Property maintenance is one of the most crucial aspects of being a successful landlord. Responding promptly to maintenance requests is vital to keep tenants happy. It also shows that your care for your property. This attitude can also encourage tenants to look after the rental unit.
Preventative property maintenance is also crucial. A maintenance checklist for regular inspections reduces a building’s operating costs, avoids costly repairs, and minimizes hazards. However, as a responsible landlord, keeping a pleasant living environment for your tenants is just as vital as avoiding expensive repairs.
It can be challenging for a new landlord to keep up with property maintenance. In addition, finding the time to maintain a rental property can be challenging for even long-time property owners. However, keeping a property well maintained is a wise way to look after your investment despite any challenges.
What is involved in property maintenance if you are an investment property owner? Why is having an apartment maintenance checklist crucial for your rental business? What are the best practices to deal with tenant maintenance requests?
This article examines your maintenance responsibilities if you are a landlord, property manager, or property owner.
Property Maintenance for Rentals — What Are a Landlord’s Responsibilities?
Property maintenance is necessary for several reasons. First, you can prevent serious issues from developing and minimize the need for emergency repairs. Second, landlord-tenant laws specific to your state require landlords to maintain their rental units in good working order. Third, tenants expect you to respond to maintenance requests promptly.
Keeping a rental property in good working order means ensuring tenants have 24-hour access to basic amenities. So, things like heating, electricity, and plumbing should always work. In addition, you may have to carry out annual safety checks on systems such as air-conditioning, heating, and carbon monoxide detectors.
However, as a responsible landlord, you probably want to do more than the bare minimum. For example, you probably want to keep your investment property in good order and avoid unnecessary repairs. Thus, most landlords have a regular schedule to inspect their rental units and repair or replace fixtures before they break down. Seasonal maintenance is also vital to prevent systems such as heating and cooling from giving out when they are needed most.
Landlord-tenant law also restricts when landlords can enter a property. For example, you generally have to give tenants at least 24-hours’ notice before carrying out a rental property inspection. Also, you must carry out repairs within a specific time frame. For example, this is typically 24 hours for emergency repairs and minor repairs, 48 hours. However, the lease agreement usually specifies these clauses.
The International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC)
Property owners must adhere to the International Property Maintenance Code. The IPMC applies to landlords and homeowners. The document outlines the minimum standards regarding a building’s structure, ventilation, sanitation, lighting, and fire safety. The standards apply to commercial buildings, multi-family, and single-family dwellings.
For example, Section 301 of the IPMC states that “the owner of the premises shall maintain the structure and exterior property in compliance with these requirements.” In addition, if there are code violations, the document says that a landlord or property owner cannot “permit another person to occupy premises that are not in a sanitary and safe and safe condition.”
Most states include in the landlord-tenant law similar requirements as the IPMC. Therefore, regular property maintenance can help you adhere to specific regulations regarding the following:
- Minimum levels of heat
- Providing hot water
- Prohibitions on insect and rodent infestations
- Adequate sanitation, including garbage disposal
- Suitable ventilation to ensure occupant safety
- Maintain the exterior of the building
The rental agreement can specify which areas of maintenance are the responsibility of the tenant. For example, this could be mowing the lawn, taking the garbage out, and promptly reporting maintenance issues to the landlord.
How to Address Maintenance Requests
The challenge with apartment maintenance requests is that they come without warning. However, in many cases, the request is urgent, and sometimes you must deal with it promptly. Handling maintenance requests starts with educating the tenant about what repairs are urgent or minor & non-urgent.
To streamline maintenance requests, it’s a good idea to use a property management tool. For example, a mobile app for landlords can allow tenants to file maintenance requests, take photos of the issue, and stay informed. From the landlord’s perspective, a property management app can help save time, track repairs, and even assign contractors.
But the best way to keep maintenance requests to a minimum and save time is to have a robust schedule for property maintenance.
12 Ways to Maintain Your Rental Property — Apartment Maintenance Checklist
A rental inspection checklist is the best way to prevent minor things from turning into more significant issues. Also, a routine maintenance checklist can help ensure you don’t forget an essential part of an annual inspection.
Let’s look in detail at 12 important ways to maintain your rental property. Some items can be part of an annual property inspection, and other maintenance tasks can be more frequent.
1. Inspect for pests
It’s your responsibility to prevent rodent, bug, or pest infestations in a rental unit. And no tenant will be happy if unwanted visitors are crawling around the apartment. So, an annual inspection should check for pets to help keep the unit pest-free.
But suppose a tenant reports rats or mice in the apartment? In that case, it’s a good idea to call a professional exterminator straight away.
