By William Bronchick & Frank Pulley
If you are a conscientious landlord and have any rental properties, you probably are aware that they seem to need continuing maintenance and repairs. Things such as fence repair or siding are obvious. However, some of the less obvious items can cause some real problems if left unchecked. Although there are others, these are the Top 7 that we, as experienced landlords of many years, came up with:
- The Furnace. An inefficient and improperly operating furnace can cost a lot more in monthly heating costs. In addition, the quality of air it produces can be unhealthy for the tenants. Making sure the pilot light is burning properly and that the thermostat is operating correctly is very important. Also changing the furnace filter on a regular basis is important for the air quality and for proper furnace function. An annual tune-up on the furnace will not only save you money in the long run, but it will also ensure that the furnace is running safely and efficiently and prolong the life of the furnace.
- Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detectors. We can’t say enough about these! They are required in most areas in the U.S. These can become a huge liability issue for you if they aren’t checked and maintained! Although we much prefer the hard- wired devices (so the batteries don’t run out) They must be checked a couple of times a year. Don’t depend on your tenants to do this for you.
- Water Damage. Looking for signs of water damage can save you a ton of money if you catch the leak early and get it repaired. Look around the toilets, under the sinks, showers, and tubs. Look at ceilings for signs of leakage also. Get it repaired before it becomes a bigger problem with more damage and possibly mold problems!
- Door & Windows. Look at the doors and windows. Do they open & close completely and correctly? Do the handles and locks work?
- Do the appliances work? Check the refrigerator for proper cooling. Check the garbage disposal (these seem to take a lot of repairs) Does the stove and oven work properly? An oven that hasn’t been cleaned for a long while can be a fire hazard.
- Wall & Foundation Cracks. Look at the foundation, inside and out. On the outside, look for improper water drainage (make sure water drains away from the foundation) Look at the foundation inside, if it has one. Look for cracks and possible signs of water. Have the gutters cleaned and make sure that the downspouts drain and point away from the house.
- Water Leaks. Make sure that the toilets aren’t continually running. There are very inexpensive kits you can get from and hardware store. You put a small package of dye into the toilet tank (you can also just use food coloring) Wait about 15-20 minutes. If you have dye in the toilet bowl, then you likely have a leak. These can be costly on the water bill and are usually a very quick and inexpensive fix. Listen for sounds of water running. If your property has an unusually high water bill for a month or two, check to see what the problems might be. (I have had a tenant accidentally leave the hose on for a couple of days.) If you can’t find it after that then have the local water company come out. They can check to see if the leak is coming from some interior or exterior pipes. They will usually do this for a low cost or most times for free. Depending on if it is the fault of the tenant or the property, you may have to work something with them if they are paying the water bill.
Most of these issues can be avoided by making sure that your tenants are comfortable in reporting problems quickly and then taking care of those issues in a timely manner. Have a semi-annual inspection done. You can do this yourself or if you have a property manager make sure this is happening at least twice a year. It usually takes less than an hour and can pay off in huge savings on unchecked property damage and tenant satisfaction.
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