Disclaimer: I am not an attorney and this article is not intended as a substitute for advice from the appropriate legal, zoning, financial, construction and/or tax professionals. This information is provided for educational purposes only and is made without warranties or representations
When people talk about owning rental properties as an investment, one of the biggest perks listed is often the ability to earn passive income. While this is true, the term “passive” here can lead some potential investors to have a misguided sense of how much work goes into running a rental.
Depending on your property type, the property’s condition, how many properties you own, whether you use property management services, and many other factors, how much time you have to put into running a rental will vary significantly.
At the same time, all properties will have the same thing in common– they will be less expensive and more predictable if you practice regular preventative maintenance methods.
In this post, we’ll look at fifteen tips for ensuring your property and its systems stay in tip-top shape, which will help you save money and reduce unnecessary headaches in the long run.
Before I dive into some more specific tips about maintaining your rental properties in California, my first point is probably the most important. If you try to manage preventative maintenance tasks piece by piece, it will be overwhelming. This is particularly true if you have a large portfolio of rentals to manage.
By creating a schedule you can follow every year and batching seasonal activities into designated maintenance events, you can ensure that your properties are in good working order and reduce the stress associated with managing a rental.
Of course, you can never completely reduce the occurrence of unexpected repairs or replacements. However, preventative and seasonal maintenance can go a long way toward avoiding surprise expenses in this regard.
By creating a schedule you can follow every year for every property you own, you’ll find it’s much easier to track, predict, and plan for any work that needs to be done. Furthermore, it will help you more accurately budget the expenses of operating your properties.
In addition to creating a schedule for all of your preventative maintenance tasks, you’ll also want to schedule regular inspections of your properties. This is a great way to kill a few birds with one stone– you can take notes on the state of various systems and the property at large, talk to the tenants about any issues they might be experiencing, and work to maintain a positive and professional relationship with your renters.
It’s important to recognize that there are laws regarding how much notice landlords or property managers must give tenants before entering the premises to conduct inspections or work on repairs. These laws vary by state. In California, state law does not specifically define what constitutes “advance notice,” but twenty-four hours is the agreed-upon amount of time by most legal experts. This is presumed to be reasonable notice unless there is some evidence that proves otherwise.
The notice of entry must be in writing and outline the day and time the landlord or associated representative will enter the property. You can either personally deliver this to the tenant, leave it near the customary entrance where a reasonable person would see it, leave it with a person on the premises who is of reasonable age and judgment, or even send it in the mail. If you choose this final option, you’ll need to make sure it’s postmarked at least six days before you intend to conduct your inspection.
There are a few circumstances under which a landlord can enter a property without prior notice in California. These include if there is an emergency that requires the landlord to enter (such as a fire,) if the tenants have abandoned the premises, if the landlord already obtained approval from the tenant previously, or if the landlord received a court order that allows them to enter the unit.
The roof is arguably the most important component of your rental property– this is your first line of defense against the elements of nature. Keeping your roof in tip-top shape ensures that your tenants are safe and comfortable in the property while also protecting the structural integrity of the building.
Having your roof inspected at least once a year is a good idea. Beyond that, have your chosen roofing company come out and take a look after any storms or extreme weather. As with many problems in life, roofing issues are much easier and less expensive to fix if you catch them early.
You don’t want to rely on your tenants to let you know that there is something wrong with the roof of your building. Small leaks aren’t always apparent, but when left unattended, they can turn into significant, costly problems.
Gutters and downspouts are the unsung heroes of rental properties. It’s easy to forget just how important these simple tools are when it comes to directing water away from your property and foundation. When gutters work, they’re great. However, when they’re clogged up and neglected, they can start causing serious trouble.
If water isn’t allowed to move along its intended path through your gutter and downspout system, it can start to build up and get under your roof, into your structure, and around your foundation. Anyone who has ever dealt with water problems in a property knows that it’s a real mess to clean up– both physically and financially. Getting your gutters cleaned regularly is cheap and easy– you might even be able to have the roofing company do it when they come out for your roof inspections.
You might choose to clean out the gutters every spring and fall, or you might find it is sufficient to just have them cleaned once before winter sets in. How often you should clean your gutters is going to depend on a number of factors, including whether they tend to collect lots of leaves and debris through all seasons or typically just in the autumn.
Are you considering turning your commercial property into a residential rental? Make sure you check out our guide to rezoning properties in San Diego.
Your tenants rely on the HVAC system on your property to keep a comfortable living environment. By ensuring you are following a preventative maintenance and service schedule for your system, you can reduce the likelihood that your tenants will be left without this vital service during the heat of summer or cold winter.
Additionally, regularly servicing your HVAC system will help you save money. Getting an emergency repair done is much more expensive than the cost of regular maintenance, and keeping your system in good working order will significantly reduce stress on the system overall.
