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Maintenance of Home Rentals

Posted By: Lambert Munz

Maintenance is a major challenge for the property manager

This is a manager's biggest problem. Tenants want service. Because they are paying 1/3 or more of their budget for housing, they want things fixed. The owner complains when they get a bill... because no one likes bills. The fact is maintenance is here to stay and must be addressed if you want a successful rental business.

With that said, let me discuss in-house maintenance vs. outsourced contract services (handyman, contractor, supplier). Experience has taught me that contract services are recommended over employee services/in-house maintenance. Advantages include locking in costs and avoiding over billing.

Employees must be kept busy. What I have found when using in-house services is that, many times staff members are  not as competent as a contractor and usually are salaried. An independent contractor can't afford to take coffee breaks or engage in water cooler talk. Their time has to produce income as their own  overhead is on-going. Another advantage is some items truly need to go to bid.

A contractor is working for a profit and concerned with efficiency. An employee just doesn't have these same concerns. It is a balancing act for the manager deciding what to maintain and what to put off safely until a later date. Some owners don't want to spend any money; others insists that we keep their property in top shape.

Emergencies must be responded to in a timely manner to keep damage to a minimum. If it is a habitability item we and the owner have a responsibility to attend to correcting the problem immediately.

The definition of habitability is:

1) Effective waterproofing and weather protection of roof and exterior walls, including unbroken windows and doors.

2) Plumbing or gas facilities which conform to applicable law in effect at the time of installation and maintained in good working order.

3) Water supply approved under applicable law, capable of producing hot and cold running water and connected to a sewage disposal system.

4) Heating facilities which conformed to applicable law at the time of installation, maintained in good working order.

5) Building grounds in clean, sanitary, and free from all accumulations of debris, filth, rubbish, garbage, rodents and vermin, and all areas under control of the landlord to be kept clean ,sanitary and free from all accumulations of debris, filth, rubbish, garbage, rodents, and vermin

6) An adequate number of receptacles for garbage and rubbish.

7) Floors, stairways, and railings  maintained in good repair.

8) One working phone outlet is required per unit.

The law states that a landlord must maintain habitability at all times. Cooling is not required. Excluded are damages causes by tenants.

It seems property managers receive their biggest maintenance requests on the first of the month. This is when the rent is being paid and it is human nature to ask "What have you done for me lately?" A big job for the property manager includes sorting out legitimate requests regarding who is responsible, then arguing with everyone about it.

However, the toughest job of all is listening to the tenants complain about lack of service and later to the owners after they received the bill. It goes with the territory.

The bottom line is that no matter who is responsibility, houses require maintenance.

New investors and their advisers never allow enough money in the budget for maintenance.of their rental. What is enough? It depends on the age of the rental. A study done by others says to allow about an annual average of $1300  for a single family home.  



A big help in the operation of the home is operating manuals. Not all appliances operate in the same way. Very few people have been educated about home operation. Especially young people. We cannot expect people to operate a strange home, without some basic instructions. If they are coming from an apartment, most things were taken care of for them. We have to point out that onsite maintenance is no longer available.

What are priorities? FLOOD, BLOOD, FIRE, AND HABITABILITY ITEMS,. Everything else is secondary nature, everyone should be patient with their manager. As with everything else in life, priorities come first.

Another area that needs attention. IT IS CALLED THE BROKEN WINDOW THEORY. This means that ignored small disorders such as broken window, graffiti, abandoned cars, and unkempt yards, lead to larger disorders. We encourage that these items are handles ASAP.

There are home maintenance warranty programs available offered by several companies. Service varies between companies, but it can be good insurance for a major repair.

Other information needed by property managers is the year the home was built.  Builders have a 1 year warranty and a 10 year structural warranty on new homes.  There is also  usually a roof warranty. We need to know the builder and dae of construction. Then, we can usually arrange for warranty service to be performed.

I hope this has enlightened you regarding home real estate investments.




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