With Christmas looming fast and the prospect of some sun, surf, and relaxation on most of our minds, now is a good time to ensure you have your rental maintenance, or for that matter even home maintenance, covered for the break and into 2010.
There are some basic issues that many landlords overlook at this time of year that include burglar alarms if they are installed, security checks and providing emergency call-out numbers for tenants if the property is not managed by a property manager
Even remembering small things like ensuring the tenant knows where the water main is on the property and how to shut it off, and where the electrical switchboard is and how to turn on and off the breakers.
If these are not monitored, are they actually working and have they been recently tested? (i.e. are the batteries working?). The cost of a service call-out is minimal, just make sure you use a reputable company and someone local to the property if they need to attend again to keep your costs down.
However, if your alarm is monitored, make sure it has been serviced and that the company monitoring it is actually doing just that (you pay for this service). Always make sure there are stickers on your windows and doors giving full warning that the property is alarmed, as most burglars want an easy life so will move on to the next property. Make sure tenants and neighbours have the alarm company’s details in case the alarm is faulty so it can be sorted without you needing to be involved.
Some locksmiths provide a residential security inspection service for around $100 which will cover all aspects of your property. This is one of the most popular services our company provides, as not only does your tenant feel safe and secure in their home, but you equally have knowledge that your property is secure and that it is less likely to be broken into as well.
You are also able to provide your insurance company with a copy of the report, should any anything happen to your property to reinforce your diligence as a landlord and have any claims paid subsequently. Just make sure you do fix any items that are highlighted on the report.
Security lights should always be operational, as these are your second biggest burglar deterrent after alarms. If you don’t have any then get at least one installed at each entrance and one by any garage as well.
Always make sure your tenants, and neighbours if possible, know where this is located and how to shut it off. The amount of damage done by a burst pipe can be enormous in a short space of time and anything on your side of the boundary is at your cost to repair. I am often amazed at how many landlords and property managers don’t know where their mains are and it’s just too late when the incident happens.
A call-out on a weekend or public holiday can cost you well over $150 just to have a circuit breaker reset. That’s dumb, so make sure the tenants know where the electrical switchboard is and how to reset a breaker and have a spare fuse or two in different sizes by the board so they can change them if necessary. If you then need an electrician you can sort one for the next working day at far less cost to you.
If your tenants are going away encourage them to use 24 hour timers with lamps so they come on at various times and even provide them if you feel it will help keep your investment and their home safe for the period they will be away.
Most importantly, make sure your tenants have emergency numbers for contractors you want them to contact if you manage the property yourself. These contractors should have a clear set of questions they ask your tenants before going out to the site and charging you, and they should be trustworthy and be clear that you are an investor and that this is a business.
So now let’s have a look at what you can do if you are financially challenged and will be staying around home or near your rental property over the Christmas holidays.
Firstly, it’s a great time if tenants are going away for a period of time to get access to the property and do all those small maintenance jobs that are needed.
Most tenants won’t look after a property as well as a home owner so the gardens may need to good tidy up and a bit of elbow grease from you once a year isn’t a bad thing for a landlord.
Perhaps it’s time to paint the front fence or replace the mail box – remember that tenants like to be house proud as well and if you put in the effort a small rent increase in the New Year may just fly through with little objection as they appreciate you spending your holiday time maintaining their home.
You could also chemically wash the outside of the property and make it look fresh and appealing (this also generally helps to lengthen the time in between the need to repaint). Get the chimney swept for the New Year and keep your insurance company happy whilst you have the opportunity.
If you can gain access inside, have a really good look around and ask the tenant to list all issues that they are aware of (don’t be afraid) and then deal with the simple ones first, moving on to the harder stuff from there. Remember if the list was 10 and you completed seven then you have a schedule for the other 3, what happy tenants you will have when they get back from holiday.
Always check for water damage in wet areas including under all sinks in bathrooms and leaking toilets. This damage really adds up and will cost a lot if left for any period of time. If unsure, get a professional such as a builder or plumber to take a look for you. It’s hard to see signs of roof leaks in summer but water marks on the ceiling are a sure sign and again these need to be sorted by a professional.
Even if you use a property manager you should visit your property regularly if at all possible and ensure you are happy as the landlord and owner that the property is being maintained to a good standard – after all it’s your investment, your income and your business.
Try to remember that all property has maintenance cost and that dealing with issues on a regular basis or annually at such times as Christmas holidays can mean larger costs and bills being avoided. It is very easy to have an annual maintenance plan for your properties either residential or commercial for that matter; the key is to be diligent in your actual maintenance.
All of what I have shared above can be used on your own home or your bach as you will probably be there over the holiday period anyway.
Happy and safe holidays and we look forward to catching up with you all in 2010 and remember:
Be a wise landlord.
Mark Trafford Director “Maintain To Profit”