Not everyone is a born handyman (or woman!), and it’s often easier to hire a professional contractor for preventative maintenance and repairs.

And hey, at least you can sleep at night without fear of causing even more damage than if we’d called somebody who knew what they were doing in the first place!

But like all bad phone calls, the “There’s a problem at the property” calls tend to arrive outside working hours. If the roof is leaking in the middle of the night, chances are you will not be able to reach a contractor. But as intimidating as they might seem, we have to prepare ourselves for the worst and learn the basics. If you are in the rental or property management business, things get trickier because the state and the look of your assets are your brand, as a landlord or property manager.

Here are three preventative maintenance jobs to never forget about, because they can save you thousands in preventing larger property problems!

 

Plumbing Part I: The Kitchen Drain

What you can’t see won’t hurt you, right?

Well, not exactly. Fixtures, fittings and the rest of plumbing terminology are enough to give you a headache and pretend pipes do not exist and water just magically materializes when you turn on the faucet.

The most common problem of the pipes? Cloggage.

This happens for a multitude of reasons, the main one being fats and oils dumped down the drains. If you follow this advice and still end up accidentally spilling fats or oils, quickly turn on to faucet to hot water and pour dishwashing liquid. The combination of heat and fat-cutting detergent will help dissolve the fats and oils enough to exit your property’s portion of the pipes.

Since this preventative maintenance rests on the tenants’ behavior, make sure your lease contract includes a clause requiring tenants to occasionally flush the kitchen drain with hot water and detergent!

 

Plumbing Part II: The Shower Drain

In bathrooms, the shower drain is most likely to get clogged up due to hair.

Hair strainers are the perfect solution to solve this problem. All the renters have to do is remove any hair that fell down while taking a shower.

Which, of course, also means a lease contract clause requiring your renters to keep the hair strainer clean! Consider a lease clause requiring them to empty the hair strainer weekly.

While we’re in the bathroom, the shower head is prone to issues as well. To improve its longevity, check it at least once a week for cracks and damages. If it leaks, try thread tape. Simply unscrew the showerhead, wrap the tape clockwise and re-attach the head. If it is clogged, put it in a bowl of warm water and vinegar for an hour and clean it with a small brush afterward.

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Beyond the obvious leaks and clogs, neglecting your property’s plumbing can have some unusual consequences. One tenant found that what he thought was a typical clogging issue was, in fact, caused by snakes.

And not the plumber’s snake appartus, either. Twenty live snakes slithered out of the ceiling due to a small crack in the pipe, which was large enough for a small snake to fit in.

Tenants routinely break their lease contracts over less. Keep your property’s plumbing humming along at peak performance, with a few simple lease clauses and regular property inspections!

 

Paint

If your house hasn’t had a new paintjob done to it in the last ten years, it’s high time you do it. Beside the risk of health hazard when old lead paint goes without being recoated frequently, newer paints released in the last few years are much more eco-friendly than even those manufactured a decade ago.

Whenever your rental unit has a turnover, see if you can get away with simply retouching the walls. Write down the exact paint color name and number, and ideally use it for every single one of your rental units. That way you’ll always know what color to use, and you’ll always have some on hand.

And if you always use the same color, you typically only need one coat!

Painting over nicotine-stained walls is trickier. Before starting, you may need to apply a stain blocker on the walls. Do not only apply the stain blocker over nicotine stains just to save money; the dye will not be spread uniformly, causing ugly bubbles that will ruin the surface of the wall.

While we’re talking paint, if you plan to rent a property to college students, consider using shades of beige. Stains, splashes, and scuffs will not be as obvious, with the darker color walls!

 

Air Conditioner

The air conditioner is probably the most neglected piece of equipment in most rental properties.

Many people just turn it on and look inside only when there’s a problem or they have to replace it. Do regular check-ups because an unmaintained air conditioner can have serious effects on health. The last thing you want is your renters to fall ill from the bacteria stored inside. Read: lawsuit.

When’s the best time to service your air conditioning condensers? April and May.

The worst time? An 105-degree day in July.

Send out an HVAC repairman to service your AC condenser to avoid expensive, emergency repairs down the road!

Here are a few easy steps you can follow:

  • Shut off the power – obviously, it’s not wise to work on an electrical device while it’s humming along. The switch will be located either on the exterior condenser/compressor or on an exterior shut-off box right near the unit.
  • Remove any debris – remove the fan using a wrench or a screwdriver, then the fasteners, then the cage. Clean the leaves or any other debris with a wet or dry vacuum.
  • Clean the fins, then straighten them to prevent any reduction in air-flow.
  • Clean the area around the unit.
  • Level the unit.

Another good rule of thumb is requiring the renters to change the air filters every three months. Again, a clause to include in your lease contract!

Neglect can lead to terrible accidents. An HVAC contractor from New York ended up with a frostbite on his hand when the discharge valve popped.

As a landlord, your business depends on the state of your assets. The good news is that a little preventative maintenance can save you thousands of dollars later, on your plumbing, painting, and HVAC!

 

About the Author:

Vincent West is an engineering designer and technical blogger. Visit Vince’s Facebook and Twitter for more info.

Have any preventative maintenance tips? Or maybe horror stories? Share them below!

 

 

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