Consumer Information

Author: Verner Ellen

The original article was shared:  5 April 2019
* Can easily be adapted to the South African Market Place


One of the main reasons why most landlords get in trouble is because they are reactive and not proactive. Very often for months, sometimes even years, they tend to ignore all of their rental issues. And when things tend to escalate, their panic mode sets in. All of a sudden the property needs a new water heater, the gutters are all clogged, the furnace needs to be replaced, and so on. The list can be quite long. The only way to avoid such a trap is regular maintenance.

Any smart landlords should make a list of all rental property maintenance tasks, and one by one complete all those tasks. The list will also depend on the type of rental property and the budget that the landlord has set aside for that purpose. Among other things, we’ve made a small guide on how to set up a budget for maintenance on a rental property.

Rental Property Maintenance Tasks for Every Season
There are some basic maintenance tasks landlords should regularly do. That’s the best way to make sure that small problems don’t turn into huge expenses. Plus, regular maintenance keeps the real estate valuation from going under. Here are the most basic maintenance tasks that any responsible landlord should do.

Check for Water Leaks and Damage
The best time to make this type of check is after it rains or after the snow has begun to melt. Look for soft spots on walls, ceilings, and roofs. Also, check under boilers and water heaters if there are any water leaks or maybe a water pipe is leaking. The thing is that a consistent water leak can cause massive damage to walls, roof, or any place it appears. The sooner it is detected and removed, the better. Then there is the danger of mold that can also form. That too can generate a high cost.

Check All Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detectors
These devices need to be tested regularly to make sure they are in good working condition. In case there is a carbon monoxide leak or a fire in one of your buildings, and one of these devices fails to respond, then you are looking at a potential lawsuit on your hands. The cost of that significantly overweighs the cost of a check-up or changing a few AA batteries. Also, keep in mind that smoke detectors have a life span of about ten years, while the average lifespan of a carbon monoxide detector is five years.

Pressure Wash Your Property and Don’t Forget the Gutters
One pressure washing per year is enough not just to increase the life span of the house, but to make sure that there is no mildew and mold as well. All you have to do is just to invest in the best gas pressure washer and your house or building will look refreshed.

As an added value, you will keep your tenants happy and pleased. The gutters should also be included in the process. They are important because they might cause leaks if leaves or other debris clog them.

Replace the Filters in the Forced Air Systems
Dirty filters not only can increase the utility bill, but they can also lead to a malfunction in the systems. Even if your tenants are the ones that pay the utility bill. High bills can cause you to lose tenants. By changing your filters regularly, you keep everyone happy and your air system running smoothly.

Flush the Water Heater
Sometimes the water tank holds sediment on its bottom. By flashing the water heater, you effectively remove the sediment. That not only helps the water heater run efficiently, but it increases its longevity. Once a year is more than enough to make sure that your water heater is sediment free.

Clean the Sinks
Clogged sinks can be a significant annoyance. Cleaning them once a year during the spring is more than enough to make sure you are not annoyed all year long. To that end, there is a simple, yet very effective and inexpensive method. Start by pouring half a cup of baking soda in the sink. Let it stay there for 5 minutes before adding one cup of vinegar and hot water. Give it another five minutes before flushing it with hot water for half a minute. And all your worries about clogged sinks will disappear just like that.

How to Set Up a Budget for Maintenance on a Rental Property
Here are a few ways that can help any landlord calculate the price for maintenance on a rental property. There are several types of formulas presented below. But, in most cases, you will end up with approximately the same amount of money spent on maintenance cost.

The 1% rule
This is pretty easy and straightforward. All of your maintenance costs should be around 1% of the value of your property. For example, if your rental property is valued at $180,000, the landlord should project about $1,800 just for maintenance. That comes roughly to $150 per month. However, there are some exceptions, and this formula doesn’t apply to all types of properties.

For example, you’ve bought an old piece of real estate property that hasn’t been maintained for years. For the first year, you might need to invest way more than just 1% of its total cost.

The Square Footage Formula
The estimate here is $1 per square foot per year. For example, a 2,000-sq.-ft. comes down to $2,000 per year maintenance cost.

The Monthly Rental Formula
All annual maintenance costs (taxes, insurance, repairs, and so on) might cost you 1.5 times the monthly rental rate. For example, if you rent a house for $1,500, you should anticipate the annual maintenance costs at around $2,250.

Legal Maintenance Obligations for Tenants
Typically, tenants are obligated to keep the property clean and sanitary. They are responsible for maintenance repairs only if they have caused any damages to the property. If that’s not the case, they are obligated to report the issue to the landlord within 24 hours. If not, they might be held reliable and pay the full cost of the repair.

Every real estate property is unique and has its specifics. The maintenance list above is to give you a sense of what is what, and what matters most. Adding stuff is something that any landlord needs to figure out on their own. But the main point is don’t skip doing rental property maintenance because, in the long run, it can cost you several times over.

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