Related reading: How to tell a tenant to clean the house.
2. Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
An essential aspect of property management is to safeguard your tenant’s safety. Laws require that rental units have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. By law, you must test them annually. Also, rules can change. So, it’s a good idea to get any updated guidelines on the number of smoke detectors that must be in each rental unit.
3. Check for water damage or leaks
Leaking pipes can result in mold, water damage, and even a flood. During a routine inspection, look for signs of excess water on floors under sinks or in basements. Tell-tale signs of water damage are brown water stains on drywall, ceilings, or floor coverings. Additionally, check that faucets and toilets are not leaking. Finally, it would be best to look for damage around windows and doors to ensure that all seals are wind and watertight.
4. Refresh bathroom caulk
While checking around the bath or shower for water damage, look to see if caulking needs replacing. Even though old caulk isn’t a severe problem, it’s simple to change and freshen up the bathroom. Also, the tenant will appreciate these small property maintenance touches.
5. Maintain heating and cooling systems
HVAC systems are expensive to repair or replace. So, it makes sense to service systems twice a year. Have a contractor test the furnace and air-conditioning systems. The contractor should replace the furnace filter and carry out necessary repairs.
The best time to service HVAC systems is before the arrival of winter or in spring. Ensuring the heating system is in good working order helps reduce the risk of it breaking down when it’s freezing outside. Additionally, before hot summer days arrive, get the air-conditioner serviced.
Regularly servicing HVAC systems will keep your tenants happy and keep emergency maintenance requests to a minimum.
6. Inspect the roof and clean gutters
One of the most critical aspects of a preventative maintenance checklist is to inspect the roof. Shingles should be in good order, and none should be missing. An inspection of the attic could reveal water damage from a leaking roof. Roof damage is one of the top reasons for mold and dampness in a property.
At the same time, it’s vital to clean the gutters as part of an exterior inspection. Gutters and downpipes are critical in allowing water to flow away from the building. In addition, gutter cleaning makes sure that drainage systems work as they should, thus avoiding problems with excess moisture.
7. Replace filters in ducts and air conditioning systems
For preventative maintenance, you should replace air filters every three months. Clogged AC filters cause your systems to work harder. In extreme cases, a blocked filter or duct can cause the unit to break, resulting in costly emergency repairs
Air filters are relatively inexpensive and easy to change. Keeping them clean helps to keep heating and cooling systems working effectively. This is an excellent way to reduce energy bills and avoid expensive repairs.
8. Flush the water heater
Another way to avoid the burden of unexpected costly fixes is to keep the water heater in good order. Sediment and limescale can build up in water heaters. And if it breaks, relacing a water heater will be a significant expense. It is good practice to flush the water heater twice a year. This way, you reduce the risk of having to call out a contractor because your tenant doesn’t have hot water.
9. Ensure door and window locks are secure
Landlords are responsible for making sure that adequate security measures are in place. In your rental property maintenance checklist, have a point to check that all doors and windows shut securely and lock. Remember, when signing a lease with new tenants, you should change the locks.
10. Prune trees and shrubs to enhance curb appeal
Basic landscaping—mowing the lawn and raking leaves—is usually your tenant’s responsibility. However, you are typically responsible for more extensive tree maintenance and removing heavy or bulky items from the property.
If you live in an area with harsh winters, you might want to trim your trees in the fall. Property damage can be caused by heavy snow and ice weighing on unstable branches. These could also break off and injure a person, making you liable.
11. Check common areas for potential hazards
Part of apartment building maintenance is keeping common areas of the building clean and safe. To ensure tenant safety, stairways must be free of hazardous materials. Also, check that hand railings and banisters are secure and don’t pose any risk to tenants. There should be no trash or debris in the shared hallways and stairways.
12. Check for any activity that violates the rental agreement
During your routine inspection, pay attention to signs of any activity that violates the lease. For example, this could be evidence of unapproved pets, unauthorized tenants, or smoking. Remember to gather enough evidence about any lease violation before serving a notice to cure or quit.
Related reading: When does a guest become a tenant?
Should You Hire a Property Maintenance Service Company?
In some cases, a property management company can take the hassle out of maintenance. However, hiring a professional property manager could be an added expense for new landlords who only have a few rental units. Therefore, it’s a good idea to decide on repairs you can handle yourself and when you should call in a contractor.
Property Maintenance – In Conclusion
Being a landlord isn’t just about collecting rental income. As a reliable landlord, it’s vital to protect your investment property. Regular property maintenance ensures that you keep repairs and maintenance requests to a minimum. Also, an apartment maintenance checklist helps you have a good schedule of inspecting the entire property to keep it in good repair and your tenants happy.