If you own rental properties, it is important that you keep a maintenance schedule in order to ensure that important maintenance does not get forgotten. Preventative maintenance can help to save you time and money in the long-run by preventing costly damage and repairs down-the-road. However, if you own multiple rental properties, it can be overwhelming to try to take care of all of this maintenance on your own. Unfortunately, hiring a property manager can be costly, and relying on tenant maintenance agreements may not be a realistic option if you experience high turnover rates or you have unreliable tenants.
Do not despair if you are feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of maintaining your rental properties if there is no budget for a property manager. While a monthly maintenance schedule is often considered to be ideal, if your busy schedule does not allow for regular visits to your rental properties, you can easily take care of major maintenance issues and repairs with biannual visits in mid- to late-fall and mid-spring. To help you keep on top of major maintenance and repairs at your rental properties, here is a look at the work you should be doing on your rentals each fall and spring.
Visiting your rental properties in fall is critical in order to ensure that they are ready to withstand severe winter weather. Your goal will be to get the rental ready for winter by making sure that its heating systems are working properly and that its exterior is ready for the beating rain, wind, and snow can subject your property to this winter. Your fall maintenance schedule should include:
- Having The Furnace Serviced: With winter around the corner, it is important that you have your rental's heating system serviced. Having it inspected, cleaned, and repaired (if necessary) will ensure that the heating system is running optimally. Regular maintenance not only ensures that your heating system is as energy-efficient as possible, but it can also reduce wear and tear, which can extend the life of your furnace. When having your furnace serviced, an HVAC technician will also perform any necessary repairs, preventing potentially costly breakdowns this winter.
- Cleaning The Gutters: Cleaning the gutters is an important home maintenance task that many people forget about, and it is something that your renters likely won't think to do. However, cleaning the gutters at your rental properties is particularly important in the fall, as gutters and downspouts can become clogged with leaves and other debris. Clogged gutters can then overflow during heavy rain, which can cause damage to your roof and siding. Furthermore, when water is not directed away from your home properly, it can seep under your home, causing foundation damage. It is then critical that you keep your gutters clear as winter arrives, as this can also prevent ice dams from forming and potentially damaging your gutters when it freezes. It is also a good idea to clean your gutters again in spring to clear out any debris brought by winter storms.
- Roof Inspection: Fall is also the perfect time for your annual roof inspection. Inspecting your roof before winter arrives will allow you to catch any damage the previous year's storms may have caused and have this damage repaired before rain and snow arrive. In particular, you will want to look out for cracked, buckling, or missing shingles, as damage to your roof's shingles can allow water to penetrate your home. Roof inspections can be a difficult-- and even dangerous-- task, so you may want to consider hiring a roofing professional in inspect your property's roof.
- Checking Weatherstripping: Each fall, it is also important that you check all weatherstripping and caulking along the doors and windows in your rental property. Damaged weatherstripping and caulking can not only let in a draft, but it can also let in unwanted pests and water, which can cause damage. You should also inspect your property's foundation for cracks and holes. Make sure to patch any damage you find with caulk to prevent moisture and winter pests from getting in.
- Flushing The Water Heater: An appliance that commonly gets neglected at many rental properties is the home's water heater. While your rental's water heater is critical to your tenant's daily routine, many landlords do not give their water heater the proper maintenance it needs. Experts recommend that water heaters be flushed at least once a year in order to control mineral and sediment buildup in the bottom of the tank, as this sediment can cause damage and reduce efficiency. Having your property's water heater cleaned each fall can help to prolong its life and save you money.
- Testing The Sump Pump: A sump pump can play a critical role in protecting your property, and your renter's belongings, in the event of flooding or a heavy storm. It is then important that you do not wait until a heavy storm arrives to make sure that your property's sump pump is working. Testing it during your fall inspection will ensure that your property is protected when winter arrives.
In the spring, it is important that you inspect the exterior of your property for any signs of winter damage. Spring is also the perfect time to give your property a thorough cleaning, and you will want to make sure that the property is ready for the coming summer. As you inspect your property and get it ready for the summer season, you should make sure to:
- Check and Repair Fences, Decking, and Handrails: Exterior structures on your property (particularly those made of wood) can take a beating during winter storms. With your tenants likely to be spending more time outside as the weather warms up, it is important that you inspect your property for damage and perform any necessary repairs. Make sure to check your decking and fences for loose or rotting boards, and make sure that all handrails and railings are stable, as they may need tightening or replacing.
- Service The Air Conditioner: Similar to the heating system in the fall, it is critical that you have your rental property's air conditioner serviced and inspected in the spring. After having not been used all winter, your rental's air conditioner may need to be serviced and repaired in order to ensure that it is ready to keep your tenants comfortable during the coming summer months. While it is important that you replace your property's air filters every 3 months, spring is also the perfect time to replace an annual air filter if your HVAC system has one, as regularly replacing your HVAC system's air filters can reduce wear and tear.
- Soft Wash The Exterior: Spring maintenance should also include spring cleaning. Making sure that your property is cleaned thoroughly in the spring will not only boost curb appeal, which can make your property more appealing to current and potential tenants, but also, keeping your property clean is critical to protect it from damage. When grime, dirt, debris, and mold are left to sit on a building's exterior, this can eat away at its paint and siding, causing costly damage. Having your building's exterior soft-washed each spring is a great way to protect your rental property while keeping it looking pristine. Consider having walkways, driveways, decks, and fences pressure washed as well to keep them looking their best in the coming year.
- Look for Plumbing Leaks: For rentals in particularly cold climates, you should take a moment to inspect your plumbing for signs of leaks. While all plumbing is vulnerable to freezing during the winter, exterior pipes that are exposed are particularly vulnerable to being damaged by freezing conditions. Turn water to these pipes on to full pressure, and check joints for signs of sweating or active leaks. You should also check easily accessible internal plumbing for signs of leaks as well, as finding and repairing leaks now can help to prevent costly water damage resulting from a blown pipe down-the-road.
- Check The Smoke Detectors: As a landlord, it is your responsibility to ensure that there are working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in your units at all times. While tenants should check these detectors occasionally as well, and change their batteries as necessary, you should not assume that they will do so. If you leave this job to the tenants and a fire does occur, you may find yourself liable if there were no working smoke detectors. It is then critical that you test all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors at your rental properties at least once a year to make sure that they are working properly, and you should immediately replace any units that are not working or that have reached their expiration date.
If you neglect maintenance at your rental properties, you may soon find yourself overwhelmed by a backlog of problems that require costly repairs. Taking the time to perform preventative maintenance, even if this is only done twice a year, can go a long way in ensuring your properties are looked after properly. If you are struggling to oversee your rental properties and you do not want to hire a property manager, you should also consider contacting us to find out about how our easy-to-use rental property management software that can help you to do things such as find new tenants and take care of maintenance requests.
About the author
Matt Angerer is the Founder and President of VerticalRent. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics that help Landlords, Property Managers, and Renters across America. He is particularly interested in helping renters understand their local marketplace, pick the best places to live, and find an awesome roommate. Since 2011, VerticalRent has grown to service over 100,000 landlords and renters across America.