Maybe your property has been badly damaged by clients or weather, or maybe there's been some general wear and tear on the property that's forcing you to take action. Whatever the case, you may find yourself unexpectedly in a position where you need to complete major repairs.
It can be difficult to know where to start, especially when tenants already occupy your property. Follow this advice to know how to carry out these repairs.
Make Plans for the Repairs
Going into your repairs without a detailed plan is a recipe for disaster. Start by surveying the property extensively. What exactly are the repairs that need to be performed? How much of the property needs this intensive attention? What contractors need to perform the work? How much money will it cost, and how long will it take? Are there any other repairs — even minor ones — that you can perform at the same time?
Will You Need to Remove Your Tenants?
Working around your tenants is one of the most difficult aspects of renovating or rehabbing a rental property. How disruptive are these repairs going to be to your tenants? Do they run the risk of damaging your tenants' personal items? Could your tenants' pets run away or become injured while repair teams are entering and leaving the property? Is there a potential health risk to your tenants, as with removing asbestos? Do your tenants have specific health concerns, like asthma or a chemical sensitivity, that may make conducting repairs around them unsafe?
There isn't necessarily a right or wrong answer to these questions. Some tenants may be able to put up with extensive repairs in their apartment without complaining, while others have difficulty with even light work. You may be able to conduct these repairs relatively quickly and without disruption, or you may end up not renewing your tenants' lease in anticipation of major repairs that may take several months.
Notify Your Tenants
Once you have a plan of action, talk with your tenants face to face and let them know what you're planning to do and why it's necessary. Give them an idea of how long the repairs will take and how disruptive they will be. Get ready for some pushback: Nobody likes the idea of their home being taken over, even briefly, by contractors.
If you're able, it's best to frame this as a discussion. Don't just notify your tenants that you're not renewing their lease, and don't tell them that there will be contractors coming over next week. Instead, try to set things up so that your tenants have a little negotiating power. Ask the tenants what's best for them, and what they'd reasonably be able to put up with. If the tenants will remain in the property during disruptive repairs, you may want to offer them a partial reimbursement of their rent during the construction period.
It may be tempting to go over your tenants' heads in this negotiation process, but keep in mind that this may not be legal in some places. Including your tenants in the process will make the process much less stressful for everyone.
Meet With the Contractors
Before you schedule your meeting with the contractors, you'll need a plan. Walk in with a budget, although if you're not experienced in property repair you may need to adjust your expectations as you meet with the contractors. Be ready to explain succinctly the damage that's been done, and, ideally, what you want the contractors to do.
One important thing to take into account is you want the repairs to make the property look like it did before the damage occurred. Depending on the nature of the problem, that may not be as desirable as it sounds. With water damage, for instance, it's likely that the design of the building contributed to the problem. Put your expectations aside and be ready to listen to your contractors, especially as they tour the property and look at what they'll be repairing.
Start the Repair Process
If your tenants are still on the property, you'll need to do everything you can to try to protect their belongings. Lay down tarps and drop cloths, especially if work is going to be dusty or if you're going to be painting. Make sure contractors know about any pets your tenants have and that they're accounted for as repairs proceed.
Maintain the Property Over Time
Once the repairs are complete, you'll want to be sure that they're properly maintained. If a given fixture or feature of the apartment has proven problematic in the past, you may want to walk through every several months to be sure that everything is as it should be. (Be sure to talk with your tenants before you do this, of course.)
It may be tempting to delay major repairs on a property, but don't. Minor damage can worsen over time, adding up to considerable problems in the long run. If your property isn't habitable, you can even find yourself dragged to court. Take these vital steps and get your property in its best shape.
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