When it comes to maintaining your rental property, how do you know what you’re responsible for, and what you can expect your tenants to take care of?
Sometimes, this question is easily resolved. If the furnace breaks down or a plumbing issue occurs, that’s going to be your responsibility. Landlords and investment property owners must provide a safe, habitable property.
What about landscaping?
Pest control and pool care?
What if a tenant causes specific damage to your property?
Landlord and tenant maintenance responsibilities will depend upon a number of things, including:
- The type of property you rent out. Single-family homes have different needs than multi-family units.
- The age and condition of your property.
- Your tenants.
- Your lease agreement.
Let’s break down the different ways you might decide to task your tenants with maintenance responsibilities, and explain why some things will always be your responsibility as a landlord.
LET’S START WITH THE LEASE AGREEMENT
The lease agreement that governs how your property is rented out will be one of the most important parts of your landlord/tenant relationship.
The lease is especially important because it establishes what is required of you, as the owner, and what is required of the tenant, as the party living in your property.
The lease is a legal contract that protects you from any disputes, conflicts, and even potential lawsuits. Without a legally binding and compliant lease agreement, you will not be able to hold your tenants accountable or protect the integrity of your rental home.
Your lease agreement decides who’s going to be responsible for each part of the maintenance process, and it will also provide answers when there’s a question during the tenancy. It’s always a good idea to review the lease agreement in detail with your tenants before they sign it. This will eliminate confusion going forward. It will help them to understand their responsibilities.
Who Should be Making Repairs?
Repairs are going to be necessary at your Roanoke rental home.
You know this.
Light bulbs will burn out. Appliances will stop working. You might find that the heat breaks down in the winter or the air conditioning fails in the summer.
Air filters will need to be changed.
There will be snow to shovel and grass to mow.
Do you have assumptions in place already about who will take care of these things?
The only way to be consistent is by putting these things in the lease agreement. The lease should specifically state who is responsible for maintenance, repairs, cleaning, and upkeep.
These details are necessary because your tenants cannot live in a property that has repair issues. You need to ensure habitability and safety issues are taken care of right away and even if these things are not the tenant’s responsibility, they’ll need to know the process for reporting them to you.
A well-maintained Roanoke rental home attracts good tenants, earns high rental values, and leads to a more profitable investment experience.
Landlords must be aware of their responsibilities for maintaining that property.
Legally, you’re required to provide a home that’s safe and habitable. Tenants need access to electricity and running water. If you want to earn money on your property, you won’t stop there. You’ll do more than the minimum that the law requires.
What are your own maintenance responsibilities?
You’re Responsible for a Maintenance Budget
One of your responsibilities is to have the financial resources to respond to maintenance and repair needs.
A maintenance budget helps you plan.
How to Budget and How to Plan
Set aside a percentage of your rental property’s value
Some experts say you should save between one and three percent of your property’s value for maintenance costs.
Save a portion of the rent you earn every month for potential maintenance costs
Consider putting away a portion of the rent you collect every month. Maybe it’s five percent of your income or 10 percent.
The maintenance reserve is a good idea because it helps you budget for your responsibilities. If you don’t use all of what you save, you can continue building a larger reserve for big expenses later.
Inspections Help You Budget
Another great way to keep your budget on track is to inspect your property whenever you get the opportunity. When you can take a close look at the condition of your rental home, you’ll know what types of large ticket items may be on the horizon.
You’re Responsible for Selecting the Right Vendors
You don’t want tenants to be responsible for finding vendors and overseeing repairs. That puts your property in danger. It leaves your tenants with too much control over how the maintenance at your home is handled, and you can’t possibly know how much it will cost.
Choosing vendors and approving work is completely your responsibility as the landlord.
So, how do you do this?
Some of the repairs you need can be managed by a good handyman. That’s one of the most cost-effective options for repairs. Things your handyman can do might be:
|Painting (interior and exterior)||Replacing window screens|
|Putting up drywall||Snaking clogged drains|
This is a good resource to have. It’s someone who can respond to basic repair needs as they arise.
