Rental property repairs and maintenance add up.
In fact, most landlords lose between 5-8% of their rents to non-CapEx-related repairs and maintenance, over the long term.
Often it’s the kind of work that you could pretty easily do yourself, rather than blowing hundreds or thousands of dollars each year paying someone else to do.
In our Property Management Pro course, we focus heavily on working less, while earning higher returns. Admittedly, doing your own maintenance and repair work is extra labor for you, so we don’t cover how to do these common landlord repairs in the course.
Instead we decided to cover it here, as free content, as a supplement to the property management course. These seven repairs are simple enough to do yourself, and even if you decide not to do them on a case-by-case basis, you should still know how to do them.
Ready to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty?
1. Re-Caulk Around Tubs & Toilets
Caulk is that rubbery seal around tubs, toilets, sinks, and so forth. Over time it gets stiff and starts to disintegrate, and needs to be replaced.
Here’s the thing about caulk though: you need to remove all the crumbling old caulk or else the new caulk won’t stick.
Back in the day, that was a pain the backside (literally, as you sat there forever trying to chip and scrape it away with a razorblade). Today there are cheap and easy products you can rub over old caulk to loosen it up and make it easy to remove with a putty knife.
After removing the crumbling old caulk, clean the area with paint thinner, then apply the new caulk. If you’ve never done it, imagine drawing a line with a tube of toothpaste, except easier.
You’ll be using a “caulk gun” to help you control the caulk canister, and you’ll be cutting the tip of the cannister at an angle to give you even more control over it. Way easier than a tube of toothpaste.
Practice on an old piece of plywood or some other flat and worthless material if you want a confidence boost!
2. Remove Bathtub Stains
Would you want to shower – or worse, take a bath – in a grody, disgusting tub covered in stains, mildew, and who-can-only-guess what else?
To say that prospective renters will be turned off by stained bathtubs is a gross understatement. Literally.
Painting tubs usually doesn’t turn out well, and re-finishing or re-coating them is expensive. Try these DIY options instead.
If you want the heavier chemical (and let’s be honest, more effective) approach, spray Comet all over the tub, and let it sit and marinate in the stuff for an hour. Then bring on the elbow grease and scour, scrub, and scrape vigorously.
For those of you who prefer a more organic approach, try combining baking soda, lemon juice, and cream of tartar. Similarly, let that soak into the tub for an hour before scrubbing away.
3. Fix a Leaky Pipe Under the Sink
What’s the most common pipe leak in a home?
A leak under the kitchen or bathroom sink.
When this happens, it’s most likely a loose or broken compression nut sealing it, or it’s a worn-out washer. Easy enough even for you, my friend.
First, turn off the water to the sink. No one wants a plumber’s baptism. The valve might be right there under the sink, or it could be in the basement, or somewhere in between. Here’s a quick guide to finding the sink shutoff valve.
Then put a bucket underneath the pipe to catch any water that comes loose when you open the pipe.
You’re now ready to twist off the compression nuts (the big, white plastic pieces that are obviously designed to be unscrewed). Try replacing the washer, or the compression nut, as you see fit.
For that matter, you can replace the entire P-trap (the curved section of pipe) if you like. It should only cost about $20 for the part.
Screw it back together, turn the water back on, and you should be good to go.
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4. Fix a Leaky Faucet
Did you know that the average home wastes roughly 11,000 gallons every year on drips and leaks? That’s enough to fill a swimming pool! Talk about wasted money and natural resources.
Leaky faucets are an incredibly common landlord repair. They irritate tenants, and cost a boatload of money for whoever’s paying the water bill.
They’re also reasonably easy to fix. We’ll focus here on compression faucets, since they’re the most common.
What causes leaks in a compression faucet is the rubber washer, the O-ring, designed to seal the valve. So, fixing the leak is typically a matter of replacing this little circular piece of rubber.
First, shut off the water to the sink, as described above. Cover the drain, to catch any parts you accidentally drop.
Before taking apart the handle, make sure you have a clear area to lay out the different pieces in order, so you’ll know what order to put them back!
Start by unscrewing the faucet handle. The screw will be hidden, often under a decorative cap, but it’s there.
Unscrew the packing nut. This will require pliers or a wrench, and it may put up a fight.
Next remove the stem, and remove the screw holding the offending O-ring in place. Pull out the O-ring, and swap it out with one of similar size.
Note: you can either take the old O-ring to the hardware store to get a replacement, or you can buy a standard kit with a bunch of different sized O-rings.
Before re-assembling, coat the new O-ring with plumber’s grease.
Not as scary as it sounds, right?
5. Patch Drywall Holes
We talk extensively about tenant-proofing in the Property Management Pro course, and on how to make sure you can deduct even small drywall holes from the security deposit. But if you do the repair yourself, you can still charge the tenant for the cost!
For small holes, you can use spackle, or even toothpaste. For medium-size holes, you can use a drywall patching kit.
Pick up a drywall repair kit for $7. They involve a solid patch that adheres to the wall, which you can then sand and paint.
No muss, no fuss.
As common landlord repairs go, this is one that must be in every landlord’s repertoire.
6. Silence Creaky Floor Boards
No one likes creaky floors. But this can be especially damning when it comes time to sell your rental property – many buyers (and renters, for that matter) hear creaking floors and worry there could be structural problems with the property.
Fortunately for you, it’s usually not caused by structural problems, but rather to the floorboards settling slightly over time.
Before you do anything else, sprinkle talcum powder in between the offending floor boards. It’s a simple, straightforward fix that often works.
If that fails, you may need to add a fresh brace under the creaking spot. This is also easy, but may involve cutting away the ceiling drywall underneath in order to access the squeaking board.
And, of course, repairing it afterward, which will require more than the adhesive patch described above.
Painting itself is easy and fast. What’s not as fast? Prep work.
Anyone can figure out within five or ten strokes how to evenly apply a roller of paint to a wall, or how to brush along a corner. As they say, it’s not rocket surgery (or does that line go differently…?).
But the taping requires patience and precision if you want clean separations between colors on different walls, or between the walls and ceiling.
One trick? Use the same off-white paint for every surface of every room.
That way, the only taping required will be around the cabinets or floor draping, if that. Make sure you protect your floors with proper coverings before you start splattering paint around!
Also, be sure to remove all hardware, such as light switch covers, outlet covers, curtain rod holders, etc. It will only take 2-3 minutes per room, and will save you hassle once you start applying the paint.
Clean any dust or dirt off the walls, then prime, then paint.
One last tenant-proofing tip: consider using semi-gloss or glossy paint. It’s much easier to clean off and avoid scuffs and marks.
Common Landlord Repairs or Life Skills?
Sure, these landlord repairs are useful and will help you save money on maintenance costs. But guess what? These same repairs plague homeowners as well.
Even learning how to do these few, simple repairs will give you a confidence boost that you’re capable of doing more around the house. Whether it’s your own home or a rental property, these “gateway repairs” will start you on your journey to be a more self-sufficient homeowner and landlord.
And as we mentioned above, you can deduct from the tenants’ security deposit for your own labor and repair work! Which means you can charge market rates for the work, and make the sweat worth your while.
Just make sure you document all labor and materials carefully, and charge no more than market rates for your work, and you can earn the same margin on the work as a contractor.
Have any common, easy repairs that you want to share? We could all stand to be a little handier, so share your tips!