By Phil Henderson, Henderson Properties
Whether you’re renting out your first property or your hundredth property, one thought is likely on your mind: maintenance. How can you ensure that your renters are happy and well-cared for without too-frequent calls for maintenance requests? Here are some common maintenance problems and steps you can take to prevent them.
Clogged drains can really put a damper on life inside a rental home, and they are almost a guaranteed call to the landlord. Most tenants, especially if they have never been homeowners, are not careful about drain care and will let their hair and just about anything else flow freely down the drain.
You can prevent this problem by installing drain screens, especially on the shower and bathroom sink. Then make sure the tenants know that you will only visit for drain clogs a set number of times per year, but will expect them to foot the bill if you have additional problems. This may inspire them to be more careful.
If a tenant locks themselves out of your property, your only option is to let them in or to pay for a locksmith. This might not seem like a big deal, but after the fourth or fifth time you are called in the middle of the night to let your tenant into the building, you’ll be ready to put a lock-out policy in place.
First, give your tenants a spare key that they can give to a trusted friend or family member, or invest in a lockbox to locate somewhere on the property. Stamp these keys with “Do Not Duplicate” to prevent unwanted copies from being made. Then, structure your lease so that fees can be charged for lockouts, and that outlines the times you are available to let keyless residents into their units. Then, their only recourse will be to pay for a locksmith if they lock themselves out of the property.
Furnace or Air Conditioner Problems
Some of the most costly problems you will have with your rental property are problems with HVAC systems. Sometimes these issues are emergencies, such as when the furnace breaks down in below-zero weather.
The key to keeping HVAC systems running well is preventative maintenance. You may not want to spend money on this, but failure to do so is almost a guarantee to have costly HVAC problems down the road. Have your rental property furnaces checked in late summer or early fall and your air conditioner inspected in March. This will give you plenty of time’and help you avoid a premium rate’for any repairs
that are needed.
Pests are a problem in any property, but as a landlord, it’s your job to ensure that your rental properties are clean and pest-free. If your rental home is suddenly filled with roaches or mice, you will lose your tenant in a heartbeat.
So what can you do about this risk? Set up a monthly or bi-monthly extermination program. By treating before you have a problem, you can prevent a full infestation and the costs associated with lost tenants.
Like HVAC problems, roof leaks can be a costly problem to fix, so this is one that is best avoided altogether. So how can you avoid roof leaks on a property you aren’t living in? Again, the answer is preventative maintenance.
Ice dams are a common source of roof leaks. Ice dams occur when water cannot flow through the gutters due to debris, and thus pools in the gutters. When it freezes, any future water, either from additional precipitation or from melting snow and ice, flows into the home instead of away from it through the gutters.
The best prevention for ice dams is cleaning the gutters. Make sure your lease clearly states who will take on the responsibility of cleaning the gutters. If you choose to shoulder this responsibility, consider hiring someone else to tackle the job for you, or use a property management firm to handle this type of routine maintenance.
Being proactive as a landlord is one of the best ways to avoid problems (and the middle-of-the-night calls that come with those problems). You can also help limit maintenance calls by working with a property management company who will field them for you. No matter what route you take, being proactive will save you many headaches in the future.
About the author:
Phil Henderson is the President of a family-owned real estate agency in the greater Charlotte area, Henderson Properties. The agency focuses on property management, property rentals, sales and maintenance.