From collecting rent to facilitating repairs, as a property or community association manager, you juggle a lot when it comes to managing your business’ operations. Whether you oversee large-scale apartment buildings or single-family homes, property maintenance is essential to keep your property values up and keep your residents safe and satisfied.
Here we’ll explain why it’s vital to stay on top of property maintenance, provide some useful tips, and show you how you can streamline your processes to provide a top-notch customer experience.
Making sure everything is in working order, and answering requests for repairs can be one of the more contentious aspects of renting property. Landlords may view repairs as an annoying expense that takes an unnecessary bite out of their profits. But for tenants, clogged pipes, a malfunctioning toilet, or a broken heater can be a constant source of frustration in the home. Landlords generally have a legal obligation to make repairs and maintain a rental property and must follow the law when it comes to entering the rented property to make repairs. In certain cases, a landlord may also be liable for injuries to tenants. This section covers the responsibilities and rights of both tenants and landlords when it comes to repairs and maintenance.
To avoid problems with tenants, landlords should make repairs to rental units as soon as possible. Major problems, such as a plumbing or heating problem, should be handled within 24 hours. But before entering rented premises to make needed repairs, landlords must provide advance notice to tenants (usually 24 hours). Without advance notice, in most states, a landlord or property manager may enter rented premises only in an emergency, such as a fire or serious water leak.
We have a wide range of property maintenance Melbourne services at Hitch Property Constructions.
Types of Maintenance Tasks in Rental Properties
If you own rental property, you need to exterminate every month or every other month. Even if there are no signs of a current rodent or insect problem, you want to prevent such problems from occurring. Do not limit the extermination to one apartment, as critters will travel to another part of the property. The extermination should be done on the whole property.
While it is possible to purchase exterminating supplies yourself, this task is usually best left to a professional. Monthly exterminations will cost you money, but this preventative property maintenance is a much cheaper option than the cost of losing current and prospective tenants due to a pest problem. Shop around for the best price.
As an example, you can see that spending $25 a unit for monthly extermination is a much better option than losing $1000 in rent because of a tenant vacancy. A complete infestation will also cost much more money because current tenants may have to leave the building and walls and ceilings temporarily will have to be opened up.
Check for Water Damage and Leaks
The best time to check for leaks is after a heavy rainstorm, after ice and snow have begun to melt, or on very hot and humid days when pipes tend to sweat. Check for soft spots on the roofs, ceilings, and walls. Look for signs of water around windows, showers, and toilets. Check under sinks, boilers, and water heaters.
It is vital to identify a water leak early. Ongoing leaks can completely damage walls, ceilings, and a tenant’s possessions. Dangerous mould can also form, which can be a large expense, especially if it is over 10 square feet, which would have to be remedied according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Guidelines.
Examine Shower Caulking and Grout Between Tiles
Over time, the grout between tiles can crack, and the caulk surrounding the tub can loosen. When this happens, you no longer have a waterproof seal and water can leak through and damage the surrounding walls or floor below. As soon as you notice any cracks or holes, you should replace the caulking or grout to prevent potential water damage.
Test All Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors Regularly
Check these devices monthly to make sure they are in working order. Both battery-operated and hard-wired devices should be tested. Set a schedule to test them when you collect rent or at another time that is convenient for you.
These devices save lives. If there is a fire or carbon monoxide leak in your building, and these devices are not in working order, you could face legal action. Also, be aware that the average lifespan of a carbon monoxide detector is five years, so replace as necessary. Smoke alarms have a useful life of about ten years.
Change the Filters in Your Forced Air Systems
You should change the filters in your heating or air conditioning unit at least twice a year. Consult the manufacturer of your heating or cooling system to determine the highest efficiency filter for your system. Dirty filters can increase your utility bill by causing the system to work harder or can lead to malfunctions in the systems, such as causing the cooling system to freeze-up.
Routinely changing the filter can help prevent the air duct from becoming contaminated. If clogged, the ducts will usually need to be professionally cleaned, and that is an expense you do not want. Even if your tenants pay their utilities, pay proper attention to this matter because excessively high utility bills will cause you to lose tenants.
