March 06, 2024, by Christie Slatcher

When it comes to rental property maintenance, we often break our services down into three distinct sections: preventative maintenance, routine maintenance, and emergency repairs

The goal is to avoid those emergencies. 

An emergency at your property is not only disruptive to your tenants and the enjoyment of their rental experience, but also dangerous to the condition and value of your home. Emergency repairs almost always cost more than general or routine repairs.

As a diligent rental property owner, ensuring the longevity and value of your investment begins with routine maintenance.

Let’s explore more into the topic and what we believe every property owner should know to keep their investments thriving and tenants satisfied.

Prioritize Routine Maintenance for Safety and Habitability

Routine maintenance should always start with safety and habitability issues. Always inspect, service, and maintain your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Make sure to keep your property protected against mold and pests and leaks. Check your windows and doors to make sure they open, close, and lock easily. Check your fire sprinklers, water heaters, and HVAC systems to assure there are no leaks, corrosion and they are functioning.

Look for potential problem areas such as corrosion on stair handrails or balconies for safety issues and any deterioration in appliances or electrical outlets. Wood rot can also be a big problem, so check the outside of your property for any areas that receives an abundance of moisture or rain. Preventative maintenance inspections can help. If you schedule annual inspections, you’ll have the peace of mind that your rental property is safe and habitable.

These types of routine inspections, service calls, and check-ins can make a big difference in how you’re able to care for your property and your residents.

Prepare to Respond to Tenant Maintenance Requests

You will need a system in place for tenants to report maintenance issues, and for you to respond to them. It’s critical that your tenants understand how to contact you when a routine repair is needed. You might consider asking for the repair request in writing. This will allow you to document when the maintenance was requested. A timeline of work and follow-up can help you stay organized and keep an accurate log of the work your property has needed.  

Always be responsive, even if the repair is minor and it seems like something that can wait. You want to let your tenants know what the plan is, and whether they can expect a vendor at some point or if the vendor will be contacting the tenant to coordinate times and dates for the repair. 

Share this reporting process with your residents before they move in so there isn’t any confusion about what to do if something breaks down. Documenting the process in the lease agreement is an excellent idea. 

Tips for Keeping up with Routine Maintenance

Usually, tenants will report when routine maintenance is needed at the property. Or, you’ll notice that something needs attention during the turnover process or routine inspections. You can also keep yourself organized and proactive with a checklist, a good tenant relationship, and resources when it comes to vendors and service providers.  

Put together a checklist so you know what needs your attention and what needs to be inspected. A timeline should be included on this checklist, too. That’s because you cannot be showing up at your occupied property every month asking to take a look around. This will be disruptive and unfair to your tenants. Create a checklist that you’ll use during move-in and move-out inspections. Plan an annual inspection during the lease term. You can let your tenants know this is specifically to look for any routine maintenance issues that may need attention. If you include it in the lease agreement and give your tenants plenty of notice before you show up, it will be less disruptive.  

You should also expect your tenants to help with routine maintenance. You don’t necessarily need them to get on a ladder or to fix a plumbing issue, but make sure they know that maintaining a property is a shared responsibility. You want your residents to understand your expectations for how they will take care of the home. You’ll want them to understand the importance of reporting issues right away, because unreported maintenance is just as dangerous and potentially expensive as deferred maintenance.  

Put together a reliable list of vendors and contractors for when maintenance is needed. If you have a preferred network of people to help you take care of your home, you’ll find that routine maintenance issues are often taken care of quickly and affordably. Having service contracts in place with HVAC techs, plumbers, and other professionals will ensure you get the best service and the most affordable rates.  

Preventative Practices Lead to Better Routine Maintenance 

Prioritize your preventative maintenance. These won’t necessarily be repairs, but a good system of preventative maintenance will reduce your overall repair costs and make routine services easier. You’ll also cut down on the number of emergency repairs and replacements you’re required to make.  

Preventative maintenance should always be routine, so set up a preventative maintenance schedule seasonally or annually. Some of the preventative maintenance measures that help you avoid routine repair issues are: 

  • Testing smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors 
  • Scheduling inspections and servicing of your HVAC unit 
  • Inspecting the roof and any chimneys or fireplaces 
  • Flushing the water heater and any outdoor irrigation systems 
  • Paying attention to pest control with an ongoing service 
  • Clearing gutters and main lines 
  • Checking for water, gas, and sewer leaks 
  • Inspecting roofs every two to three years. 

This type of proactive maintenance will require that you invest a bit of your own time and resources, but it will save you a lot of money on maintenance and repairs in the long term.

What Sorts of Routine Repairs Can You Expect?

The routine and ongoing repairs you’ll need to make depend on your property’s age, condition, and location. Typically, you can expect to repair, replace, and maintain the following: 

  • Appliances: A dishwasher may begin leaking or an older refrigerator may give out. When you provide a washer and a dryer in your rental units, you will need to maintain them. When it comes to appliances, you will have to make the decision of whether to repair them or replace them. It’s worth it to repair an oven or a dryer that has a warranty. But if you’ve been called to fix that appliance more than once in a year, or the item is more than 10 or 15 years old, it may be more cost-effective and efficient to replace it. 
  • Plumbing: Leaks can occur at any faucet, in any tub, or behind any toilet. They’ll need to be repaired quickly to prevent larger issues. You don’t want water gathering in your floors, behind your walls, or in the ceiling. Water issues can lead to mold and mildew. These remediation expenses are often more costly than preventative plumbing. 
  • Electric Systems: Outlets will stop working and upgraded wiring will occasionally be required. If your tenant reports seeing smoke or sparks coming from outlets, make sure you respond right away.  
  • Landscaping: You want to maintain curb appeal, and if your property is in an HOA, you’ll have to meet your association’s standards, too. Hire a landscaping or lawn service to take care of the mowing and weeding. Keep your landscaping simple to avoid expensive repairs and updates to your lawn and outdoor space.  
  • Roofing: You’ll want to make sure your roof remains in good shape. You’ll want a qualified roofing expert to check the condition of the shingles and ensure there isn’t any water getting inside the home. 
  • HVAC: Heating and cooling systems are some of the most expensive functions in any rental property. Routine inspections, service calls, and minor fixes are essential to avoid expensive repairs and extend the lifespan of your heating and cooling units.  

These aren’t always fixed expenses, and you’ll have to create a budget for routine maintenance so you’re prepared. We recommend that you put together a maintenance reserve, which acts similar to a savings account. When routine repairs are needed, you’ll want to make them right away. Having the money “on-hand” will make the entire process run a lot smoother.  

Some property owners try to keep a specific amount in a maintenance reserve in case repair needs come up. For example, if you put aside 10 percent of your rental income every month, you should be able to build a healthy maintenance reserve fund for emergencies and unexpected repairs. This will deliver a lot of peace of mind. And, you likely won’t need to make repairs every single month. So, as that money continues to grow, you’ll be in better shape when a big repair is needed. 

Routine maintenance has to be part of your overall investment strategy. It contributes to better returns, higher tenant retention, and a more profitable rental property. At Jamison Management Company, we lease, manage, and maintain investment properties in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Dallas, Texas, Hawthorne, Long Beach, Redondo Beach, Torrance, and other communities throughout the South Bay and Los Angeles area.

We’d be happy to share some of our additional thoughts and best practices with you to ensure your rental property is well-maintained. If you’d like to talk about the routine maintenance needs of your specific rental property, we invite you to contact us and let us elevate your rental experience today!