“Arthur, I think we may have a problem. There seems to be a patch of mushrooms growing in one of your units.”
When my property manager first called me with this information, I actually thought the service request was a joke. That was until I saw this photo!
The first question I asked myself was, why hadn’t I heard about this sooner? According to the tenant, this mushroom appeared within a few hours, which is impossible.
I immediate sent my handyman out to the property to assess the damage. It turns out that a pipe behind the shower had been leaking for several months. The excess water formed a puddle in the corner of the bathroom. Over time, this damp corner formed spores, which sprouted mushrooms – YUCK!
After talking with our contractor, it seemed that the best solution long-term was to re-pipe the entire house. When I purchased the property, I knew that this repair needed to happen eventually. Luckily I had set aside a portion of the monthly cash flow to pay for this eventual expense.
I can now happily report that the property is fungus free.
However, I still wonder why my tenant didn’t call us sooner when the leak started. Even worse, she made no attempt to clean the area before she started harvesting a small mushroom farm! Regardless of her reasons, this whole experience made me re-think my yearly maintenance plan.
Then it occurred to me – I didn’t have one!
I was quick to repair any items that were damaged or broken, but up until this experience, I hadn’t created a plan to minimize these types of big-ticket expenses. I was largely running the business from a very reactive posture.
I realized that, unless I came up with a plan, I could literally end up losing thousands of dollars in avoidable repairs. After spending a few hours kicking this idea over, I came up with the following maintenance plan.
The Annual Rental Property Maintenance Plan
I am now scheduling a yearly walk-through on all my properties. I formulated a checklist of items, as follows:
Air Conditioner: Replace filters at least twice a year, before and after summer. I encourage tenants to replace filters on a monthly basis, but worst case scenario, I know it will be replaced during the peak times of use. Doing this as well as servicing the unit annually can extend the life of the system by several years.
Tree Growth: Take note of branches and root growth. Look for any trees that may need to be cut back from the house, walls, power lines or A/C. Also watch for root growth beneath concrete surfaces. Catching overgrowth early can prevent major expenses like repaving a driveway.
Electrical: Look for any damaged or overloaded sockets to prevent fire hazards.
Bathroom: Check caulking in shower, toilet and sinks. Apply new caulking as needed to prevent water damage and mold.
Roof: Repair any areas where damaged shingles are apparent. Be sure to also check all drains and gutters for blockage and leaks. This can extend the life of a roof by several years.
Danger wildcard: This item isn’t limited to one area, but encompasses the safety of the overall property. A few items that would fall in this category are: uneven pavement, loose fence posts, mold growth, exposed wires or anything else that might cause tenants harm. Also be sure to replace carbon monoxide and smoke alarm batteries as needed.
One last piece of advice is to weigh the cost of replacing an item versus just temporarily fixing it. It’s not necessarily the cheapest way to maintain a property, but it is essential for stabilizing long-term cash flow.
This list is by no means extensive, but it’s a great starting point and will help ensure you don’t end up with a mushroom farm in your rental property.