Flush Your Water Heater
Once or twice a year you should drain your water heaters. This is done to remove the sediment that can build up in your unit from the municipal water supply that enters your property. If too much sediment builds up, it can reduce the efficiency of your water heater or clog the drain valve. Replacing a water heater is expensive! Be cautious and follow the specific procedures for draining your water heater. If you’re not comfortable doing it yourself, hire someone who is.
Clean the Gutters
You need to inspect the gutters at your rental properties routinely. They can easily become clogged with leaves and other debris. Clogged gutters can cause leaks at your property. The trapped water can find its way into the property through the roof, the siding, around windows and even through the foundation.
If you would rather not spend time cleaning out the gutters, you can purchase gutter guards for the property. There are many different options available, but the basic premise is that the guard sits on top of the gutter and has small holes which allow water to go through, but does not allow larger debris to accumulate in the gutter.
Landlords’ Maintenance Responsibilities
Under most state and local laws, landlords must offer and maintain housing that satisfies basic habitability requirements, such as adequate weatherproofing, available heat, water and electricity, and clean, sanitary, and structurally safe premises. Rental housing must also be free from significant danger from lead, asbestos, and mould, and must have reasonable protection from criminal intrusion.
The local building or housing codes typically set specific standards, such as the minimum requirements for light, ventilation, and electrical wiring. Many cities require the installation of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in residential units and specify security measures involving locks and keys.
Your local building or housing authority, and health or fire department, can provide information on local housing codes (and penalties for violations).
Consequences of Not Making Required Repairs
When a tenant requests necessary repairs, and the landlord or property manager doesn’t meet legal responsibilities in providing them, a tenant usually has several options, depending on the state. These options include:
- withholding the entire rent until the problem is fixed (some states require the tenant to place the rent in an escrow account)
- hiring someone to make necessary repairs and deduct the cost from the next month’s rent
- paying less rent
- calling the local building inspector, who can usually order landlords to make repairs, or
- breaking the lease and moving out, even in the middle of the tenancy.
A tenant can also sue the landlord for a partial refund of past rent, and in some circumstances can sue for the discomfort, annoyance, and emotional distress caused by the substandard conditions.
A landlord’s best bet is to handle repairs as soon as possible (or delegate the repairs to the tenant in exchange for decreased rent). Take care of major problems, such as a plumbing or heating problem, within 24 hours. For minor problems, respond in 48 hours. Landlords should always keep tenants informed as to when and how the repairs will be made, and the reasons for any delays.
Landlords’ Entry to Rental Property
Typically, after giving notice to tenants, landlords can enter rented premises to make needed repairs (or under some states’ landlord entry laws, to determine whether repairs are necessary), or to show the property to prospective new tenants or purchasers. In most states, landlords must provide 24 hours’ advance notice before entering a rental unit.
Without advance notice, in most states, a landlord or manager may enter rented premises while a tenant is living there only in an emergency, such as a fire or serious water leak, or when the tenant gives permission.
Several states also allow landlords or property managers to enter the rental property during a tenant’s extended absence (often defined as seven days or more) to maintain the property as necessary and to inspect for damage and needed repairs. In most cases, a landlord may not enter to check up on the tenant and the rental property.
Looking for comprehensive services on property maintenance? Look no further! Hitch Property Constructions has you covered.
Staying On Top of Property Maintenance
You already know how important maintenance is, however keeping up with it all can be challenging, which is why it’s important to have a property maintenance plan in place. When you don’t have a plan, the upkeep can be easily overlooked, and the consequences can be costly and even dangerous.
Having a maintenance plan can help mitigate risk from potential hazards, such as injuries from falling building materials or fires from poorly wired lighting. No property manager wants to face claims of negligence in court, deal with skyrocketing insurance premiums, or experience bad press and negative reviews. To avoid serious problems, it’s essential to keep up with maintenance and take preventative measures.
Besides reducing the risk of property injuries for yourself, your team, vendors, and residents having a good maintenance system in place can be a competitive differentiator when it comes to attracting and keeping residents. For instance, based on a survey conducted by AppFolio, renters who were not satisfied with their property management company reported issues around response and resolution time for maintenance requests as the most common reason why. 52.7% of renters said they would move out or not rent in the first place if dissatisfied with their property management company.