Other types of maintenance and repairs will require licensed and insured vendors. Make sure you have a list of preferred vendors you can call upon when you need a major plumbing fix, some electrical work, or HVAC service.
Using vendors and contractors who are licensed and insured is important for a number of different reasons:
These professionals have been trained and possess the experience that’s required to perform the work you need.
You won’t have to worry about having the same repair done over and over again; licensed professionals stand by their work and get it done right the first time.
You’re protected against liability and risk. If an unlicensed worker falls off a ladder and injures themselves, you may be liable for medical bills and even lost wages.
Your tenants remain satisfied that work is being done properly. This helps with tenant retention and allows you to avoid turnover and vacancy.
Please don’t do the work yourself.
Trying to make your own repairs will often lead to delays, and that’s going to be frustrating for your tenant.
Instead, invest in high quality work from good vendors with whom you already have an established relationship. Establish those relationships early. You don’t want to find yourself in the position of trying to find someone to help you when an emergency is occurring at the rental property.
Preventative Maintenance is a Landlord Responsibility
Preventative maintenance is often more important than your routine and emergency repairs because it protects the condition and value of your investment. This is your job as a landlord.
You’ll save money when you prioritize preventative maintenance. You’ll find there are fewer emergencies to respond to. If you anticipate some of the repairs and replacements that your investment property will need, you’ll save money and time.
When we talk about preventative maintenance, we’re usually focused on:
- Preventing plumbing disasters
- Problems with the HVAC system
- Pest control and landscaping
Good preventative maintenance starts with safety and habitability.
- Checking smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors should be a routine part of your preventative maintenance plan.
- Before a new tenant moves in, make sure every handrail is sturdy and look for cracks or problems outside on stairs, patios, or driveways.
- You want to make sure your rental home can withstand disasters like snowstorms, drenching rain, and extreme heat.
Make sure there’s plenty of ventilation in your home and that your insulation is working properly. Check any irrigation systems outdoors as well.
Part of your preventative maintenance plan should be keeping a close eye on your HVAC system. Have your cooling unit inspected annually. Get a technician to visit the home at least once a year to make sure everything is working properly. You don’t want any coils rusting or systems getting clogged. Have the entire system inspected, cleaned, and maintained regularly.
All of the preventative maintenance work you do will prevent surprise emergencies. You’ll spend less money overall on maintenance, even if it means paying for annual inspections and services throughout the year.
Let Landlord Responsibilities be a Reason you Work with a Property Manager
This is one of the best reasons to work with professional Roanoke property managers.
Maintenance costs are rising and vendors are busier than ever. It can be challenging to find someone to respond to your emergencies and it can really be difficult to find someone with affordable prices.
Your property manager will help. We already have relationships in place and we’re able to negotiate their most competitive pricing.
What can you expect from your tenants when it comes to maintaining your property?
Tenants are first and foremost responsible for notifying you when a repair is needed.
This is actually an important responsibility, and you need to reinforce the requirement with your residents.
Deferred and unreported maintenance items will always be more expensive and difficult to fix.
You want to know about repair needs right away, even if they’re minor. We’ve found that sometimes tenants are hesitant to report issues because they don’t want to “bother” their landlord or they worry they’ll be blamed or even charged for the repair.
Create a relationship where your tenants feel comfortable communicating with you when a repair is needed. It’s an important responsibility to drive home with your residents.
Tenant responsibilities look like this:
Everyone has a different standard of cleanliness, and maybe the tenants aren’t as detailed as you would be. But, you can expect them to keep the home clean enough that pests and rodents don’t become a problem.
Changing air filters regularly should be a tenant’s responsibility. If you’re not sure they can be trusted to stay on top of this, consider working with a filter replacement service and charge the tenants for it.
