Let’s face it: Landlords in Washington, DC face a lot of expenses related to their investment properties. Because the expenses can be so high, many landlords find themselves asking: “Should I repair that or can I just leave it for now?”
The answer is that it very much depends. Some repairs need to be done immediately to prevent more (expensive) damage, while other repairs and routine maintenance can be put off until your tenant’s lease ends or until you have some free time.
Not sure what to do? Here are a few common maintenance and repairs that all landlords face — and whether they should be fixed immediately or not.
Busted door or window: Repair it
Any point of entry into your property that is broken should be fixed immediately. If you don’t already have a tenant, then you’re not going to get one so long as the building is not secure. If you do have a tenant, then you may be liable for anything stolen should someone break in.
All landlords are responsible for keeping doors and windows in good condition, and that includes the locks on everything. Good doors and windows will also help prevent drafts and keep rainwater from seeping into the home and causing water damage.
Scratched hardwood: Leave it
Many of the older homes in Washington, DC have beautiful hardwood floors, and some landlords even put it in themselves when they buy a new investment property. Hardwood is incredibly durable, which is a big plus when you have renters, but when people move furniture in and out of the building, it’s not unusual that the hardwood floor gets scratched.
While a scratch in beautiful hardwood floors may look unsightly to you, it’s not a repair that needs to be done immediately. In fact, you can go several years without revarnishing or refinishing your floors.
To discourage scratches, leave area rugs in your property for tenants to use. Some tenants may want to buy their own (that’s fine, they can just roll up the ones you have), but others might be fine using yours since they’ll save a little money that way. Rugs protect floors, so giving them to your tenants might prevent some scratches.
Leaky pipe/faucet/shower/sink: Repair it
Don’t wait to repair a leak in your investment property — ever. When left alone for too long, a leak can grow, spread and cause all kinds of damage to your property. Water damage will rot out your ceilings. Mold might grow on walls and even underneath carpet, and it could make your tenants sick — potentially leaving you liable for their health bills.
When a tenant reports a leak, get a plumber to your property immediately. Although that may be money you’d rather not spend, you might end up spending much more of it if you don’t get the problem fixed right away.
Pro tip: If there’s water damage, do not just paint over it. Fix the ceiling.
Broken furnace: Repair it
A broken furnace in the middle of winter can cause all types of headaches. Washington, DC may not be the coldest city on the planet, but freezing temperatures are still common, especially at night. If the furnace stops working on your rental property, then it must be ford immediately.
Failure to fix a broken furnace in a timely manner can cost you far more than just repairs. In Washington, DC and many other cities, tenants have the right to break their leases when the property becomes uninhabitable. That term is up to interpretation, but most judges would probably agree that a broken furnace in winter would render a home uninhabitable. That means your tenant could legally break the lease, leaving you without rental income at a bad time.
Repairing a furnace can be a surprise expensive repair, so to stop those repairs from surprising you, have your furnace inspected regularly by a professional each fall before it’s needed. Paying a little bit each fall can prevent those costly repairs from surprising you. If you’re told that you’ll have to replace the furnace soon, then you’ll at least have the chance to save a little or put off other purchases so prepare for the repair bill.
Chipped paint on walls: Leave it
Even the most careful tenants will still cause some general wear-and-tear damage to the property. Chipped paint, along with holes in the walls from hanging artwork, is probably the most common.
If you notice chipped paint in your rental property, it’s okay to wait to repair it. You can repaint after the tenant moves out and before a new one moves in. If you notice dirt or other marks on the wall, try wiping them off with a wet rag.
Lawn care: Leave it
Your lease should specify who will take care of mowing the lawn on your property (either have the tenant do it or higher a service), but general lawn care can wait until the next tenant arrives or springtime, if your tenant allows.
Laying down new mulch, pulling weeds and planting flowers will improve your property’s curb appeal, which will be great for new tenants and nice even for current ones, but the work isn’t necessary unless your property looks more like a forest than an urban home.
That being said, spending a little time around the outside of your property can help you spot potential problems, such as a crack in a gutter or damaged siding. Finding this problem ahead of time could save you an expensive repair later on. Choose a day in the spring and let your tenants know that you’ll be stopping by for some routine lawn care maintenance.
Cracked gutters: Repair them
If you do find a crack in your gutter, don’t wait to have it repaired or replaced. Even in the wintertime when you know you won’t have leaves falling for a long time, a cracked gutter will leak water and prevent it from transporting the water safely away from the foundation of the house. Gutters stop excessive rainwater from reaching the property’s foundation where it could seep into the ground and cause damage to the basement of your home.
Gutters usually crack when there’s too much weight pulling them down. If you schedule regular cleanings, then you won’t have to worry about cracks nearly as much. A professional will also let you know when he or she spots a problem with your gutter, which can help prepare you for an upcoming repair bill.
Most repairs become less expensive when you take more preventative action to keep your property in good condition. That’s why Atlas Lane keeps a team of 24/7 Home Pros, who work to teach residents how to care for their property and respond to any maintenance request at all hours of the day.
Contact us today to learn more.