One of a landlord’s most important responsibilities is to keep the property in good repair. Developing some useful preventive maintenance habits can go a long way toward keeping things running smoothly and fixing small problems before they turn into costly repairs.

Clogged Drains
Clogs inevitably develop in sinks and tubs, but there are some effective proactive steps that you can take to keep this from being a recurrent nuisance in your rental properties. Begin by installing drain screens wherever possible to catch items like hair and food that commonly clog the drains. Also, enlist your tenants' help in this matter. Make sure they have access to plungers, and give them clear instructions about drain care. Instruct them to regularly clean drain stoppers, to pour boiling water in the drains once per month, and to regularly clean garbage disposals with ice cubes. Establish a rule that tenants cannot pour caustic chemicals, grease or coffee grounds down the drains. Finally, clearly state how many times per year you are willing to fix a clogged drain at your expense.

Homeowners are on their own if they lose or forget their house keys, but tenants often just call their landlords in this situation. This can be a real nuisance for an independent landlord who doesn’t have a property manager working or living at the residence. To avoid this problem, give tenants an extra key when they sign the lease. They can give it to someone else they trust and call that person if they find themselves locked out. Also, you can leave a lockbox somewhere on the property that holds spare keys. As a precaution, put a stamp on the keys that says, “Do not duplicate,” and require tenants to return both keys when they move out.

Pest Infestations
Without proper preventative maintenance, pest infestations can quickly become a big problem. As the landlord, it’s your responsibility to conduct routine inspections of the building to prevent pests from getting in. Examine the exterior of the building carefully, and seal up any places where pests can enter. Check all chimneys and make sure they are properly capped. Install screens on all windows, and clear away any landscaping that comes in contact with the building. Fix any leaks right away because standing water tends to attract pests.
 It’s a good idea to make your tenant a partner in preventing any unwelcome guests. Put statements in your lease that clarify their responsibilities in preventing pests. Require them to store all food in airtight containers, and clearly explain how trash is to be removed and how to maintain proper cleanliness to prevent fleas and bedbugs. Also, specify whose responsibility it is to call and pay for an exterminator if that becomes necessary.

HVAC Malfunctions
If the heating and cooling system in a residence malfunctions, this can quickly become an emergency situation, which is why preventative maintenance of these systems is so important. Regular replace filters every three months, and calibrate the thermostat once a year. Test your furnace in late summer or early fall so you can identify any problems before the weather turns cold. Also, each spring, clean the air conditioner evaporator and clear away any brush that has grown around the condenser. Test the air conditioning in March to make sure it’s in good working order. Finding an air conditioner repair person in the summer can take a long time and will likely be quite expensive.

Preventative maintenance and clear communication with tenants are key to keeping everything on your property in good working order and avoiding expensive repairs or emergency situations.

POSTED April 30 2015 9:54 AM

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