The Ins and Outs of Preventive Maintenance

Preventive MaintenanceWhile cliché, “a stitch in time saves nine” applies perfectly to your responsibilities as a landlord when it comes to preventive maintenance for your rental properties. It’s easy to deal with routine building checks in your “downtime”, but at some point, you could delay that routine maintenance one too many times.  Then you’ll probably have to spend more in terms of time and money than you would have if you had consistently stayed on top of your rental property’s well-being.

Don’t get caught off-guard. Keep reading to learn more about preventive maintenance as it applies to your rental properties.

What is preventive maintenance? 

Preventive, or preventative, maintenance is the act of monitoring and repairing issues within your rental properties before they become catastrophic situations. Taking this proactive approach to maintenance work minimizes the need for emergency repairs, which are typically more expensive because you’ll need a maintenance technician to deal with the issue right away.

Waiting until the last second to have maintenance operations done can also be disruptive for your tenants, whether it’s because certain parts of your property or equipment is inaccessible or, even worse, because the preventable damage occurred in a tenant’s unit. Either scenario will leave tenants unhappy and could lead to them considering a new place to live when their current lease expires.

Preventive maintenance not only gives tenants peace of mind that they’re living in a safe and well-kept building, it can also save you from unexpected costs or legal consequences.

Types of preventive maintenance and resources to consider

As a landlord, your rental properties have a lot of areas that require preventive maintenance — perhaps more than you’ve previously considered.

Here’s a preventative maintenance checklist detailing the kinds of proactive measures you should be conducting on a consistent basis:

Air Quality

Check HVAC systems and filters

Your property’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system collects a lot of dirt and dust daily. The system’s filters catch a fair amount of that pollution, but they eventually need to be cleaned or, preferably, replaced. 

The cleaner your air filters, the better air quality your tenants will enjoy. Plus, the dirtier the air filters are, the harder your building’s air conditioning or heating systems have to work, which can lead to costly damage and unnecessary downtime. The last thing you want to have to do is tell your tenants that air conditioning or heat is out due to an equipment failure during the warmest or coldest times of the year. Check HVAC system air filters quarterly for cleaning or replacement as part of your preventative maintenance management tasks. 

Check the carbon monoxide detectors 

Monitoring your buildings’ carbon monoxide detectors is a preventive maintenance example that’s critical to maintaining your tenants’ health and safety. An effective carbon monoxide detector can spot this poisonous gas in air and protect people from getting sick, or potentially dying, because they inhaled too large of a quantity. 

It’s equally important to check with local and state law to ensure you’re following proper carbon monoxide protocol. Even if your state doesn’t require carbon monoxide detectors in rental properties, install them anyway and make regular checks part of your preventive maintenance schedule to give you and your tenants peace of mind.

Fire Safety

Check the dryer(s)

Whether you provide dryers (and washers) for your tenants or they bring in their own, make sure they’re working properly to prevent a fire starting. The dryer’s lint tray is a good first place to look as buildup can lead to a fire.

For proper dryer preventative maintenance, turn it on and see if there’s a steady warm air stream coming from the outdoor vent opening. The flap over the vent opening should move. If that flap is stationary, remove the cap, vacuum the vent and then disconnect it from the dryer to get out any additional lint.

Besides preventing a fire, properly maintaining your building’s dryers is a good maintenance strategy because it will allow them to work more efficiently, drying clothes quicker and reducing energy usage.

Check and clean chimneys and fireplaces

If your rental has a fireplace, chimney inspection should be an annual maintenance task. Any soot deposits thicker than an eighth of an inch should be removed.

Good fireplace maintenance work is critical on a number of fronts. A clean chimney reduces the chance of a fire, creates more energy efficiency because the fire stays hotter, reduces the need to bump up the thermostat and keeps the walls in the room where the fireplace is cleaner.

Check smoke detectors

The line of thinking with carbon monoxide detectors’ scheduled maintenance applies to smoke detectors, too. Check them regularly to ensure they’re in working order should also be on your preventive maintenance task list. A well-functioning smoke detector can save lives as well as your rental property. 

Water damage prevention

Shut off any water to outside spigots before winter

If you have any outdoor water spouts on your rental property, turn off the water that leads to them in the fall. Adding this task to your preventive maintenance schedule will keep pipes from freezing and potentially bursting if temperatures drop below 32 degrees. This quick predictive maintenance task could save you from an unexpected maintenance cost as well as inconveniences for your tenants.

Drain the water heater 

Over time, water heaters gather sediment and enough of it could clog or damage the unit. Flushing the water heater at least once a year will help ensure that it continues to work properly and buy you more time before needing to replace it.

