This article was posted on Tuesday, Apr 01, 2014

Owning a rental can of course be a cumbersome task and require continual upkeep and maintenance by the owner and/or the property management company.  The purpose of this article is to summarize some of the best ways to minimize your potential for large capital project costs by performing the routine maintenance that best preserves your property.

Periodic Inspections

The most important aspect of managing a rental property is performing routine inspections and ensuring that no big or small condition goes unnoticed.  This is where a simple 30 minutes of your time can save you a lot of money down the road.  Some residents may not report small problems to you and over time, that small leak under the kitchen sink could turn into a $500 repair project.   Try to perform an internal inspection at least once every six months.

The other aspect about this is keeping in frequent contact with your residents.  This is where many landlords drop the ball and it ends up costing them a lot of money in lost capital.  The secret is to treat them like gold.  A resident that pays you every month deserves great treatment.  Respond to their maintenance problems right away and return their calls right away.  When you are maintaining a great relationship with your residents, they will be much more likely to let you know when there is a minor problem BEFORE it develops into a major problem.  That is the secret that will save you a ton of time and energy.

Safety Hazards

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During your inspections and definitely as soon as you start managing your property, perform a thorough review of all potential safety issues.  Put the below on your safety checklist:

  • Check for outside trip hazards (such as uneven walkways)
  • Check all smoke alarm batteries
  • Check all carbon monoxide alarms
  • Check GFCI outlets for proper grounding and operation of all GFCI outlets and      all  normal outlets as well
  • Check  water heater straps
  • Check for cracked windows and that windows operate correctly
  • Check your handrail structural sturdiness

Water Leaks

Try to time one of your periodic inspections so that you are there during a rainstorm.  This will allow you to perform a roof check.  Climb inside the attic and double check that there is no noticeable signs of leakage.  This is really more applicable for older homes that may be more susceptible to having a roof leak.  Other places to look for water leaks are under each sink.

At every toilet, stand around the bowl on the floor and see if there are any soft spots.  If there is anywhere that there is a soft spot, you will need to have that toilet bowl removed and potentially need to repair the wood, but definitely you will need to install a new wax seal.  When there is a soft spot around the floor, that means that the wax ring is lacking and will need to be repaired.

The other place is around the tubs and showers.  Look for wet spots or soft spots around the tub that could indicate a leaky area or an enclosure that is not keeping the water in the tub or shower area.  Also, keep a close eye out for any mold starting – that can be a whole different issue and requires immediate attention.

HVAC Filters

This is a very common area that residents may not keep up on and can cost you money in HVAC equipment.  For example, if a resident does not regularly replace the filters, then they clog up and restrict airflow.  Your heater and air conditioning systems then have to work proportionally harder to generate the necessary amount of heating and/or cooling to get the temperature set point where you want it.  Over time, this takes a toll on your systems and will lead to premature degradation and replacement or repair of a system long before it should have been due, costing you more capital outlay.

These are a few of the more important items to watch for when performing your regular property inspections.  It is very easy to “trust” that your residents are keeping the house in good order.  However, this is where many long distance landlords can get in trouble.  If you are not able to visit and inspect your rental on a routine basis, then you must either hire a friend, neighbor, contractor or a property management company to perform these inspections for you.

Nick Hubers,  Reprinted from the Wisconsin Apartment Association News.

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