As much as I wish rental properties stayed in tip top shape forever, this just is not the case.
As a landlord, one of your most important jobs is to maintain the property and fix things when they break. Although this can be expensive and stressful, if you budget and plan for repairs and maintenance, you will have money set aside to handle these issues. If not, you’ll need to come out with the cost from your own pocket.
But either way, the repair must be fixed.
Although repairs tend to scare new landlords, in reality most repair issues are fairly standard and easy to fix. In fact, I’ve found that 95% of the repair issues I must address are the same ten repairs, over and over again. Although you cannot predict when these issues will occur, you can predict that they indeed will.
So I give you: my 10 most common repairs and how to address them (in no particular order!).
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The 10 Most Common Tenant Repair Requests
1. Appliances Not Working
Appliances have a lot of moving parts and as such tend to break down fairly often. Although some issues can be fixed by the landlord themselves (a burned-out light bulb, a new heating element needed), many issues will need a qualified appliance repair person.
Unless a new appliance is needed, the typical cost to fix is between $50 and $100 per hour, and most repairs can be handled in one hour. If you do need a new appliance, consider buying a used one. Used appliance stores exist in almost every town, and especially in the case of stoves, can be just as good as new. (Caveat: I never buy used dishwashers.)
2. Water Leak in Ceiling or Under Windows
Water may be required for the human body to survive, but it’s deadly to a rental property.
If left unchecked, water can destroy wood, drywall, flooring, and virtually 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 #1 concern!
Hire a qualified contractor to check out the problem and fix it immediately. When it comes to water leaks, don’t hire the cheapest guy; hire the best. It’s also a good idea to know if your property has water supply lines in the ceiling, so if there is a leak, you can call a plumber instead of a roofing contractor.
3. Water Leak Under Sink
A water leak under a kitchen or bathroom sink can have one of two causes: the supply line (the pipe that brings water to the sink, both hot and cold) or the drain (the white drain that takes the water from the sink and sends it out to the sewer).
I would estimate that 90% of the water leaks under a sink are caused by the drain pipe not fitting together correctly. This is a fairly easy task for you to learn how to fix (watch some YouTube videos to learn how), or hire a plumber, who should charge you around $100 for this job.
4. Water Drip From Faucets
A slow drip from a sink or bathroom can end up costing you hundreds of dollars per year. Therefore, if you have a slow drip, get it fixed right away. In most cases, the problem can be solved with a $.50 rubber washer and about an hour of work from a plumber (or yourself).
However, occasionally the entire faucet will need to be replaced. If this is the case, don’t buy the $18 faucet that is mostly plastic. You’ll be tearing it out next summer and replacing it again. And again. And again.
5. No Hot Water
If the tenant loses their hot water, it’s likely a problem with their hot water heater. If they need a new hot water heater, you’ll spend around $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 for $20 and a couple hours’ of work, or hire a plumber for a couple hundred bucks to do it for you.
Dealing with pests can be one of the most annoying jobs for a landlord because much of the time it’s the tenant’s own fault because they are dirty! Bugs and rodents like crumbs, so tenants with clean houses rarely have a problem. That said, it’s still your responsibility to make sure that any infestation is taken care of.
We tackle this issue on two fronts: educating the tenant AND hiring a pest specialist to deal with the issue, typically costing a few hundred dollars. Also be sure to seal up any holes, no matter how small, that bugs or rodents could be using to get into the property.
7. Garbage Disposals
These things may be great for grinding away food that is put down the sink, but they are a constant thorn in the side of landlords. They break all the time! I believe this is mostly due to tenants putting things into them that never belong in a garbage disposal. (“I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to put whole chicken bones down there!”) For this reason, I try to remove garbage disposals from my properties when possible.
However, if your garbage disposal breaks while a tenant is in the property and you need to fix it, there are generally two things that could be wrong. First, it might just be “stuck” and need an allen wrench to unstick it. Or the motor might be burned out, and you’ll need a new disposal, which might run a couple hundred bucks including installation from a handyman.
8. Toilet Running
Toilets may be made of long-lasting porcelain, but the tank parts are generally cheap pieces of plastic that break all the time. If the toilet is running (water can be heard going through it 24-7, or the tank re-fills with water on its own every so often), it’s most likely a problem with the flapper. Typically, these kind of problems can be fixed with less than $20 of parts and an hour of labor from a plumber or yourself. (Again, watch a YouTube video and you’ll learn everything you need to fix the “guts” of a toilet… if that’s something you want to tackle on your own.)
9. Clogged Toilet
If your tenant clogs their toilet, this is NOT your responsibility to fix.
Problems that are caused by the tenant are the tenant’s responsibility, so let them call a plumber to deal with the issue. Or call a plumber yourself 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 lie with your drain pipe, such as a collapsed pipe or a tree root that has grown through it. (I once had a property where someone flushed huge rocks down the toilet! This caused a major problem for me — and a hefty plumber’s bill!)
10. Furnace Repairs
Heat is vital, so a furnace repair (especially during the winter) is one of the most important repairs on this list. If your furnace goes out, it could be something as simple as the pilot light going out or something as complicated as a gas leak. When your tenant calls, get a furnace repair specialist out to the property immediately.
Also, many furnace problems would have never happened had the furnace filter been replaced often, so be sure your tenant knows how and when to do this.
You’ll likely encounter more problems than just what I’ve listed here while owning rental properties, but these ten items will likely represent 95% of the issues you’ll face.
None of them by themselves are that expensive to fix.
However, if left untreated, each of these can end up costing you thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars in damage. Treat each of these items with care and get them fixed immediately. Your tenant — and your wallet — will thank you.
So what about you? What have been your top repairs? Have you encountered common repairs different than what I’ve listed here?
Let me know by leaving a comment below this post!