If you own or manage a rental property, you’ll need to do repairs. These may be routine concerns, like replacing the batteries in a smoke detector or major emergencies such as an electrical outage.
Deciding whether or not you can DIY a repair or need to call in a professional may depend on numerous factors.
For example, if a tenant has two bathrooms and one of toilets is slow, unclogging can sometimes be as easy as driving over with a plunger when you have the time. On the other hand, if a different lessee has one bathroom, three children and a bathroom floor flooded with reeking water, it may be time to call in a pro.
Routine maintenance can often keep minor issues from turning into huge ones. Your rental agreements should allow for inspections two to three times a year. During those visits, you can check if the plumbing has sprouted new leaks, the air conditioners are humming along, and the roof is in good shape.
Over months and years, ignored roof leaks that can be easily fixed with $30 worth of caulk can cause thousands of dollars with of damage. Since it can be tough to discern which home repairs need an immediate visit from a professional and which can be addressed in a few days or a week, this list can serve as a guide.
Many of the major issues issues you deal with as a landlord or property manager begin in the pipes. Clogged toilets and backed up sinks often require bringing in a plumber. But if you have the tools and experience to open up a drainage valve or wriggle a snake down the pipes, you may be able to tackle these challenges. But if the obstruction is far down the line and the floor is flooded, it’s likely you’ll immediately need to bring in a pro.
As Mark McMahon explains in the above video, you may be able to charge to the tenant for the repair, depending on the nature of the blockage (like too many flushed paper towels). Be sure your agreements specify the liability of the renter. Whenever you inspect the property, be sure to check under the sinks and behind the toilets. Any signs of leakage should be addressed before developing into major concerns.
Depending on where your rental property is located, a broken AC unit can be a minor or major issue. A broken AC in 100-plus degree heat is a life-threatening emergency that demands immediate attention. A worn unit in 70-degree weather can probably wait for a few days. A well-maintained unit should be able to last at least 10 years. That lifespan also requires careful cleaning and maintenance.
Filters should be changed according to manufacturer’s specifications and exterior central air units cleaned out so dust, dirt and leaves don’t hamper the system. Replacing the freon will likely require a professional visit, but this can be a part of planned maintenance rather than an emergency call that often comes with extra fees.
Water can causes numerous kinds of trouble around a house. Up top, we addressed plumbing leaks. As any homeowner probably knows, a drip can find its way into the house from the roof, an aging window, a crack in the foundation or elsewhere.
As a property owner or manager, you will probably have to be more mindful of leaks than your tenant. Most renters will only speak up when a stream of water has come through the ceiling, which usually means an extensive repair is necessary. Often the leaks caused by storms or aging pipes can be prevented with careful inspection. Even a roof with a 20-year warranty should be regularly examined for cracks and loose shingles by a contractor. Window seals can be reviewed for gaps.
Inspection of the foundation and other structural reviews should be done by professionals.
Condensation of all sorts can lead to mold, which can lead to unexpectedly complex household challenges like mold. If you’ve ever dealt with black mold or any similar issue, you know that mold can be tough to get rid of (it often returns) and, left untreated, can be the source of health issues for your tenant.
Untreated infestations will not only cause allergies, asthma and other respiratory challenges, but also lawsuits. Not only to refrigerated lines in the air conditioner and ice box need to be looked over, but also damp basements and bathrooms. Having your rental unit air quality professionally tested every few years is a wise precaution to ensure there are no mold issues to address.
Preparing to rent a home or apartment to a new tenant usually requires some repairs and upgrades. Of course, most places will need a new coat of paint, polished appliances and mopped floors, but the redos can be much more extensive than that, particularly if you haven’t inspected the property in several months or years.
Does the living room have a wood floor? You may need to have it professionally sanded and refinished. Have the building codes recently changed? An older home may require new windows. Are the stove burners all working? You may need a new one. Plus there are numerous little eyesores like torn window screens, scraped cabinet doors and dented moldings — all of which need to be replaced or fixed.
While these are some of the most common fixes needed in rental units, you must prepare for these and many more when you oversee a home or apartment.
Rental property repairs can be a hassle, but if you're prepared they won't come as a surprise. Keep an eye on the most common problems that arise with rental properties and take care of them quickly to avoid bigger issues down the road. In addition, always have a signed agreement of maintenance with your tenants so that everyone is aware of their responsibilities.