Purchasing a rental property and finding a suitable tenant is only the beginning of your journey as a landlord. With such a large investment it is important to keep your property in great shape – you should be in this for the long haul after all. The 2 main keys to building a successful rental business are:
- Maintaining your investment property to keep its value steady;
- Keeping your tenants happy and the rent coming in
You can, of course, choose a ‘reactive’ approach where you wait until an issue arises, and you receive a harried phone call from your tenant with an urgent need to fix something. However, this is not something that we would recommend if you want to avoid grey hairs and large unexpected bills.
The best option is to treat your investment property like a car. Inspect and maintain it regularly, dealing with small repairs as they arise. It may sound like a lot of work, but it will ultimately save you time and money in the long run. Here, we share our 5 simple ways to keep the maintenance of your rental property under control.
Step 1 – Regular exterminations to prevent infestation of insects and rodents
When it comes to pest control, the best case scenario is to prevent infestation. This can be achieved with regular treatments, which some professionals suggest should be done monthly, although quarterly treatments can also be very effective. If you choose to enlist professionals to complete the regular exterminations these visits are often affordable, although it is possible to conduct them yourself with a little research.
The costs involved are minimal compared with dealing with an actual outbreak of rodents or insects, which could, in the worst cases, damage the infrastructure of the property or chase away your tenants.
The Bug Man demonstrates the best control tactic for bugs with available options depending on your budget:
“The best way to get rid of bugs and keep them under control is to invest in regular treatments. If you want complete elimination of bugs, choose our monthly plan. If you need treatment for pests like spiders, ants and millipedes that you see less frequently, choose a bi-monthly plan.
Need affordable control? Try our bi-monthly seasonal plan to eliminate seasonal pests like wasps, ladybugs, box-elder bugs and more. Finally, if you only have pest issues in spring and fall, try our bi-annual treatment. Or, if you don’t mind the occasional pest but have flea, rodent or bat issues, check out our one-time plan.” [source]
Step 2 – Check for leaks and water damage
Regularly inspect your investment property for leaks and water damage, both internally and externally. Particularly after heavy rain, ice and snow, you should take the opportunity to inspect the drainage around the house to ensure that water is flowing away as it should. Take a look at the masonry for cracks and other signs of weather damage. Regularly identify any potential issues with the gutters around the house – something so simple that can prevent a host of issues. Take a look at what Patch says about the importance of maintaining clear guttering:
“Clogged gutters can wreak havoc with the natural drainage of water away from your home. This can result in damage to fascia, soffit, roofing or even begin leaking into your home. Additionally, water damage can ruin the very foundation of your home – something you NEVER want to happen.”
Some of the many benefits of gutter cleaning include:
- Prevent water damage to your home;
- Avoid nesting areas for termites, birds, mosquitoes and other insects;
- Prevent destruction of expensive landscaping;
- Maintain value and beauty of your home
After rain, you should also take a look inside the house for soft spots on the roof, ceilings and walls, which could indicate there is a leak. Additionally, your regular inspections should include checking around windows, showers, toilets, basins and boilers for signs of water. These are the typical spots that can spring a leak, and it is best to be aware of them as soon as possible.
Ongoing leaks can be very costly from 2 perspectives: the cost of increased water usage as well as the hidden damage that water may cause. This can be anything from mould (which may require a removal specialist) to issues with the foundation of the building.
Step 3 – Examine the integrity of grout and caulking
Grout and caulking are what you will find in the joints between tiles and the cracks between the trim and siding or masonry. Unfortunately, these products do not last forever. Due to the nature of their work, they are regularly exposed to water and lose effectiveness over time. Be sure you don’t overlook these seemingly small details when you inspect your rental property. In order to keep the seals watertight and prevent leaks, you should include caulk and grout in your regular maintenance checklist and refresh whenever necessary.
Step 4 – Test all safety equipment around the house
As a landlord, you have a legal duty to uphold your tenants’ legal rights to live in a safe environment. This means that you must install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors as well as fire extinguishers. Installation is not the end of your responsibility, though; it is important that you test the safety equipment on a regular basis to ensure they are working properly.
Such maintenance can save lives, so make sure you don’t skip this step. In the event the equipment fails when needed, you may even find yourself facing legal action. So, don’t drop this ball!
Step 5 – Regularly maintain filters, coils and closed water systems
Don’t neglect the unseen parts of the systems keeping your rental property ticking. This includes cleaning the filters in forced air systems, such as air conditioning, and vacuuming refrigerator coils. Also, flush out closed water systems annually to clear any sediment that could cause problems over time. Of course, you can enlist professional help with this if required.
Keeping everything in good working condition is usually a simple task and can help appliances last for years longer than if you neglect them. When they are running efficiently, it often helps to stop bills from creeping up, too.
Don’t forget the garden
While you are inspecting your rental property, don’t overlook the garden. While it may seem superfluous to the essential running of your landlord business, there are legitimate reasons we suggest it.
Keeping the patio and walkways clear and free of tripping hazards not only keeps the property looking neat and tidy, but will also prevent any potential legal issues should the tenant fall and injure themselves. If the yard is kept trimmed, you can reduce the likelihood of infestations; keeping garages clear also removes safety hazards.
This is not an area to be taken lightly. Landlords are frequently found liable for injuries that occur on their premises even if it is a guest of the tenant that is hurt. Take a look at what Nolo.com says on the subject:
“To be held responsible for an injury on the premises, the landlord or property manager must have been negligent in maintaining the property, and that negligence must have caused the injury. All of the following must be proven for a landlord to be held liable:
- It was the landlord’s responsibility to maintain the portion of premises that caused the accident.
- The landlord failed to take reasonable steps to avert the accident.
- Fixing the problem (or at least giving adequate warnings) would not have been unreasonably expensive or difficult.
- A serious injury was the probable consequence of not fixing the problem (the accident was foreseeable).
- The landlord’s failure — his negligence — caused the tenant’s accident.”
Protecting your investment through regular maintenance of your rental property is a sensible strategy. With frequent, continual, small repairs and preventative measures, you can keep your asset standing strong and holding value for years, which is essential if you intend to make a good profit a few years down the line. Of course, in the immediate term, regular property maintenance will keep your tenant happy (and paying rent) as well as protect you from any legal issues.
If it feels like too much of an effort, you can even hire property managers who will inspect the properties on your behalf and keep up with the repairs for you. Whichever option you decide on, protecting your investment in this way is a good business practice and should not be overlooked.