Property Maintenance & Repairs

Rental Property Maintenance: Your Go-To Guide

| 3 min. read

Unless you’re already a handyman by profession, one of the most intimidating things about becoming a landlord is the regular repair and maintenance a property requires. Whether you’re about to rent for the first time or desperately trying to fill that empty unit on the first floor, this post will help you tighten up your maintenance habits and update your checklists so that your property functions like a well-oiled machine. 

5 Starting Issues: Address Before Signing

When deciding to rent your house or another property you own, the first thing you want to know is that you’re setting the rent fairly. Use these guidelines to make sure you’re getting the most out of your property while a tenant still gets a fair deal. 

Once you’ve set the rent and advertised the property as available, it’s time to get down to brass tacks. Between tenants, there are five key things you’ll want to double-check before signing a new lease. 

#1: Building Codes 

Landlords are responsible for building maintenance and protecting the safety of their tenants. One essential way to do that is to verify that you’re adhering to building codes. These can vary state-to-state, so make sure to check your local guidelines. We’ve included common building codes here to illustrate what you should expect. Building and safety codes typically regulate:

  • Lead-based paint for properties built before 1978
  • Toxic mold (Toxic mold doesn’t have to be a property death sentence)
  • Asbestos
  • Maximum number of people per unit
  • Smoke detectors
  • Carbon monoxide detectors
  • Adequate lighting in common areas
  • Safety guards on windows
  • Use of fire retardant paint
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical wiring
  • The structural integrity of the building

#2: Trash and Sanitation

Before renting your unit, double-check the trash and sanitation schedule. Does it run smoothly and regularly? What will tenants need to do each week with their trash? Including these details in tenant interviews or rental agreements guarantees that communication on sanitation is spick and span from the get-go. 

#3: Utilities

Between tenants, you’ll want to review the utility situation on your property. If you’re covering any utilities as the landlord, make sure to double-check all meters are working correctly and that there aren’t any leaks anywhere along the way. Even a small leak can be costly in the long run. Also, see if your local ordinances include air conditioning as a landlord's responsibility. Finally, you’ll want to make sure fast internet is available in your area. While you’ll rarely cover that expense as a landlord, it’s a necessary utility to provide access to.

#4: Security

Security is a big selling point for many potential tenants. Make sure yours is up to date and fully functional before renting a property. Are all cameras recording as they should? Do doors to common areas lock automatically and close easily? If your building has security that goes above and beyond what’s expected for your neighborhood, you can even include this as part of a property’s advertisement. Security sells!

#5: Common Areas

In multifamily properties, you’ll likely have a few common areas. Are they all clean and ready for new tenant use? Do the washing machines work? Is the gym equipment maintained? Does the pool need a new filter? Between tenants is a great time to check in on the regular maintenance needs. 

General Maintenance Checklist

Regular maintenance constitutes a significant portion of a landlord’s responsibilities during a lease. Required maintenance varies slightly from state to state, so make sure you’re up to date on local laws. 

In general, a landlord is responsible for anticipating tenants’ needs relating to property use. This includes regular, scheduled maintenance as well as repairs when emergency situations arise. 

To stay on top of regular maintenance, every six months take the time to complete this checklist for every property or unit:

  • Replace batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Replace all air filters. Even if they don’t desperately need to be replaced, this will ensure your HVAC system functions at the highest efficiency possible. 
  • Check property efficiency. Compare utility bills from the same month of the previous year to quickly assess if they’re still in top working condition. This is especially important if you include any utility bills with a tenant’s rent. 
  • Building maintenance.  If you don’t visit the property often or live nearby, you don’t want to go more than six months without an in-person inspection. Once a month is best, but you may have a property that isn’t convenient to visit regularly. Make sure common areas are clean, laundry units are all in working order, security is functioning properly, the lawn and garden are taken care of, and the roof and gutters don’t have any leaks or weak spots. 
  • Talk to Tenants. Now, this doesn’t have to be a formal meeting, but check-in to see how everything is going either in person or via email. They’ll be aware of the day-to-day issues that you may not catch in a routine inspection. 
  • Address seasonal needs. You’ll also want to keep on top of seasonal needs, depending on your local climate. If you’re somewhere with a lot of snow to contend with, these resources may be helpful: 
  • A Step-by-Step Guide to Winterizing Your Rental Property
  • How to Pick a Generator to Prevent Winter Power Outages: Frequently Asked Questions from Landlords

By making a habit of locating small problems through regular maintenance and inspection, you ensure you won’t have to fix big (aka more expensive) problems later.

Building Your Real Estate Portfolio

Over several years of serving as a landlord, you’ll begin to build up a network of local vendors you can trust. You may even organize their contact information so it’s easy to hand over their info to someone helping you run the property. 

If you find that real estate investing suits you, you may look into ways to expand your portfolio, like buying more properties, flipping houses, or exploring multifamily options.

For landlords looking to take on more investment potential without shouldering additional stress, hiring a property manager is a great way to get the best of both worlds. A property management company can be on call for you, so you get a healthier work/life balance. They also come with their own vendor contacts and can usually provide better quality and more cost-effective regular maintenance. Plus, property management companies are able to handle tenant turnover efficiently while double-checking local compliance statutes so you don’t have to read through every tiny bylaw and footnote yourself. 

Partnering with a property management company takes much of the day-to-day management off your plate, making expansion into more properties much easier for investors and landlords.

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