Re-caulk showers and bathtubs

You or someone on your maintenance team should regularly check the showers and tubs in your rental properties’ units for any cracks or breaks. It’s important to stay on top of this because mold could grow in those broken areas. Re-caulk these damaged areas as soon as you spot them. 

Check your sink and bathtub drains as well. Clogged drains could lead to bigger problems in the future. Inserting hair catchers to showers and tubs can help prevent clogged drains.

Check the rest of your property for water damage or leaks

The bathroom isn’t the only area that’s susceptible to leaks and subsequent water damage. Keep an eye on your property’s ceilings and walls to make sure there aren’t any signs of water damage.

Keep the gutters clean

If your gutters are doing their job, rainwater will be steered away from your rental property’s foundation. If your gutters are clogged however, that water will sit around the foundation and attract bugs such as termites. Make gutter cleaning part of your preventive maintenance plan to help keep your foundation dry and siding clean. Putting in gutter guards can help keep gutters clear, but they won’t 100 percent free you from having to clean them yourself.

Building upkeep 

Look out for lease-violating activities

Preventive maintenance also means addressing issues that are out of your control — like property damage your tenants might have caused. It doesn’t hurt to conduct an inspection to make sure tenants haven’t done, or are doing, anything that violates their lease agreement and could lead to corrective maintenance you’ll have to do in the future. This could include smoking in their unit or having an unauthorized pet.

Be wary of pests

Bugs aren’t a good look for your rental property. Their presence can raise questions about your attention to cleanliness and will not make your tenants happy. Add an annual pest inspection to your preventative maintenance plan. And if a tenant alerts you about a bug issue, address it immediately. Chances are if there are a few on hand, more are on the way.

Patch up cracks

Filling in ceiling or drywall cracks as part of your preventative maintenance program will not only make your rental property look better, but you’re also likely preventing bigger problems from occurring down the road.

The benefits of adequate preventive maintenance for landlords and their tenants

As you can see, preventive maintenance on your rental property is critical for a number of reasons — many of them financial. 

For example, a preventative repair will almost always cost less than reactive maintenance because the appliance, structure, device, etc. in question won’t be in as bad of shape if you’re regularly monitoring it. Waiting until you have to repair something increases your overall cost because more work will have to be done.

Preventative maintenance is also beneficial because it can save you a lot of time as a landlord. Take your units’ showers or bathtubs, for example. Performing scheduled maintenance for something like re-caulking any cracks in the structure will be faster than it would be to address a major leak or clean out mold. Two things that could happen if those cracks go unattended for too long. The same could be said for maintenance activity like keeping an eye on lint build up if your rental properties have dryers; the time it takes to clear out those vents is nothing compared to time and money you’d spend if that lint caused a fire.

Adequate preventive maintenance also helps save you time because you can plan when it’s going to happen. Any reactive maintenance you have to deal with could arise at any time and you have to fit those repairs into your schedule.

Lastly, preventative maintenance offers peace of mind, to you and your tenants. No issue goes unresolved for too long when you conduct regular maintenance procedures on your rental properties. You can rest assured knowing that your building or rental houses are in good condition. Meanwhile your tenants can enjoy their living experience on your property; they know they’re not living in a broken-down rental, and that the amenities offered will be in working order.

All told, preventive maintenance saves you money, time and keeps your tenants happy — and hopefully renewing their leases year after year.

Final takeaway

Don’t wait until something’s broken in your rental property to fix it. Planned maintenance tasks such as monitoring major appliances, building structures and even making sure your tenants are abiding by lease agreements can save you a lot of time and money in the future. Practice preventive maintenance consistently throughout the year and you’ll likely minimize the amount of emergency repairs you’ll need to pair for, and inconvenience your tenants with.

Make your job easier with help from AAOA

A lot of time and hard work goes into being a landlord, but you do have to do it alone. The American Apartment Owners Association is dedicated to making your job easier. Our goal is to provide you with the necessary tools and equipment to serve your tenants more effectively.

AAOA offers more than 150 essential state-specific landlord forms that you can download and print straight from your account. Meanwhile, our residential lease agreement has an online guide to help you create and customize your document. Our forms are legally compliant and easy to use, allowing you to confidently rent and manage your property.

When it comes to preventive maintenance, AAOA is here to help. Our state-based vendor directory makes it easy for you to source the best vendors to maintain your property. This directory gives you access to countless approved vendors to help you with home improvement, apartment repairs, asset management, remodeling and many other essential services so you can establish an effective preventive maintenance program.

Additionally, AAOA wants to help ensure you lease your rental properties to the best tenants possible. That’s why we offer comprehensive and instant background tenant screening services. This resource provides credit checks, criminal history, eviction history, social security verifications and more to help you minimize your risk and find reliable tenants.

Join AAOA today.