Maintenance costs in rental apartment communities have increased by 1.3 percent over the past three years and are expected to continue growing according to a recent survey.

Repairs are difficult to predict and without a proper system in place, property managers can easily overlook certain areas until something breaks and needs a replacement.  Be proactive and develop an effective preventative plan to keep units maintained and reduce the risk of potential repairs or even long term damage.

These tasks and inspections are more than likely being done already.  This plan and checklist is meant to minimize mistakes and lapses in your maintenance calendar.  Start your standing checklist with these six maintenance essentials.

1.     Air Filters

Coordinate with your maintenance staff to change each unit’s air filter every one to three months to eliminate the chance of any potential risks to your systems and any health issues for your tenants.

Leaving dirty air filters unchecked can lead to mildew growth and decreased air flow.  Not only does this impact tenants but it can increase the energy consumption and potentially cause major damage to the HVAC system.  On average, eight percent of a property’s energy consumption is air conditioning.

2.     Mechanical Systems: HVAC and Water Heaters

It’s better to spend a little money on a few inspections than a lot for last minute repairs or replacements.  Have your HVAC systems and water heaters inspected at least twice a year, before the summer and winter months, to insure there isn’t any damage or warning signs.  Dirty coils, worn parts and faulty controls on your HVAC system and water heater are a few of the signs that can go unnoticed.  Take your proactivity a step further and add one or two more additional visual inspections to prevent a potential breakdown.  When planning, keep in mind seasonal transitions and temperature changes.

3.     Energy-Efficient Lighting Upgrades

Constant swapping and changing incandescent light bulbs take quite an amount of your maintenance staff’s time.  Simply upgrading to LED bulbs will decrease operating and energy costs as these bulbs use 84 percent less energy and can last for more than 20 years.  Imagine not worrying abut changing bulbs until 2036.  Upgrading LED lighting requires a slightly higher upfront investment, but there is a tremendous amount of return on that investment over time.

4.     Fire Safety Alarms and Equipment

Fire departments respond to about 108,000 multi-family residential building fires in the United States every year.  Take whatever precautions you can to keep your property off that list.  Check and change batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors, and make sure every unit is equipped with a working and functional fire extinguisher.  Consider upgrading units with smoke and CO detectors that include lithium-ion batteries.  These sealed alarms last 10 years without needing a new battery.  After 10 years, you simply toss the entire unit and get a new one.  Today, there are even Wi-Fi enabled products that alert your resident’s smartphone and/or staff of any potential smoke or CO detected.

5.     Water Damage

Minimize or eliminate water damage threats by regularly checking common indoor areas such as sinks, water heaters and washing machines.  Consider installing leak detection sensors in high-risk areas that will alert your staff via smartphone of leaks so they can immediately address problems and possibly avoid expensive water damage.  Make sure there is proper sealing of gaps and cracks of doors and windows.  Risks and existing water damage can be spotted outdoors in the landscaping and irrigation, gutters and roofing.  Have all of these areas properly inspected and ensure water is draining properly.

  1. 6.     Resident Security

Renters are 85 percent more likely to experience break-ins than homeowners.  Smart home technology can help boost security and can also lead to significant savings for property managers.  Securing the property with keyless entry locks also makes it significantly easier and less expensive to re-key, decreasing the workload of maintenance requests.  This technology also allows renters to grant access for service calls, admit access remotely while away and manage the system through a convenient app on their smartphone.

Lighting is another area to consider when increasing security.  As you maintain, repair and swap bulbs on flood lights and other outdoor fixtures, consider upgrading to motion-senor LEDs.  As technology advances, these smarter fixtures are becoming much more affordable and they’ll create peace of mind for residents while possibly deferring potential crime and other security risks.

The bedrock for an effective preventative maintenance plan is partnering with the right third-party service providers and procurement sources.  Look for suppliers and service providers that offer a combination of services from MRO (maintenance, repair, operation) product fulfillment to products and installation services for capital projects and installation services for all of the above.  Consolidating vendor touch points and points of contact can lead to significant savings.

Scott Matthews is Director, Strategic Accounts at The Home Depot.  Scott is responsible for managing national accounts and e-commerce while overseeing business-to-business relationships.  During his 25 years at The Home Depot, he has served in a variety of roles and capacities including Regional Pro Sales Manager, District Manager and Store Manager.  Reprinted with permission of On-Site.