If a light bulb burns out, you can trust your tenants to replace it. When the garage door opener needs new batteries, that can be a tenant responsibility, too. If a screen comes loose, your tenants can probably get it back in its track.
Tenants are always responsible for their own damage. If something breaks due to the tenant’s actions or neglect, the repair cost must be their responsibility.
Landscaping and Pest Control
Landscaping and pest control are typically the responsibility of the landlord.
That doesn’t mean it’s always the responsibility of the landlord.
We have seen situations where the tenant is responsible for taking care of these things. It depends on your property. It depends on how special your grass is. It depends on the tenant’s willingness to mow lawns and pay pest control bills.
Most landlords are particular about how their lawn is maintained, so they’re likely to hire a professional service and then include the cost in the rental amount. If you have tenants who are keen to mow the lawn, shovel the snow, and tend a garden, you may want to include those responsibilities in the lease agreement.
How Landlords Can Handle Tenant Maintenance Requests
Because you want your tenants to report maintenance needs right away, you need to be sure there’s an easy and convenient process in place for them to do so.
Routine Maintenance Requests
Emergency Maintenance Requests
|For non-emergencies, consider a system where tenants put their maintenance requests in writing. This will help you track and document the work that needs to be done. It also allows you to document the steps you took to resolve the issue. This can be incredibly important if there’s ever a dispute or a complaint that you did not act quickly enough to solve a maintenance problem.||During emergencies, you’ll likely want your tenants to call you. It’s essential they have your contact information. You must make sure you’re prepared for these emergency calls. Tenants will likely be frustrated, frightened, and highly emotional. Be prepared to stay calm, professional, and to act quickly.|
How Can Roanoke Property Management Help?
Not sure, still, how to divide up the maintenance responsibilities at your rental home?
Or, maybe you know what you want to do and what you want your tenant to do, but you’re not sure you have the resources to put together a vendor list or educate your tenants on the importance of filter changes for the HVAC system.
We have a suggestion.
Work with a Roanoke property management company.
Maintaining a rental home requires:
- Understanding what’s needed immediately and what can wait
- Vendor relationships
- Tenant relationships
Often, it’s more work than people realize. This is an excellent reason to work with a Roanoke property management team. Not only do property managers have experience maintaining homes, we also have a network of vendors, a system for reporting repair issues and working with tenants, and an online platform that allows owners to track the progress of their repair.
When you partner with an excellent property management team, you’ll find that we’re focused on preventative maintenance so we can keep your costs down. We conduct inspections. We communicate with tenants.
We have all the systems in place that you need.
There are a lot of benefits to working with professional property management. Better maintenance is perhaps the biggest advantage. You want experienced partners who can balance the needs of your property, the retention of your tenants, and the bottom line. Good property management leads to better maintenance, which leads to higher rents and long-term ROI.
Some Things to Think About
|If you have a swimming pool, make sure it’s outfitted for safety, and hire a pool cleaner to maintain it.||Talk to tenants about landscaping if you’re flexible on who maintains the yard, lawn, and outdoor space. Maybe they want to.|
|It’s always your responsibility to keep the property habitable and safe and free from risks. Tenants have the responsibility of following the lease agreement.||Your vendors are some of your best assets. Whether you’re hiring people who are new to you or calling teams you’ve worked with for years, remember the importance of relationships.|
|Take care of the easy fixes now. Those deferred repairs are costly and frustrating.||Remember to help tenants feel safe asking for repairs and help.|
We are happy to help you with the routine, emergency, and preventative maintenance of your rental property in Roanoke. We can evaluate your investment, talk about the different options, and create a lease agreement that’s clear about maintenance responsibilities for you and your tenant.
You want to be consistent. You want to focus on partnerships and long term ROI.
Please contact us at Lawson Realty Group whether you’re a new investor or an experienced real estate owner. We manage properties in Southwest Virginia throughout the Roanoke Valley, including Salem, Cave Spring, Hollins, Vinton, Glenvar, and Southwest Roanoke County.