Landlording & Rental Properties

Importance of Rental Property Maintenance

156 Articles Written

I remember the auto parts commercial stating that you could prevent a costly engine replacement by simply changing the oil and filter on a regular basis. The tagline was "You can pay me now, or you can pay me later." That certainly applies to real estate. Performing preventative maintenance on a regular basis can help you avoid expensive repairs on your rental properties.

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Hopefully every landlord understands the importance of having a reserve fund to handle vacancies and repairs. The fund should be sufficient to handle major items that will eventually need replacement, such as a roof or furnace. Having a fund does not mean you have to spend it. Preventative maintenance to prolong the life of big ticket items will also extend the life of your reserve fund and ultimately boost your bottom line.

Take advantage of Opportunities

I recently had a vacancy in one of my rentals. I had a three week window of opportunity from the time the old tenant left and the new one moved in. I performed the usual make ready tasks such as cleaning the carpets and applying fresh paint. I also performed a series of system checks as I always do. Several minor problems were uncovered that could have resulted in costly repairs if left uncorrected.

I had a service technician inspect the furnace and water heater. The furnace was in great shape but the water heater needed a little work. Had the repair not been made there was a high probability that the heater would have failed. Another problem that could have easily been overlooked was a leaking tub surround. Making these repairs cost less than $300. Had I overlooked them the resulting bill could have been $600 for the water heater and the repair costs for the leak might have been in the thousands.

Create a Checklist

Much like a pilot uses a checklist even though he may have logged thousands of hours flying, you should use one as well. A list is easy to create and it will keep you from overlooking things or making assumptions that you shouldn't. Very early in my investing career I made such an assumption. I had purchased a foreclosure and erroneously believed that a furnace was in good shape because it was only two years old. The house had an oil-fired furnace for a hot water based system. The property had been vacant for quite some time and the system had not been properly shut down. As a result the seals were bad and the furnace had to be replaced at a cost of $2,000. Nothing will cure you of making assumptions like writing a check for it.

While a vacancy is an excellent opportunity to inspect a property, it should be done periodically on occupied units as well. These visits will also allow you to see that your tenants are taking care of your rentals. While normal wear and tear is to be expected, tenant abuse should never be tolerated. Keep in mind that deferred maintenance is the costliest kind but preventative maintenance will give you peace of mind.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cureBenjamin Franklin

Photo Credit: Joshin Yamada

    Replied over 8 years ago
    “Nothing will cure you of making assumptions like writing a check for it.” This has to be one of the best quotes for due diligence I have seen. Jason
    Brad Reedy
    Replied over 8 years ago
    As a large property mangagement company in Memphis, TN we run into situations like this everyday with owners. I have seen the scenario time and time again go the opposite way. The owner is given advice, rolls the dice, and four months later has a bill double what the original preventive maintenance would have cost. Do the little things on the front end!
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 8 years ago
    It’s always cheaper to make the repairs when they first appear. Deferred maintenance gets to be more costly as each month goes by. It’s just amazing how many people don’t take care of these things as they occur. Having a checklist is a great way to not overlook something. My daughter is a property manager for about 500 units. They do-semi annual inspections in addition to move in/move out inspections. They are able to catch a lot of potential problems with the properties, and also with tenants that have problems like hoarding. They catch those in the first 6 months rather than when they move out. Great post.
    Mike S
    Replied over 8 years ago
    Thanks for the post Richard. Very helpful. Do you mind sharing your checklist? I’m just getting started as an investor and it would be a great tool to have. Thanks, Mike
    Brad Reedy
    Replied over 8 years ago
    Mike, you might want to check with your property mgmt company to see if they offer any preventive maintenance programs. Here in Memphis we offer a semi annual inspection of HVAC which includes an 8 point checklist of the systems. Little things like this make all the difference in the world. You can have a brand new system but if it is not taken care of it will fail quickly. Unfortunately, you cannot rely on the tenant…
    Replied over 8 years ago
    Take advantage of efficiency opportunities during vacancy as well. The utilities a landlord pays for can easily be reduced by quickly installing water and energy saving improvements, such as low flow showerheads, faucets, CFLs, efficient appliances and much more. Most of these investments pay for themselves in no time.