Any experienced property owner knows that some wear-and-tear on the property comes with the territory. Even with the very best renters, you will eventually need to clean scuffed-up baseboards, repaint fading walls, or replace that worn-out in-sink garbage disposal. Regular property upkeep, after all, is part of the cost of doing business.
Instead, we recommend you focus your attention on repairs that are both expensive and avoidable. These are the problems that can strain your relationship with your tenants, cost thousands upfront, and deprive you of months of revenue from the property. They’re also repairs that, with some attentive management and upkeep, you may be able to prevent altogether.
The Right Renters make a World of Difference
Depending on the market you’re in, you may have many competing offers from tenants to rent your place. This allows you to set some prerequisites, such as good credit history or references from past property owners they’ve rented from. If you have the ability to be selective, choosing the right renters can in itself be a way to avoid disaster.
On a cold winter night, one tenant decides not to run the heat in the property as a cost-saving measure. As a result, the pipes in the home freeze and then burst overnight. The resulting water damage means that you need to make significant and costly renovations to the downstairs, while the tenant likely moves out and you lose your rental revenue stream. There’s nothing that preventative maintenance or thinking ahead could have done to prevent this: the issue was caused by human error.
There’s a happy medium here. Most renters, even good ones, aren’t going to repaint for you or trim the hedges every Saturday. That’s why they pay you, after all. But, look for renters who will treat the property with respect and you feel you can trust with the place.
Avoid Water Damage at all Costs
We mentioned the frozen pipe scenario above, but there are a lot of problems that can lead to water damage in a rental property. Outside of serious structural problems, water damage is one of the worst things that can happen in your property.
First, it’s often expensive to fix the initial problem: if one of your pipes is leaking, or you have a fault in your roof, you’ll need to have a professional both find and repair the leak. Next comes the renovation, which can involve ripping up floors, removing drywall, and a host of other demolition-heavy tasks. Finally, you’ll need a professional to certify that the water damage hasn’t led to any mold or mildew growth in the property—this can be a serious health concern for renters and is a legal reason for your renters to break the lease in many states.
Most water leak issues are not caused by human error. Instead, here are some of the reasons many properties experience water damage:
- Aging Water Heater: A standard water heater only lasts 10-15 years before corrosion attacks the tank walls. This can compromise the structure of the tank and potentially lead to a tank burst. We recommend replacing water heaters after the anode rod is spent. Also, talk to your local plumber about an emergency shutoff valve that can stop the flow of water if the tank fails.
- Roof Leaks: Blown-off shingles or cracked tiles can expose the underlayment of the roof to harsh UV rays, rain, wind, and more. This underlayment can give, which then means it’s only a matter of time before moisture finds its way into the home or apartment.
- Leaking pipes: If you own an older property, consult with a professional about what type of pipes you have and their expected lifespan. As many types of pipes age, they begin to spout more and more leaks. That’s in addition to the danger posed by frozen pipes. For the latter, make sure your heating is in good condition and consider having pipes in exterior walls insulated against below-freezing nighttime temperatures.
Take Care of the HVAC Systems
If you own your own home, you know just how big of an investment a new air conditioner or furnace is. Much like the property as a whole, these HVAC systems can endure wear-and-tear just through regular, everyday use. If you’re not taking care of these systems, there’s a chance that they could stop working on the hottest day or coldest night of the year. At that point, you have twin problems: you need a costly emergency repair and your tenants are unhappy.
Call a local HVAC company and ask if they offer seasonal HVAC system tune-ups. Regular HVAC maintenance can help keep your air conditioner running right in the summer and your property’s furnace chugging along in the winter. Your tenants enjoy uninterrupted comfort and energy savings, while you significantly lower the risk of a major breakdown that leads to an expensive repair or even-more-expensive system replacement.
Check for Termites
Left unchecked, termites can destroy your rental property, causing major structural damage that completely ruins your investment and makes it very difficult to sell down the road. In most parts of the country, however, a termite infestation is inevitable for any property. Rentals are especially at-risk: tenants aren’t always on the lookout for termite tubes as homeowners are, and spaces like the attic or basement may be less frequented by a renter than a homeowner.
In this case, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Talk to local pest control experts in your area to see if they offer free or discounted termite inspections for property owners. Even an annual termite inspection can make a world of difference when it comes to catching an infestation early before it has had a chance to do major damage to the property.
Take Care of Your Property, and it’ll Take Care of You
Being the owner of a rental property is tough, especially when you consider that many property owners are taking care of both the rental and their own home at the same time. However, by focusing on the major problems you can prevent, you can greatly reduce your stress and expenses, allowing you to get more out of your rental property in the years to come.
About the Arthur: Victoria Schmidt is the communications specialist at Southern Air Heating and Cooling, the go-to plumbing & HVAC contractor in South Louisiana. At Southern Air, we believe in backing our work with our Ironclad Guarantees. These guarantees ensure that our customers are completely satisfied with our products and services, and they’re peace of mind.
If you liked this article, subscribe to Rentometer's email newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest trends in rental housing.