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Property Maintenance

Rental Property Preventative Maintenance

Everything Landlords Need To Know

It’s often said that prevention is better than cure and this is especially true when it comes to rental property maintenance.

In this article, we take a look at exactly what preventative maintenance is and how it can save you time and money and even improve your relationship with tenants.

Preventative maintenance vs reactive maintenance

Preventative maintenance is exactly what it sounds like: small jobs and maintenance are carried out here and there in order to prevent the problem from snowballing into a much bigger, costlier maintenance job. It is a way of getting in front of the problem before it escalates.

Although preventative maintenance may incur minor upfront charges (through having to pay for regular inspections from a professional), you will save time and money in the long run. This applies to the inside and outside of the property as well as any surrounding areas such as gardens and communal areas like laundry rooms.

On the other hand, reactive maintenance is the process of fixing a problem when it arises. As this often involves urgent solutions, you will likely be stung with a higher bill, as you find yourself paying a premium to quickly resolve the issue.

It can also be highly disruptive to your tenants, who may have to move (at your cost) due to a sudden emergency.

Who is responsible for maintenance?

As a landlord, you have a responsibility to provide a safe and habitable space for your tenants to live in. This means that you are responsible for the maintenance of your rental property and managing reasonable wear and tear.

It goes without saying that tenant-caused property damage is the responsibility of the tenant to remedy. Read our article on wear and tear vs property damage for a breakdown of property damage and how to avoid and resolve it.

Landlords tend to wear many hats, from property manager to accountant to handyman. So when it comes to actually maintaining your rental property, there may be small maintenance jobs that landlords can do themselves. This could be anything from fixing a leaky faucet or clogged drain to painting and refreshing the caulking.

If you’re not so handy, or for more serious issues that need a professional eye, you can always hire a contractor to come and take a look.

How to communicate with tenants about maintenance

The key to any positive landlord-tenant relationship is good communication. This means that the tenant should be given written notice, well in advance of the landscaper or plumber coming to do their job.

By setting the precedence of keeping your tenants in the loop, they will also likely feel more comfortable reporting issues as they pop up. If the tenant does not see you taking care of your own property, they may not think it a big deal when something breaks.

Benefits of preventative maintenance

As mentioned, preventative property maintenance is an ideal alternative to reactive maintenance. Some of the other benefits that will positively impact you and your tenants are as follows:

Save time in the long run

Although you may have to carry out inspections or small repairs throughout the year, you will still most likely save time compared to if you have to fix a big problem down the line.

Prevent liability

Landlords ultimately have a responsibility to provide a safe place for their tenants to live. If issues arise as a result of landlord negligence, you could be held liable and may be sued by your tenant. Getting in front of the problem before it escalates can help prevent liability.

Reduces worry about unexpected costs

Instead of paying thousands of dollars in the event that something goes wrong, you can rest easy in the knowledge that your property is being kept in a safe condition. Of course, it’s still highly recommended to set some money aside for any unexpected maintenance costs that may arise from time to time.

Less invasive for your tenants

Emergency property issues can lead to displacement for your tenants if the property becomes dangerous or unsafe for them to live in. With preventative maintenance for example, instead of having to move out of the house after the basement floods, tenants will only have to deal with a quick inspection once a year.

Examples of how much money preventative maintenance can save you

Every house is different in terms of size, layout, and exposure to the elements, but on average, you could be saving large sums of money by preventing issues from growing beyond your control. Some examples of preventative maintenance jobs that cost significantly less than reactive maintenance are:

Roof inspection: $200
Roof replacement: $5,500 – $11,000

Gutter cleaning: $160
Gutter replacement: $3,000

Foundation inspection: $450
Foundation repairs: $2,000 – $10,000+

Roof tiles

Seasonal preventative maintenance jobs

Some property maintenance jobs are best done during specific seasons. For example, there’s little point in inspecting the gutters for snowstorm damage during the height of summer. Equally, servicing the heater before summer will be pointless, as it won’t get used then anyway.

Spring

  • Check damage to roof and gutters from winter storms or snow
  • Landscaping clean-up in time for summer
  • Inspect and clean the patio, deck, or pool
  • HVAC service in time for summer

Summer

  • Regular landscaping and lawn maintenance
  • Ceiling fan inspection
  • Regularly change air filters on the A/C

Fall

  • Service boilers, radiators, or furnace
  • HVAC service in time for winter
  • Clear leaves from gutters (end of fall once trees have shed their leaves)
  • Check that windows and doors are properly sealed

Winter

  • Snow removal and winter storm prep
  • Regularly change air filters on the HVAC
  • Shut off and drain outdoor faucets to prevent frozen pipes

Year-round maintenance

Some rental property upkeep tasks aren’t necessarily seasonal and should instead be checked out at some point during the year. It’s up to you how frequently you have these things inspected, just keep in mind that prevention is better than reaction.

  • Pest control
  • Water damage or leaks
  • Roof inspections
  • Smoke/carbon monoxide detectors
  • Sump pump inspection
  • Caulking
  • Fixing windows and doors

Preventative maintenance jobs to add to the lease

Some jobs can be the responsibility of the tenant to manage, as long as they are clearly spelled out in the lease and agreed to at the beginning of the contract. This could include jobs such as:

  • Change HVAC filters every 3 months
  • Basic landscaping (lawn mowing)
  • Keeping the property clean and tidy to prevent pests

Handling preventative maintenance with Landlord Studio

By using purpose-built property management software like Landlord Studio, you can manage your maintenance from your smartphone. Our intuitive property maintenance management system allows you to record and prioritize tasks, track maintenance progress and easily communicate updates with tenants.

You can also track your mileage when you’re headed to the hardware store to pick up supplies. Then, when it comes to tax time, you can easily calculate your allowable deductions.

Once you’ve picked up your supplies, use the SmartScan receipt scanner to take a photo of your receipt. It will automatically be digitized. You can then assign the expense to an individual property, streamlining your rental accounting.

Landlord Studio receipt scanning

If you’re hiring a contractor, you can also add the supplier details to your dashboard to help you organize your maintenance expenses. This is particularly useful if, for example, you are regularly enlisting the services of a landscaper. Add their details once but have them to hand when you next need them.

Furthermore, with the ability to set reminders for yourself, you will be reminded of important inspection dates throughout the year. You will never miss another inspection again.

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Final words: the importance of preventative maintenance

At the end of the day, it’s better to pay for a contractor to come and check your sump pump once a year than to spend thousands of dollars cleaning up a flooded basement. Not to mention the additional property damage that may occur. This is to say that preventative maintenance is hugely beneficial to you as a landlord.

With the right tools, you can plan and manage maintenance in a way that saves you time, money, and stress, giving you more energy and resources to put towards reaching your financial goals.

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Ben Luxon

Ben is the editor and lead writer for Landlord Studio. He has worked with real estate professionals all over the world and written educational articles on tech, real estate, and financial growth for sites such as Forbes, TechBullion, and Business Magazine.

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