The best way for California rental property owners to avoid a large maintenance expense is through preventative maintenance. One badly clogged five-dollar air filter can cause five thousand dollars of damage to your air conditioner or your furnace. Preventative maintenance is a money saver and it preserves the value of your asset.
But, when you aren’t living at the property yourself, how do you know when things need servicing, and how do you get the tenant to perform their own preventative maintenance?
We like to make an analogy to rental cars. Have you ever changed the oil on a car you have rented?
Of course not.
It’s the rental company’s problem, not yours. So, why would you allow the tenant to do the equivalent in your rental property, which is twenty to thirty times more valuable than the typical rental car?
We can offer rental property owners in California four ways to better protect an investment property. Follow these preventative maintenance steps, and you’ll keep small maintenance problems simple and affordable.
Have Clear Language in the Lease Agreement
It should be very clear in your lease agreement what the responsibilities are for the tenant and the owner. We believe an addendum to the lease is best for this. It should state what maintenance the tenant is responsible for and the cost they will be charged for non-compliance.
For example, if the tenant lets light bulbs burn out and does not replace them, they will be charged $5 for each bulb that the tenant failed to change. When this is in the lease agreement, no one is surprised by the charge.
Make Preventative Maintenance Easy on Your Tenant
As much as possible, make maintenance fool-proof. For example, you can work with a company called Second Nature to have air filters delivered. They will bring the right sized air filter to your property every six months, and the tenants will be reminded to change them. Many tenants find it difficult to locate the furnace, get the right sized filter, travel to the local hardware store, buy a new filter and then install it.
For a low fee, this company removes the friction and hassle of finding a suitable air filter. Another idea is to put the irrigation system on timers so it waters the lawn without tenant involvement. This protects your property and doesn’t give the tenant an opportunity to cause damage by neglect or misuse.
Trust, but Verify: Annual Inspections
Don’t assume your tenant will maintain your property properly. You need to perform at the minimum an annual inspection. Requiring two of them every year is even better. You need to give the tenant a 24-hour notice period, but this is your asset and you need to make sure the tenant is taking care of it properly.
You are there to conduct a preventative maintenance review and to check on the condition and maintenance requirements of the property. You can also use this as an opportunity to make sure the tenant is abiding by the terms of the lease.
Are there more occupants than are listed on the lease?
Is there a pet when the property was agreed to be pet-free?
Are they smoking inside?
Address any potential lease violations that you encounter while you’re conducting your annual or bi-annual preventative maintenance review.
Protect Your Asset with Renter’s Insurance
Accidents happen, and tenants can cause considerably more damage than normal wear and tear. You might have insurance, but your deductible may be $5,000 or more, and if you file a claim, the insurance company could increase your rate substantially.
Instead of relying completely on your own insurance policy, require the tenant to provide evidence of either liability insurance or renter’s insurance which includes liability and insurance for the tenant’s personal possessions. At Progressive Property Management, we require tenant liability insurance. It costs our tenants $12.50 monthly, and it provides $100,000 of coverage to the owner with no deductible.
Those are just a few ideas to better protect your investment property and be preventative about maintenance issues. If you have any questions about how to protect your home against unreported or deferred maintenance, contact our team at Progressive Property Management. We are here to serve as your California property management resource.