Here are a few more reasons why it’s vital to have a plan for property maintenance:
Increased Property Value
A maintained property will hold value or increase in value. The lack of repairs will detract from the property’s market value and rental prices.
Poor maintenance of buildings, property, and appliances will generate dissatisfied residents, which can lead to negative reviews, increased churn, and more vacancies.
An efficient property management system can help save money by minimizing risks, extending the life of appliances and equipment, and freeing up your team to focus on providing higher levels of service.
You already have plenty of work to do. By having a building maintenance system in place, you can reduce the time you spend contacting residents and owners, tracking work orders, manually entering data in other software, paying invoices, and dealing with emergencies.
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How to Provide Superior Property Maintenance Service
Offering both residents and owners, the benefits of outstanding maintenance provides you and your company with lots of benefits.
Still, achieving these benefits requires an ability to communicate with residents and stakeholders, manage work orders, budget for work and supplies, and stay on top of schedules. Here are four tips for providing superior property maintenance services:
Respond to Requests in a Timely Manner
You need a maintenance management system to make sure residents are satisfied by providing a convenient way to communicate with an issue. Residents also need assurance that somebody is getting the message and addressing their repair. A system that allows them to self-serve and submit their requests, and even track their status online can make it easier for your team to respond in a timely manner.
Offer On-Call Maintenance
Residents will call in with problems that occur within their units or common areas from time to time. However, some issues that occur off-hours, such as slippery ice on walkways or a serious plumbing leak, need to be addressed immediately. By having an emergency maintenance contact and on-call maintenance technician available at all times, you can communicate, handle, and track maintenance issues to keep your property safe and residents satisfied around the clock.
Conduct Routine Preventative Maintenance
As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. You should create a preventative maintenance schedule with specific tasks to perform on a monthly, seasonal, and yearly basis. Scheduled maintenance can prolong the life of valuable assets and minimize the chance of expensive, urgent repairs.
Effectively Track and Handle Expenses
As a property manager, you also have to make sure contractors get paid, and expenses are tracked. Without an integrated maintenance software program, you may have to handle all of these tasks manually, which can take up a lot of your team’s time and lead to human error. An all-in-one system that has accounting features built-in can ensure your vendors are paid on time, and you never miss an invoice.
Maintenance Checklists by Season
One easy way to stay organized and on top of maintenance for your properties is to create a maintenance checklist for each season. Here are a few tasks you could add to your list depending on your property type:
- Check for weather damage to buildings made by snow, wind, and rain. Determine whether there is any serious or significant damage that needs to be fixed immediately.
- Have your property’s HVAC heating system inspected and cleaned. In addition, change all air filters on individual units to prolong the life of the system and maximize efficiency.
- Get a certified roof specialist to inspect the roofs of your properties for any damages or leaks.
Single-Family Homes and Condos:
- Check the gutters and downspouts for any clogs.
- Check for mould and mildew in the interiors, and use thermal cameras, if needed, to detect any cool spots between the floors and walls.
- Enhance your property’s landscaping with new flowers or shrubs.
- Inspect plumbing fixtures and systems and look for chipped grout and sealants that could lead to water damage. Don’t forget to inspect communal water fountains and public restrooms along with individual units.
- Service air conditioners, whether you have window air conditioners or central AC, be prepared to make repairs and replacements.
- Test smoke and C02 alarms, and recharge fire extinguishers to keep your residents safe.
Single-Family Homes & Condos:
- Clean window wells and gutters to ensure rain can flow freely.
- Address any gaps in windows, doors, and walls to reduce the prevalence of summer pests like ants and roaches.
- Keep the grass trimmed regularly and maintain landscaping and increase watering for the hotter summer months. Consider mulching garden beds to help conserve water and spruce up your property.
- Trim trees to keep weak or dying limbs from causing property damage during stormy weather.
