Whether you hire professional contractors, do it yourself, or combine the two, managing the regular maintenance of a rental property is an important part of being a landlord. Additionally, if you are a property owner you must also make sure that the rental property is up to code and in great shape for tenants.
Here are 10 tips, verified by the experts behind Bricks + Agent, that will help you manage rental property maintenance more efficiently:
1. Outline the responsibilities
A good property maintenance plan starts with a signed lease. Make sure you outline what responsibilities you and the tenant/s have after the move in. Generally, tenants must take care of regular upkeep such as removing trash, changing light bulbs, and minor maintenance issues.
Landlords and property managers are responsible for major maintenance issues like heating, electrical, and plumbing. Furthermore, they must also take care of prepping a property for new tenants and fixing wear and tear issues. As a property owner, you should have emergency procedures in place, in the event tenants need to reach you.
You should be open to communication with your tenants and keep them updated when they need something from you. Instead of just telling them that “You are working on it”, try giving them less vague answers like “I am working on it and I will keep you updated as soon as I know more”.
If you are communicative and open with your tenants, they will be encouraged to be honest with you in return and will keep you informed about any problems that might arise. If you can communicate with them efficiently, you can avoid conflict and heated exchanges.
Bonus tip: Before your tenants move in, stock the place with things that will need to be replaced in the near future like air filters, light bulbs, or shower heads. These accessories are not expensive, but they show your tenants that you want to do right by them. Consequently, they will take better care of your property and maybe rent longer than they had previously planned.
2. Document the condition of the property
Before new tenants move in, you should document the condition of the place. Take videos or photos and make a list of anything already damaged. By having photos of what everything looked like you will avoid disputes, and it also shows that you have no intentions of withholding the tenants’ security deposit.
Keep in mind that some wear and tear is part of renting a property and the tenants should never be held accountable for it, unless something has been seriously damaged. A broken drawer, an appliance that won’t work properly, or scratches on the floor are good examples of minor wear and tear issues that are inevitable. However, issues like holes in walls, broken windows, missing furniture items or appliances should be deducted from the tenant’s security deposit.
Ensure that tenants have a clear image of what condition you expect your property to be in after tenants move out, and remind them about their end of lease at least three months in advance.
3. Formulate a preventive property management schedule and stick to it
You are probably familiar with the quote: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, as it applies to a lot of things including property maintenance. By formulating a schedule for preventative maintenance, it will be easy for you to catch the small issues before they become costly problems.
Include a clause in the lease that requires tenants to notify you in a timely manner if they have any maintenance issues or face a fee. You should inspect the property once every few months and check the condition of the appliances, the floors, the cabinets, the basement, the roof, etc. You can also make this check seasonally and include the maintenance issues that are specific to each period such as checking the gutters in spring.
Bonus tip: Keep in mind that all appliances and features have a lifespan. Knowing how long they will last will help you plan ahead and avoid any major issues. If you are aware that the washing machine is approaching the end of its life, it’s good to start planning ahead and invest in a new one when you find a great sale. By doing this you save a lot of money and avoid having to buy one urgently.
4. Keep landscaping low-maintenance
Even if your tenants are gardening enthusiasts, don’t make any major changes that would require extra attention and care on your part if you don’t have to.
Landscaping should be kept as low maintenance to ensure that it is aesthetically pleasing year round. This way neither you nor your tenants will have to worry about taking care of the lawn.
If the property’s outdoor area is small, there are many techniques and ways in which you can make the most of the space that you have available. Small gardens or patios can look nice if you know how to use the space.
5. Standardise your rental property(ies)
Whether you are managing several rental properties or just one, it’s very convenient to use the same flooring, paint, hardware, and appliances in all of them. This will save you time and effort, and avoid confusion in any case. If one of the tenants needs a bucket of paint to fix a wall, you will know exactly what colour they need.
Bonus tip: Some property owners allow tenants to choose interior paints of their choosing. If you're not comfortable with letting tenants choose paint for the whole house, you can consider letting them paint an accent wall. This can help make your tenants feel more at home.
The best flooring for rental properties is made of durable materials. Most people opt for tile, hardwood, laminate, vinyl, cork, linoleum, or carpet. Each of these options has their advantages and disadvantages and it’s recommended to do some research before choosing the best option for your property.
The best paint colours for rental properties are warm and neutral shades of white, grey, and beige. These colours are versatile and hide the imperfections on the walls. However, before choosing the colour palette for the property you should take the lighting and orientation of the space into account.
6. Keep all the documents and receipts in a file
Owning rental properties is a business in its own right, so there are some maintenance repairs and projects that may fall into the category of business expenses and be tax-deductible. Keep all of the documents and the receipts and write down the time that was spent on repairs. It’s a good idea to work with an experienced tax professional who will make sure that you are compliant with the local laws and regulations.
7. Make the property feel like new when the tenants move in
Before you welcome new tenants to your property, take a minute and think whether you would like to live in that space or not. All new tenants deserve to live in a home that has been freshly painted and deeply cleaned. Your responsibility is to offer them a property that is move-in ready.
Ask your tenants what upgrades and improvements they think the property needs. If their ideas are good, you should take them into account and at some point implement them.
If there are carpets in the property, you should have them sanitised and professionally cleaned. If there were pets also, you might want to remove the carpets and replace them depending on their condition.
Bonus Tip: Don’t forget to change the locks after the previous tenants move out.
8. Automate as much as possible
Easily forgotten, your tenants may forget to replace smoke alarm batteries. It’s a good idea to invest in batteries that last longer, and have fixtures that turn on automatically that are tamper resistant. Consider getting motion lights or solar lights installed in the front yard and backyard, lockable and programmable thermostats, and automatic bathroom fans.
It might seem expensive to buy some of these fixtures, but it’s worth it. Besides, it's a landlord’s responsibility to keep the property hazard-free and safe.
9. Hire professional contractors
As a landlord, you can choose whether you want to DIY certain jobs or hire a professional contractor. It's important to know that some jobs need to be handled by professionals such as plumbing or electrical issues. In Australia, you are required by law to hire plumbers and electricians that are licenced. Always check that the trades professional you hire tradies has valid insurance cover.
10. Save for rainy days
A good landlord is prepared for almost anything; leaks, floods, fires. To quickly solve any problems, have a contingency fund readily available.
If you are on the lookout for professional tradies, jump on Bricks + Agent property maintenance platform and post your jobs anonymously. After the job is posted, wait for quality local tradies to place their bids and choose one to get the job done.