Whether you require your tenants to change their air filters on a specific schedule in their lease or you take care of it yourself, this is another simple task that can go a long way to protecting your rental’s systems. Not only does changing the air filter help to improve indoor air quality, but it also reduces strain on the system. If filters get clogged up with dust and other particles, your system has to do a lot more work than if air can move freely through the filters.
Many experts recommend changing air filters once every three months, but it’s a good idea to check the recommended schedule suggested by the manufacturer. If you allow pets in your units, changing the filters every month or two rather than every three months is probably a good idea.
Making sure that the weather stripping on all windows and doors is performing as expected can have a number of benefits. Not only will it help ensure climate-controlled air isn’t leaking out of the home and costing either you or your tenants money, but it can also ensure there aren’t any little cracks for pests to enter your home.
Additionally, making sure there are effective door sweeps in place will help reduce noise for multi-family properties and offer lower energy bills in the most extreme seasons.
Having a pest problem in one of your buildings is the last thing you want to deal with. Not only will this lead to unhappy tenants or even potentially displaced tenants, but it can also wreak havoc on the property itself.
Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to prevent this outcome before it ever becomes a problem. This can entail ensuring that all entry points to the home are sealed so that no critters are able to make their way in. Beyond that, having pest control experts come out periodically to conduct routine inspections can help you catch any early signs of infestations or other changes you can make to the property to help make it more pest-proof.
Your tenants rely on the plumbing and water systems of your property for countless daily activities, and a problem with one of these systems can cause a serious headache. You’ll want to inspect for any water leaks in faucets, pipes, and toilets so you can catch any problems before they grow larger. It’s also a good idea to check the water pressure so your system doesn’t have unnecessary strain.
Another important task is flushing your water heaters once a year to get rid of any sediment build-up. This will help prolong the life of your water heater and keep it functioning as efficiently as possible. Finally, though this likely isn’t a problem for many California properties, rentals up north or at altitude should also be prepared for winter to avoid the potential nightmare that can result from frozen and burst pipes.
All of the essential appliances and devices in your property are likely powered in some way by electricity. Ensuring that your electrical system is working properly is an important aspect of your tenants’ comfort and safety.
You’ll want to have several things on your electrical system maintenance checklist, including inspecting for signs of wear or damage, testing GFCIs and circuit breakers, and replacing any damaged or outdated outlets and switches.
Making sure all trees and bushes near your property are in good health and well-trimmed is both a safety concern and an aesthetic concern.
While it’s important to ensure you protect your property value by keeping well-groomed landscaping, you’ll also want to ensure there aren’t any branches overhanging your structures that could fall on the property during a storm.
If your rental has a fireplace or chimney, regular maintenance of this system is going to be key. It’s prudent to inspect them at least once a year to ensure there isn’t creosote build-up or structural issues.
Chimney fires can occur when soot and creosote have been allowed to build up, which can cause significant damage to the chimney and even spread to the rest of the home.
A quick, easy, and potentially life-saving preventative maintenance tip you’ll want to add to your list is to check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors periodically.
Testing the devices regularly can help you know that they will be able to alert your tenants if there is smoke or a carbon monoxide leak.
If your property isn’t ready for a full exterior coat but has some spots with chipping paint, it’s worth addressing this.
Not only will it help your rentals make a better first impression when you’re showing them to prospective tenants, but it will also help prevent water infiltration and other potential damage to the exterior.
There are more than thirteen thousand fires every year in the U.S. caused by clothes dryers. To help protect both your tenants and your property, there are a few crucial steps you can take.
In general, you’ll want to ensure that your tenants know how to clean the lint filter after every use. Beyond that, it’s a good idea to replace plastic or foil accordion-style ducts with rigid metal ducts to help reduce the build-up of lint and allow airflow.
At least once a year, you’ll also want to clean out the dryer duct to clear out any lint that has accumulated. Considering that roughly 25% of dryer fires are caused by lint accumulation, it’s worth taking the time and energy to clear out your ducts annually.
Are you considering adding more rentals to your portfolio or swapping a property in a 1031 exchange? Whether you’re in the market to buy or sell commercial property, you’re in the right place. As the top commercial real estate broker in California, I’m here to help you achieve the best possible outcome, no matter your goals. If you’re ready to get started, get in touch today.
If you have any questions about this post or anything related to commercial real estate in California, I’m always here to help. You can always feel free to reach out; I’d be more than happy to assist in any way I can.
Erik Egelko is a veteran of the commercial real estate business with a specialized focus on Investment Property Sales. In 2021 and 2022, Erik was the #1 ranked Broker in California for one of the largest CRE Firms as well as ranked in the Top 1% of brokers nationwide. He has extensive experience in a variety of asset types including: Retail Shopping Centers, Medical Office Buildings, Industrial Properties, and Multifamily Apartment Complexes. Over the course of his career, Erik has closed over $100,000,000 of commercial property sales throughout Southern California.