- Inspect outdoor lighting, and make sure to adjust the settings with the longer days. Solar-lighting is a great, energy-efficient option that requires little maintenance once installed.
- Pressure wash and repair deck and patio spaces, and clean any common areas to remove dust, dirt, or grime.
- Steam clean tile, wood, and carpet flooring and furniture of communal areas.
- Change the HVAC filters, thoroughly inspect the unit, and perform any routine maintenance to be sure the heater works properly for the coming winter months.
- Clean trash cans and replace any communal trash cans or recycling receptacles that may have been damaged over the summer months.
- Complete annual fire drills and safety checks with your residents.
- Check roofs of each building for leaks, obstructions, and wear and tear.
Single-Family Homes & Condos:
- Clean the chimney, check the flue, and inspect the grate and fire-screen to prepare for cold weather.
- Clean the gutters and down-spouts once again to remove any excess dirt or debris.
- Update your flower beds and containers with plant varieties that can withstand cooler temperatures.
- Clear your property of all dead leaves, weeds, and branches.
- Blow-out and turn off sprinkler and irrigation systems.
- Repair or replace any problematic HVAC systems now to avoid any issues as the season progresses.
- Inspect vacant units regularly to ensure there isn’t any snow build on the balcony or a burst pipe in the bathroom.
- If your building uses natural gas, be sure the furnaces are well-maintained and serviced.
Single-Family Homes & Condos:
- Clean gutters and address any concerns with the roof.
- Check batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Insulate water pipes near windows and doors to prevent them from freezing.
- Stock up on materials such as salt for walkways and driveways, and gasoline for snowblowers.
- Clear walkways of snow or ice, and salt surfaces to ensure residents are safe.
- Properly winterize pools depending on your location. For those in the North, you’ll need to winterize your pipes or drain the pool altogether.
- Ensure all trees have been properly maintained and trimmed to avoid any damage during a winter storm.
How to Hire the Right Maintenance Technician
Rather than hiring a contractor every time something needs to be fixed, or constantly having to check up on all your properties, it is often more cost-effective to hire a regular maintenance technician. Hiring an employee that you trust can make your job a lot easier, save you money, and ensure that your properties continue to run smoothly. Here are some tips for hiring the right maintenance technician without breaking the bank:
The first thing you need to do is make a thorough list of all the responsibilities that you would like your maintenance technician to handle. Many of these may be general, but it is also important to think about the unique needs of your properties to ensure that the employee you hire is properly qualified. For instance, if your property has an older boiler system, make sure you hire someone with experience with similar systems.
Being as specific as possible about the responsibilities and unique challenges of maintaining your property will allow you to find the best-matched employee possible. Furthermore, finding a technician with an experience tailored specifically to your property cuts down on training costs and time.
Advertise & Interview
Once you’ve made a list of responsibilities, create a job advertisement and come up with a list of interview questions to ask candidates. The advertisements you put online should include any unique challenges about the position, so you don’t waste your time interviewing someone who can’t meet that need. If you are referred to any potential new candidates by someone you trust, make these individuals aware of the unique challenges as well — you don’t want to skip any steps in the process just because someone comes to you as a referred candidate.
Once you have a number of applicants, make sure you go through your entire list of questions in the interview process. Interview as specific and practical as possible, giving specific scenarios that may arise in your properties. Ideally, your maintenance technician will be able to manage your properties without your explicit approval for every little detail, so testing their decision-making skills during the interview process is important.
Check out Hitch Property Constructions for a huge range of Melbourne property maintenance services.
Qualities To Look For
You should be looking for someone with the right skills and experience to match your properties’ needs and someone you can trust to make sound, well-thought-out decisions on their own when appropriate. The more responsibility and independence you believe a candidate can manage, the more work will be taken off your plate. This will also save you money in the future by reducing your need for expensive contractors during urgent situations.
Maintenance is an integral part of every property manager’s job. When you prioritize regular, routine maintenance, you can mitigate risk, reduce costs, keep your residents satisfied, and increase the value of your properties. A property management software system that has mobile maintenance tools built-in — such as online maintenance requests and work orders — can allow you to resolve issues fast and keep your properties in tip-top shape.