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Home · Property Management · Remodel and Repair : Staying on Top of “Wear and Tear”

by Michael Monteiro

Wear and tear is a fact of life for every landlord. Since we have already spent some time on this blog looking at how to tell the difference between damage and wear and tear, let’s talk about the specifics of what to expect when it comes to basic apartment fix-it work and how to stay ahead of the maintenance game.

Generally speaking, the best time to take care of wear and tear on a unit is between tenants. And often, this goes beyond just doing a thorough clean and making sure that everything is spic n span for your next tenant.

While it’s so obvious that this between-tenant downtime is the perfect opportunity to take care of any and all outstanding issues, all too often things are still neglected. Whether it’s because the window of time between tenants is so short or expenditures are already up for the month, it can be easy to let the little things fall to the wayside until next time.
Our best advice? Don’t.
No matter how small a wear and tear item seems, no matter how loudly the voice inside your head tells you it’s okay to leave that tiny scratch on the hardwood floor until the next time you flip the apartment (But it’s so small!), don’t delay.

As we’ve discussed so many times before on this blog, all too frequently little things become big things if they are left unattended. Also, the best way to ensure that your property maintains”or even better yet increases”it’s value is to constantly stay on top of everything.

A few things that will help you make sure those wear and tear fixes are taken care of immediately:
  • Always keep frequently used supplies on hand: paint, plaster, floor polish, door knobs, latches, hinges, blinds, linoleum tiles, etc.
  • Develop good relationships with contractors you trust so that they’re likely to come out and help you if need be even if it’s at the last minute. Most vendors will go out of their way to keep their best customers happy.
  • Insist on doing a walk-through of every vacated apartment yourself. Even if someone else is doing an official tenant walk-through at the end of a lease, you should still take the time to get an overview of the apartment and see what needs to be done with your own two eyes.
  • Make a checklist of wear and tear items to go through during your own personal walk-through. This will help ensure that every unit is evaluated with the same standards and degree of thoroughness, even when time is of the essence. Think of it as your own personal system of checks and balances.
To help with your checklist, we like the tips provided from Rental Housing Online. Based on that, we suggest adding the following to your checklist every time a unit turns over.
Wear and Tear Checklist
  • Check all door knobs and locks to make sure they aren’t loose and are working correctly.
  • Open and close closet doors to ensure they are not off-track.
  • Make sure hinges and handles on doors and cupboards are not loose.
  • Check carpeting for dirt and other signs of wear.
  • Check carpet seams to ensure they are not coming up at the edges.
  • Make sure wood, tile, and linoleum floors are not scuffed, scratched, thinning, or loose.
  • Check countertops for wear or scratches.
  • Check ceiling for stains.
  • Check walls for cracks.
  • Make sure all wallpaper is securely applied.
  • Check drapery rods, curtains, and blinds.
  • Make sure all windows, latches, and screens are in good shape.
  • Check faucet handles.
  • Check toilet for leaks or running.
Remember that although flipping units provides a great chance to go in and take care of wear and tear issues, you should always remain on top of general maintenance and housekeeping. Encourage tenants to let you know when little things need to be fixed or repaired (and thank them every time they do so). When you are asked to visit an occupied unit for any reason, keep an eye out for wear and tear issues that need to be resolved and ask your tenant for the access necessary to resolve them immediately.
Finally, apply the five-minute rule. Whenever you see an issue anywhere on your property that can be fixed in five minutes or less, don’t delay. Fix it immediately. In the long run, you will save much more than five minutes’ worth of time and effort.

Michael Monteiro works for Buildium LLC, maker of online property management software and landlord software for professional property managers, condos and homeowner associations (HOAs) and is author of the The Buildium Property Management Blog.

See Michael Monteiro’s feature, Watch Television While Learning Real Estate and Property Management.

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