tenant’s suite but unqualified trades may not see the whole picture. I once had a kitchen drain elbow rust through and leak all over the cabinet. The tech pointed out that because of the tenant’s quick request and our quick response, there was minimal water damage to the kitchen cabinet. He recommended that we inspect every unit for leaks and sure enough 6 other units had slow leaks that were damaging the cabinet. The tenant did not even notice. We changed out another dozen and prevented thousands of dollars in repairs. Plus the tech was quick. In and out of the unit in 15 minutes-minimal disruption to the tenant.
Just because your brother’s co-worker’s husband dabbles in plumbing doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to hire him. If you want the job done right, you need to hire qualified professionals – even if it means paying a little more.
Don’t Cheap Out
You may be able to put discount flooring in your properties but using quality flooring can last a lot longer. One of my favourite products is Vinyl Plank Flooring like you can find at Home Depot, but you can find it at just about any good flooring retailer.
This flooring is long lasting and so durable. It holds up great to all kinds of wear and tear. Discount flooring may be less expensive initially but if you’re replacing it every 2-3 years then you really should consider a longer lasting solution like Vinyl Plank Flooring. There may be simple, temporary fixes for some of your small maintenance requests, but if you take the easy way out, it could cost you over time. That time you think you’ve saved by cutting corners will multiply when you find yourself having to redo repairs over and over again. Do it right the first time.
Don’t Allow Tenants to Do Maintenance
It can be really tempting to just have your tenants look after the repairs themselves but even the most well intentioned tenant may not know what they’re doing and the quality of work may be sub-standard; and you may end up being liable. It’s always better to send in a professional tradesperson to do the work. They should be bonded, have liability insurance and worker’s compensation insurance. When you use qualified trades people, the work is typically guaranteed and you will have a uniform standard of repair. This is critical for re-sale.
Property maintenance is a critical activity for landlords, property managers and property owners. Done well, it will bring in top rental revenue. Done poorly, it can ruin your property’s profitability and create endless headaches for property managers, property owners and your tenants.
In summary, when you:
- Use a maintenance schedule to keep you on track
- Keep on top of small repairs
- Use only quality products
- Hire experienced tradespeople
- Don’t let your tenants do repairs
Your property will look great, be easier to manage and will continue to bring in top dollar.