What You Need To Know About Repairs And Maintenance

As a landlord, there is a lot to understand about rental property maintenance and repairs.

In this article, we will help you better understand the issues related to keeping your property safe and habitable. Repairs and maintenance for your rental houses are just necessary evils you will need to handle each year.

Rental Property Maintenance and Repairs Expenses

Rental property maintenance and repairs are probably the most overlooked expenses with investors regarding a prospective rental portfolio they want to buy. The truth is, though, no matter what shape your property is in when you rent it, there will be the eventual maintenance call that you will need to address.

The General Rule

The general rule in budgeting for rental property maintenance and repairs is approximately 1% of the home value per year. So, if your rental house is worth $200,000, you can expect around $2,000 a year in repairs and maintenance.

But this article isn’t about how much you should budget. It’s about making sure you choose the right person or company to help you complete those maintenance calls and repair requests.

Consider Your Contractor Your Partner

It’s essential to think of your contractor, your maintenance and repair person or people, as a partner in your business. They’ll be a great person to bounce ideas off of and can help you keep your tenant safe and happy and hopefully in your home for 20 years.

If your house isn’t “rent ready,” then you’ll need to talk to a contractor to help you get it up to par. If it’s already “rent ready,” then you’ll need someone to make sure your tenant’s taken care of when they do call.

It’s one of the most significant partnerships you’ll make.

Nothing can slow you down or get you in trouble more than a lousy contractor. Faulty work, slow work, or no work have the potential to bring your rehab or maintenance work to a screeching halt. It also makes you look unprofessional in the eyes of your tenant or prospective tenant.

What NOT to Look For in a Contractor

It’s tempting to find and use a contractor whose prices are the cheapest. And we understand the need to handle your investment dollars wisely. But be careful; you often get what you pay for.

That isn’t to say that low-priced contractors always do a poor job; we know some solid contractors at the lower end of the cost spectrum.

Still, you need to be careful. Poorly done work can come back and cost you double to fix. We have plenty of stories about that if you want to hear them.

What to Look For in a Contractor

Now that you have an idea of what to avoid, here are a few tips on what to look for in a qualified contractor for your rental property.

Licensed and Insured

It’s crucial to know if the contractor you partner with is licensed and insured. Why is this so vital? 

Why It’s Important

There are several reasons you shouldn’t let someone not licensed and insured work on your property. When you consider repairs and maintenance for your rental house, there is inherent risk:

1. They can get hurt on the job and sue you

What happens if an uninsured contractor falls off your roof and injures him or herself? They can sue and possibly take you to the cleaners. What would that do to your future returns on that property?

2. They can install your equipment incorrectly

If you’re dealing with someone who is not licensed or insured, you are most likely dealing with someone who is not the best at their craft.

Take an example from our past. It was around 2007, and we were trying to get HVAC installed on our rentals for cheap. We found a guy we liked, and he installed a unit that saved us at least $1,000. 

Later that summer, when our tenant got their enormous power bill ($900), we realized he had wired the unit wrong. We had to install a new system to replace that one. It came out of our pocket because this part-time HVAC ‘specialist’ didn’t have a warranty. Lesson learned.

3. They can do your work and then disappear overnight

These types of scammy contractors typically aren’t in business long. This will cause problems if you need warranty work down the road and you can’t find them. Or if they take their initial draw and never show up again. Back in the early days, we learned that the hard way.

Why It’s Important to Find a Good Contractor

Keep in mind that finding a good contractor is necessary no matter what type of property you purchase. Even if you buy a new house, you’ll eventually have repairs to be made. It’s best to start developing a relationship early so your work will be carried out faithfully and on time when it’s time for a project.

How Do You Know if the Person You’re Considering Is Licensed and Insured?

Here are a few helpful tips to ensure that the person you’re considering for your contracting work is both licensed and insured.

  • Call the local Licensure Board and ask for a list of contractors that carry a license
  • Ask the contractor you’re considering to show you their card proving they are state-certified
    • These cards typically have a hologram on them that verifies their authenticity
  • For Liability Insurance and Workman’s Comp, it’s best to have the insurance provider fax or email you the full Acord Form directly
    • This eliminates the opportunity for an uninsured contractor to provide you with fraudulent documents

There are plenty of warning signs that you may be dealing with a less than reputable contractor. At the beginning of our real estate career, we used these fly-by-night contractors because they were cheap, and we thought they were saving us money.

In the short term, maybe. But over time, we ended up spending more money repairing their repairs, and we lost several good tenants because of shoddy work. The extra repair work and the additional months our houses sat vacant put us behind our investment goals.

Maintain Your Rental Property

The key to maintaining your rental property once you’ve found a quality contractor is performing regular maintenance as well as regular inspections.

Regular Maintenance

Relatively simple issues that can be addressed before becoming more significant issues should be handled through regular maintenance. Some examples of regular maintenance landlords may perform include:

  • Trimming or removing trees on the property near power lines
  • Cleaning gutters
  • Flushing water heaters
  • Checking fire extinguishers
  • Tightening any handles, faucets, knobs, locks, etc.
  • Recaulking bathtubs and showers
  • Checking for pests
  • Testing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Replacing air filters
  • Checking for leaks

What Are Wear and Tear?

General wear and tear is expected in rental properties and differs significantly from damages. Something like faded paint or minor marks on the carpet are bound to happen with regular wear and tear.

Regular Inspections

In addition to regular maintenance, landlords should also take the time to perform regular inspections. Some of the rental property inspections you might consider adding to your routine include:

  • Move-in inspections
  • Move-out inspections
  • Drive-by inspections
  • Routine inspections

Final Thoughts

Learn from our early mistakes and find a contractor you can trust to be your long-term partner for your rental property maintenance and repairs. Doing this on the front end will give you a massive advantage in achieving rental house success!

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