As a landlord, I would love to keep tenants in my properties forever. While some stay a long time, most eventually leave – either by personal choice or through an eviction – to seek housing elsewhere. Whenever that time comes it’s the landlord’s responsibility conduct some home maintenance and get the unit ready for the new tenant.
Turning a rental house around for the new tenants can be a time consuming and financially draining time. Hopefully, as a conscientious landlord, you’ve kept track of what is going on at the property and have a good idea of what to expect in terms of potential home maintenance. There really shouldn’t be any surprises, but it seems like there always are.
Because even minor renovations will cost money and require time to complete, some landlords choose to skimp on or refuse to complete repairs. I disagree with this philosophy. As much as possible, I want the property to be in pristine condition for the new tenants so that our relationship begins on the right foot. They need to know that I’m a landlord who prides myself in the condition of the unit and wants to treat them well. Hopefully this pride will bleed into the tenant’s minds and they will in turn do their best to keep the property as clean and damage free as can be expected.
Home Maintenance to Conduct Between Tenants
Some repairs and home maintenance will obviously be required before the new tenant moves in. While all facets of the house need inspection, these five areas are a must for any landlord to address:
1. Deep cleaning the residence.
This should really be the first step. A thorough deep cleaning of the house will help identify any other issues that need to be addressed.
A checklist for cleaning the residence should include:
Dusting of all wood surfaces, walls, railings, trim, cabinets, light fixtures and ceiling fans
Sanitizing of all kitchen sink areas, countertops and bathroom surfaces, including the toilet, shower and tub area
Cleaning all appliance surfaces, including the interior of the stove, microwave, diswasher and refrigerator
Mopping of tile, wood or linoleum floor surfaces
Vacuuming and shampooing all carpets
Cleaning of intake vents, air ducts and dryer vents
Replacement of HVAC filters
Cleaning the fireplace and inspection of the flue if applicable
As you can see, this list is quite exhaustive. If time does not permit you as the landlord to commit to this level of cleaning, consider hiring a cleaning service like Merry Maids for the task. It will be worth the investment to save time and have the unit looking clean again.
2. Patch and paint walls
The ideal time to patch and repaint walls is of course between tenants because the house is free from furniture. More than likely the walls will contain dings and dents that have happened just from simple everyday living. They need to be looking as nice as possible when you show the property to new prospects. A prospective tenant will appreciate the new paint smell and look. Remember, it shows them you care about the property.
When repainting, choose our paint wisely. I’d suggest using an eggshell, satin or semi-gloss paint depending on the look you desire and the room in which the painting is occurring. These finishes of paint allow for some cleaning of the walls to take place, which may defer the need to repaint if the tenant has only lived there for a short time. Flat-based paints are more difficult, if not impossible to clean.
And don’t forget to save your leftover paint or, if you don’t have any, the paint color chip from the retailer so you can have an exact paint match for future touch ups.
3. Clean or replace carpets
Those pet odors, coffee stains and nail polish spills are going to look real ugly to a prospective tenant. They have to come up. If they can’t through your own cleaning or the work of a professional carpet cleaning company, then tear out the carpet and replace it.
This can be very frustrating in that the bad sections of carpeting may be in only one room. It may be possible to only replace that room if the exact match/style of carpet is still on the market. More than likely it will require replacing all the carpet just to keep a consistency of look throughout the unit.
Because of the need to replace carpet so often, we have gone to purchasing cheaper carpets rather than the high end ones a person might put in their home and expect to last for 10-15 years with proper care.
4. Inspect plumbing
A plumbing issue has come up with every post-inspection I’ve done with a tenant who is leaving. A leaky faucet…a dripping shower head…clogged pipes…you name it, I’ve heard it. So inspect all plumbing fixtures, drainage pipes, toilet tanks and exterior hose outlets during the turnover time.
Plumbing can be tricky at times, so be realistic about your own skill to complete a project. I would consider this an ideal time to call in a professional for these repairs if there is a major issue.
In our rental agreements, we expect the tenant to take care of the mowing and general landscaping while they live in the property. For the most part they do but again, they don’t take care of the property like it was their own. Generally speaking, the landscaping appeal will degrade a little bit while they occupy the residence.
So be ready to mow and edge the yard, trim all bushes, weed flowerbeds, and put down mulch or other ground cover. Also look to trim trees that may have overgrown onto the house or on wires running to the house. Clean out gutters, brush away cobwebs and other insect nests on the perimeter of the house, and clear any yard debris.
Remember, the exterior of the property will be the first thing the prospective tenant sees. We want beautiful curb appeal the minute they pull in the driveway.
Save the Money for This Home Maintenance
By now you might be saying, “That’s a lot to do and I don’t have the money for all that.”
Well then the first question you need to be asking yourself is “Why am I in the rental business?” If you don’t have the money to conduct these basic home maintenance issues, then what will you do when a huge repair bill comes like replacing a roof, installing new PVC piping in an entire house or drilling for a new well because the old one had dried up? (All of those I’ve had to do in my time as a landlord and they weren’t cheap.)
In order to have success as landlord, treat this endeavor like a business. And as any good businessman would say, a secret to success is saving up stores of cash to have on hand for general operating procedures and in case of emergencies.
So from day one of receiving rental income from the tenant, put money aside in a fund in anticipation of completing these repairs. I would suggest doing this each month until you have at least $10,000 saved. That amount will easily cover the cleaning and repairs necessary between tenants and provide an adequate buffer should any emergency arise. (Of course, the more properties a landlord owns, the higher I would consider pushing that saving number.)
The turnaround time between tenants is the most expensive and time-consuming period you will encounter as a landlord. It’s wise to anticipate the repairs and maintenance that will be needed and save the money in advance to complete them. It will make your life easier and your new tenants happier.
Questions: Have you ever moved into a rental unit only to find it dirty and not ready for occupancy? Did the landlord respond to your requests to fix an issue? What other home maintenance issues should a landlord address between tenants?
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