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Common Maintenance Issues and How to Avoid Getting Calls About Them

Once you've placed a responsible tenant in your rental, your major responsibilities as a landlord, outside of collecting rent, will likely revolve around keeping the property in good repair. Assuming you'd like your rental income to remain as passive a revenue stream as possible, here are some common maintenance issues that it's worth working with your tenant to deal with proactively:

Problem 1: Clogged drains

Clogged drains are among the most frequent recurring nuisances that landlords have to deal with. Sinks and bathtubs are used multiple times per day, and unless a tenant is scrupulous about drain care, clogs will inevitably develop.

Solutions: Install drain screens, give tenants clear instructions on drain care, then set a limit on the number of times per year (or other timeframe) that you'll fix this issue at your expense. Request that tenants not pour grease or othr chemicals down the drains, and that they clean drain stoppers and pour boiling water down all drains once a month. You may also want to leave them a plunger to use if sinks and tubs start draining slowly.

Problem 2: Lockouts

Everyone forgets their keys and ends up locked out of their house now and then, but unlike homeowners, renters have landlords to call when they need someone to let them into their home. When a tenant lives in a large complex with onsite staff, lockouts can often be resolved without much hassle to anyone, but this is not generally the case for independent landlords.

Solutions: Provide tenants with a spare key that they can leave with someone they trust, or leave an extra key in a lockbox somewhere on the property. (If you're worried about too many spare keys floating around, have "do not duplicate" stamped on each key, and make sure the tenant returns both keys at the end of the rental period.) Then specify in the lease that tenants are required to use a locksmith, at their own expense, in the event of a lockout that they can't solve using these resources.

Problem 3: Pest infestations

With so many pests looking to get in---from ants and spiders, to bedbugs and fleas, to mice, squirrels, and any other form of wildlife that can fit down a chimney---it can be difficult to keep a rental property infestation free. Landlords and tenants will need to work together to help prevent the appearance of these unwelcome guests.

Solutions: To prevent mice, spiders, ants, bees, and other common household plagues from taking up residence in your rental, conduct an annual inspection of the exterior of the building, making sure to seal all possible entry points. If you have a chimney, make sure it's properly capped. Provide tenants with information sheets on how to prevent fleas and bedbugs. In the lease, outline proper procedures for trash removal, and specify who is responsible for what in the event that an exterminator becomes necessary.

Problem 4: HVAC malfunctions

Heating and cooling systems are vital to every home, often creating emergency situations when they're in need of repair.

Solutions: Preventative maintenance is the key when it comes to maintaining your heating and air conditioning units. Replace furnace filters every three months, and calibrate your thermostat annually. Each spring, clean your air conditioner's evaporator, and make sure that the area around the condenser is cleared of any plant life. It's a good idea to test heating and cooling systems each year before they'll be needed. Turn your furnace on in late summer or early fall, and give your AC a test run in March. This way, if you do need repairs, you'll get the cheapest rates and quickest response time from the service technicians.

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