6 Property Maintenance Tips to Save Landlords Money
From The Balance:
Performing regular maintenance on your property can help you catch a small problem before it turns into a large expense. Here are some property maintenance tips that can help you save money in the long run.
- Exterminate monthly.
- Check for water damage and leaks.
- Examine shower caulking and grout between tiles.
- Test all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors regularly.
- Change the filters in your forced air systems.
- Flush your water heater.
Collecting the Rent - Tracking and Holding Renters Accountable
Have you ever had a resident fall WAY behind on the rent?
We occasionally hear stories about people falling behind on rent by hundreds and even thousands of dollars. Some landlords allow a few months to go by, and then demand payment or otherwise eviction will happen.
This can happen for a number of reasons. Some falsely expect that a government or subsidy program will step in to help the renter catch up. While other landlords may get busy, overwhelmed, or have some disorganization that leads to poor tracking of rent payments.
Regardless of the reason, it is important to understand a few things about unpaid rent:
1. Subsidy programs or emergency assistance often will not come to the rescue, especially if the renter falls behind by more than a month.
2. It is in everyone's best interest to address unpaid rent right away. Options include setting up a payment plan that helps the renter get caught up over time, negotiating a joint termination of the tenancy, or filing an eviction, if necessary.
3. Have a system in place (even if it is just a spreadsheet) to track rent payments and a standard process to communicate when the rent is late (create templates of letters you can use regularly to increase efficiency.
Landlords - Use a Security Deposit Checklist
The lease is ending and your renter is moving out. Now you want to handle the security deposit process correctly. Getting it right starts on move-in day, not just when they move out.
Use this helpful security deposit checklist:
1. On move-in day, together with the renter, fill out a move-in inspection form to document the condition of the unit. Make a copy for both parties.
2. Before move-out, provide instructions to the renter on their responsibilities for cleaning the unit (e.g. oven, stove, refrigerator, how to handle nail holes in the wall, etc).
4. On move-out day, fill out a move-out inspection form. Compare it to the move-in form.
5. Note things damaged beyond ordinary wear and tear and additional cleaning that is needed.
6. Create a detailed, itemized list of charges of what will get deducted from the security deposit, if anything.
7. Return the security deposit to the renter within 21 days with the itemized list of charges/deductions.
Having a good documentation process with clear communication is a landlord's best friend!
Severe Weather Emergency Preparedness for Landlords
No matter what type of building you own, it is important to inform your renters where to go during a weather emergency.
We recently heard the story of a young woman who lived on the top floor of a duplex. A tornado tore through town, but she stayed upstairs frightened, not knowing what to do. She survived, but it highlights an important point about emergency preparedness in rental properties.
In anticipation of the severe weather season, send a message to your renters that lets them know the safest place to go in the building if a tornado or other natural disaster hits. We also recommend that you post these instructions in a common area of the building, so renters have regular access to the information.
Your Home's Role in Your Health & Safety
It can be challenging as a tenant to be upfront and honest when facing questionable living conditions. While you don’t want to step on your landlord’s toes, you also don’t want to compromise your own health and well-being in the process. Upon moving in, it’s important to be aware that your landlord is required to ensure the home is habitable and safe. This means the property should have adequate heat, electricity, water, and a sustainable foundation. Although you may think small problems are harmless, simple issues like damaged walls and minor leaks can potentially lead to long-term health problems.The Importance of a Strong Foundation
Your landlord is required to fix any exterior or structural issues because these damages are usually the beginning of an endless list of safety hazards. This means they should be taking preventative measures, such as replacing weathered roof materials and faulty gutters to protecting the property from deteriorating over time. Common signs of structural damage include difficulty opening or shutting doors and windows, cracks or bulges in the walls, broken floor tiles or concrete, and standing water. Poor property maintenance is not only dangerous for tenants during harsh weather conditions, but can also lead to mold growth and exposure to environmental toxins.
Health Risks Resulting From Poor Maintenance
Homeowners should disclose any history of mold associated with the property and make a conscious effort to control the issue. Although there could be many sources behind mold growth, a weak structure is certainly a factor worth considering. This issue can be attributed to leaking pipes, poorly sealed windows, and damaged roof materials, which all require a landlord’s attention. You can assume your home contains mold if you spot discolored stains or come across a musty odor. Although not all mold is considered dangerous, toxic mold can release airborne spores triggering asthma symptoms and allergic reactions for tenants.
Radon is a prime example of a natural gas that can seep into our homes virtually undetected. In most cases, homeowners will hire a professional to inspect radon levels, but if your home has structural damage this gas can accumulate over time, so it should be tested for regularly. This includes cracks and openings in the walls or foundation, which should have been repaired by your landlord prior to moving in. If your rental property shows signs of weathering and is located in an area saturated with uranium rock and soil, consider purchasing your own at-home testing kit. If a test indicates high levels indoors, the property could be considered uninhabitable as radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer today.
If your home was built as recently as 1980 and shows visible signs of aging, you could be at an increased risk of asbestos exposure. Although it’s difficult to identify asbestos just by looking at the material, if you are concerned you should contact your landlord who can have the property professionally inspected. Typical products that may contain the mineral include old vinyl floor tiles, HVAC ducts, roof shingles, concrete, insulation, and more. Vermiculite insulation is especially concerning as 70% of this product was mined from Libby, Montana, and contaminated with asbestos. This material is often found in attics and is predicted to lurk inside 1 million homes across America today. When materials containing asbestos are broken down the fibers enter the air and could be breathed in, eventually becoming lodged in the outer lining of the lungs, heart, or stomach.
Any amount of exposure is considered dangerous to humans, but products containing asbestos do not pose a threat until they have been damaged or begun to deteriorate. With Air Quality Awareness Week quickly approaching, we are taking strides to educate readers about how they can protect their lungs within their own homes, a place that should always be a source of comfort and security. We hope to encourage anyone at risk to educate themselves on their rights and how to handle a potential health hazard confidently.