As much as we wish all rentals stayed in tiptop shape forever, this is not the case. And as a landlord (that is, property manager), a vital job is to maintain the property and fix things when they break. Although this can be both expensive and stressful, if you budget and plan for repairs and maintenance, you will have the money set aside and the ability to handle these issues. If you don’t, you’ll need to come up with the money and time right away.
Repairs tend to scare new landlords but, in reality, most are fairly standard and easy to fix with the right contractors or know-how. In fact, a lot of problems that need to be addressed are the same 10 repairs, over and over again. While you can’t predict when these issues will occur, you can predict that they will occur.
When renting out an apartment or single-family rental, especially for the first time, it makes sense that you may not be aware of typical repairs, but that’s where the following list comes in handy. Here are the most common apartment repairs you’ll encounter.
1. Fridge, stove, or dishwasher not working
Appliances have a lot of moving parts and therefore tend to break down fairly often. Although the landlord can fix some issues, such as replacing a burned-out light bulb or installing a new heating element, many will require a qualified appliance repair person. Unless a new appliance is needed, the typical cost to fix this problem is between $50 and $100 per hour, and handypeople can handle most repairs in one hour. If you do need a new appliance, consider buying it used instead of new. Used appliance stores exist in almost every town, and especially in the case of stoves, they sell units that are just as good as new ones.
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2. Water leak in the ceiling or under windows
Water can be deadly to rental properties. If left unchecked, it can destroy wood, drywall, flooring, and every other surface of your property. Even in small amounts, moisture can cause mold to grow, which can be expensive to remediate if it gets out of control. When your tenant reports a water problem, make this your No. 1 concern.
Hire a qualified contractor to check out the problem and to fix it immediately. When you’re dealing with a water leak, don’t hire the cheapest person. This is when you want to hire the best. It’s a good idea to know if your property has water supply lines in the ceiling, so if there is a leak, you know to call a plumber instead of a roofing contractor.
3. Water leak under sinks
A water leak under a kitchen or bathroom sink can have one of two causes: the supply line (the pipe that brings hot and cold water to the sink) or the drain (which sends the water from the sink out to the sewer). Many water leaks are caused by the drainpipe not fitting together correctly. This is a fairly easy problem for you to learn how to fix, or you can hire a plumber, which should cost approximately $100.
4. Water drip from faucets
This may sound similar to the last point, but a slow drip from a sink or bathroom can cost you hundreds of dollars per year in water bills if not fixed right away. In most cases, you can solve the problem with a 50-cent rubber washer and about an hour of your time.
However, occasionally, the entire faucet will need to be replaced. If this is the case, don’t buy the cheap faucet, because it is made mostly of plastic. You’ll just be tearing it out and replacing it next year.
5. No hot water
If the tenant loses their hot water, it’s likely a problem with the hot water heater. If a new hot water heater is needed, you’ll spend approximately $600 for a plumber to replace it. However, it might just be the heating element inside the heater, in which case you can either replace it yourself with a $20 part and a couple of hours of work, or you can again hire a plumber for a couple of hundred bucks to do it for you.
6. Bugs and rodents
Dealing with pests can be one of the most annoying jobs for a landlord or property manager because it’s the tenant’s fault much of the time. That said, it’s still your responsibility to make sure that any infestation is taken care of. We can tackle this issue on two fronts: educating the tenant and hiring a pest specialist. The latter typically costs a few hundred dollars. Also, be sure to seal up any holes, no matter how small, that bugs or rodents could use to get into the property.
Many landlords include in their lease that pest control is the tenant’s responsibility after a certain number of weeks. This way, the landlord can say that it was definitively not the property’s problem, so it must be the tenant’s fault. This can be an option in single-family rentals. However, it can be impossible to find out where the bugs or rodents originated from in multifamily units because they easily travel through walls.
7. Garbage disposals
These technological wonders may be great for grinding up food, but they are also a common repair and constant issue for landlords. Many times it’s because the tenant put things into it that never belong in a garbage disposal. For this reason, you may want to remove garbage disposals from your properties whenever possible. However, if one breaks while a tenant is in the property, you need to fix it. There are generally two things that could be wrong. First, it might just be “stuck” and needs an Allen wrench to unstick it. Second, the motor might have burned out, in which case you’ll need a new disposal. This could run a couple of hundred bucks, including installation by a handyman.
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8. Toilet leaks or runs
Toilets may be made of long-lasting porcelain, but the tank parts are generally made of cheap plastic that breaks a lot. If a toilet is running (meaning you can hear water going through it all the time) or the tank refills with water on its own every so often, it’s most likely a problem with the flapper. Typically, you can fix these problems with less than $20 in parts and an hour of labor.
9. Clogged toilets
If your tenant clogs their toilet, this is not your responsibility. Problems that the tenant causes are the tenant’s responsibility, so inform them that they need to call a plumber to fix the issue. Or you can call a plumber and bill the tenant for the cost. However, if the drains seem to be clogged in the bathtub or bathroom sink as well, this is a good indication that the problem may be your drainpipes, such as a collapsed pipe or a tree root that has grown through it.
10. Furnace repairs
Heat is vital, so a furnace repair is high on the list of important repairs, especially during the winter. If a furnace stops working, it could be as simple as the pilot light went out or as complicated as a gas leak. When your tenant calls, get a furnace repair specialist out to the property immediately. Also, many furnace problems can be prevented when furnace filters are replaced regularly, so be sure your tenant knows how and when to do this.
No single furnace issue should be too expensive to fix. However, if left untreated, combined they could cost you thousands, or even tens of thousands, of dollars in damage.
11. Smoke detectors
Smoke detectors are important devices for people’s safety, so they must always work. Unfortunately, they break down over time and thus need more than just new batteries. The chirping sound a detector makes could be a reminder it’s time to change batteries, or it could mean it’s time for repairs or replacement. Luckily, smoke detectors last for about 10 years. If you have to make repairs or replace it, it will probably cost you $80 an hour to have a pro do it, but it should be a quick job.
HVAC repairs are any fixes that deal with heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. Because HVAC systems keep tenants safe and happy, it’s important to maintain them. Not only that, failing to do so could land you in legal trouble. These systems aren’t something that a layperson should tackle, so hire a professional. The repairs could cost anywhere from $150 to $450.
13. Electrical work
Electrical wiring faces wear and tear over time, and bad electrical work can make things short out and be quite dangerous. Of course, tenants want their lights to function properly, but they must contact you for electrical work instead of doing it themselves. It’s vital to get a professional electrician to make these kinds of repairs. Additionally, more underlying issues might be difficult to notice, but a trained professional would spot them. These issues can be a little expensive to fix, costing anywhere from $140 to over $400.
14. Drywall repairs
Drywall is all around us, even if we no longer “see” it. It’s used in a lot of home builds because it is simpler to repair than other materials. This makes fixing issues with walls easier, and a quick search on YouTube offers hundreds of results on how to do the job yourself, saving you time and money.