Caring for essential property maintenance is key to running a successful rental property business. Maintaining your investment property is an ongoing job to ensure you avoid huge repair bills. Also, as the property owner, you have a legal duty to your tenants to provide inhabitable conditions. Rental property maintenance is not something you can leave until your tenants complain about not having heat or hot water.
As the adage goes: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” For rental property owners, the same is true. A few dollars of preventative maintenance can avoid a hefty bill of hundreds or even thousands of dollars to “cure” a major problem. You also avoid risking getting sued or gaining a reputation as a “slumlord” who fails to maintain rental properties well.
This article examines the five essential maintenance tasks that no successful landlord or property manager can afford to forget.
The Law & Property Maintenance
First, let’s look at the reasons why you need to care about regular maintenance. Landlords must ensure that rental properties comply with relevant building and housing standards. Maintaining a suitable habitable living space means that the property has adequate heating, cooling, hot water, plumbing, and a safe electrical system. Also, all fixtures and appliances should be safe and in good working order.
Tenants are responsible for paying rent, and the landlord is responsible for maintaining the unit in a livable condition.
According to Cornell Law School, even if the lease agreement doesn’t require landlords to make repairs, it is still their responsibility. In legal terms, this is called the “implied warranty of habitability.”
Of course, tenants have to notify you if there are minor repairs requiring attention. For example, a tenant would have to inform you if the refrigerator is leaking or there is a dripping pipe. If the tenant fails to do so, they could be liable for property damage resulting from the problem they ignored.
On the other hand, if a tenant notifies you of essential repairs, you must carry them out within a reasonable time.
Dealing With Maintenance Requests
Dealing with maintenance requests can be a landlord’s biggest pain point. Requests to carry out maintenance can come at any time of day or night. The frustrating aspect is that what a tenant thinks is an emergency may not be so serious.
Essential maintenance can be divided into two categories—emergency and non-emergency situations.
An emergency could be a burst pipe that threatens to flood the unit or a furnace that breaks down in winter. It’s crucial to act fast to make emergency repairs so that the rental unit is liveable. In these cases, you can enter the rental unit without prior notice.
Non-emergency situations are more related to small repair jobs or preventative maintenance. The tenant may inform you of a slow-draining sink or a running toilet. Usually, these issues don’t threaten your tenant’s health and safety. So, you can schedule repairs in line with the rental agreement.
It’s also a good idea to carry out a property inspection to check for maintenance issues and service appliances.
Successful landlords and property managers need a robust system of tracking maintenance requests. For this, it’s a great idea to use a property management app. The app should have the ability to track requests, assign maintenance contractors, and ensure requests are handled promptly.
As well as responding promptly to maintenance requests, a landlord can use a property management app for much more. For example, it’s possible to schedule preventative maintenance jobs and routine seasonal inspections and keep a network of vendors for repairs.
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