Repairs are an inevitable expense for every rental property owner. But that doesn’t mean landlords can’t enlist some strategies to keep those costs to a minimum:
Understand Your Property’s Personality
Every property should have a routine maintenance schedule. Hopefully, prior repairs and maintenance issues were discussed during the purchase of the property and that can serve as a road map for future upkeep. If not, an initial inspection will suffice. Keep to the maintenance schedule even when renting to long-term tenants.
Frequent property inspections help landlords monitor the current condition of units, systems, and appliances. Routine maintenance is the key to avoiding unexpected — and more costly — repairs.
Be Choosy About Contractors
Price per hour is not the controlling factor when choosing contractors. Experience, skill and availability are key. Unskilled workers may charge less per hour but take more time to complete a repair — and come back multiple times to get it right. Service and parts warranties save money. Flexibility of hours means no after-hours charges on the most common repairs.
It’s easy to go online and see what contractors offer and what previous customers have said. How does the contractor interact with tenants? Do they run background checks on employees?
Use the same contractor for routine maintenance. This saves money by flagging a potential problem before it becomes an emergency. Landlords may save even more by scheduling this maintenance in the off-season. The contractor will be familiar with the system in the event of an emergency, and more likely to stand behind their work.
Don’t Leave Repairs to Tenants
Sometimes landlords will allow tenants to make repairs or supervise contractors. This is the most expensive way to manage the property.
Tenants often lack the skill to perform work properly, and shoddy work may have to be replaced. Tenants don’t have the same incentive or perspective to choose the right contractors, and the landlord has less control over warrantied repairs.
Landlords do not have complete control when it comes to scheduling repairs. Putting it off may result in a tenant seeking dispute resolution and an order requiring the repair by a certain date. The tenant may be allowed rent abatement for their trouble, or to deduct repair costs from the rent. That will greatly increase the landlord’s expenditures. It is also a symptom of other problems in the tenancy relationship.
Anticipate the Most Common Repairs
Wear and tear on any unit is inevitable and not the tenants’ responsibility. Avoid over-finishing the property with delicate surfaces. While it may appear the lux features will attract tenants, surfaces that don’t endure will show age too quickly to be cost-effective for a rental property. Use finishes that are easy to clean and maintain. Those will look fresh through multiple tenants. This makes it easier for tenants to return a unit in great condition, and that lowers turnaround costs.
Moves can cause damage, so focus on tenant retention — so long as routine maintenance is not ignored in between tenants. Educate tenants on ways to extend the life of appliances and finishes. Be picky about tenants. Look for someone with a good rental history.
Smoke-free properties are the least expensive to restore.
Instruct tenants to report any signs of water leaks — the most insidious of the repairs — as soon as possible. Tenants should report leaky toilets and faucets, any signs of mould, or any other concerns regarding potential water damage.
The cost of property damage caused from vandalism and other crimes is difficult to predict, so prevention is crucial. Assess the security systems around the property and take reasonable steps to avoid crime: maintain outdoor lighting, trim or remove landscaping that blocks the street view, consider alarms or video cameras, include language in the tenancy agreement prohibiting crime, and participate with local police in neighbourhood crime watch or crime-free certification programs.
Run tenant background checks and point out to tenants that they are responsible for their own guests. Prohibit short-term rentals that give access to strangers. Don’t forget to run employee background checks, too.
Actively manage tenants to avoid complaints and police calls to the property, which scares away good tenants and lowers the property value. Check up on the property routinely. Vacant and neglected properties are vulnerable to crime.
Contact your insurance agent regularly to review policy coverage options and ask about ways to save on insurance. Know what’s covered and what’s not. Don’t over-insure the rental property, especially with high deductibles. It may be better to save that money and apply it to repairs and maintenance of the property.
Landlord Tip: When budgeting for repairs, it pays to consider the intangible costs, too, like the income loss caused by unhappy tenants. Not only will good tenants move out, but disgruntled tenants can scare away prospective tenants with negative reviews or press. That spiral can lead to a series of problem tenancies, and that will cost exponentially more than the original repairs.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.