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The Real Cost of Deferred Maintenance for Rental Property Owners

September 29, 2017 / by Brent Silberbauer

man scraping exterior paint from houseIn the late 1980s there was an amazing TV show called MacGyver. MacGyver was a secret agent that would solve all kinds of problems using random things he had around him. He would start car engines using a bubble gum wrapper and some duct tape. It was fantastic to see his creative solutions to save the day. 

Sometimes Redding & Chico rental property owners can be a bit like MacGyver. Instead of calling a plumber to fix a leaky pipe, they will instead use some duct tape and bubble gum to save the day. The problem is that when maintenance work needs to be done, you need to do it right and do it quickly. Many properties have what we call deferred maintenance which are maintenance issues that are left undone

Up in Northern California we just had a major incident with Oroville Dam. There was a small crack in an emergency spillway that started to grow. As water was being released from the massively full Oroville Lake the small crack caught water and grew until it became a major issue. What could have been solved using some preventative maintenance last summer, grew to cost tax payers hundreds of millions of dollars – caused 180,000 people to evacuate their city.

Here’s the lesson: deferred maintenance always catches up with you. We live in a world where the laws of entropy take hold and we must be constantly vigilant against it. Saving a dime now could mean spending a dollar later. Here are some common areas that you want to stay on top of. 

Cracked and chipping exterior paint 

When doing rental market analysis, we constantly see this. Exterior paint that is cracking and chipping will eventually lead to dry rot. It will cost you ten times the amount of money to replace dry rot then it will to stay on top of painting. Don’t mess around. When your exterior paint is chipping and there’s exposed wood getting wet in the rain, take care of it. The water that gets in there will cause a lot of damage over time. 

Clean your gutters

Your Redding or Chico rental property is designed to have gutters for a reason. Once they fill up with leaves the water will come pouring over the sides of the home. Not only will it get the residents wet, many times exterior siding and stucco will become stained black with all the dirt that washes down the side of the property. Eventually you’ll have an eyesore that will bring down your property value until you get it painted. 

Change your air filters and have regular service on your HVAC system

Your HVAC system is just like a car. Some people take good care of their cars and they last up to 300k miles or more. Others don’t and only make it to half that. Getting an HVAC system serviced regularly may be financially annoying, but having an entire system go out (usually in the middle of Summer) is an emergency.

Years ago, I rented a home where the HVAC system was hardly ever serviced. It went out the weekend my parents were coming to stay with us. It was 95 degrees inside and no one was available to come out to fix it over the weekend. Not a fun experience for anyone, and something that can be totally avoided if regular maintenance was performed. 

Check the batteries and test your smoke and carbon dioxide detectors monthly

You can never be too careful. If you own properties you should have a bi-annual maintenance walk through where you check these to make sure they’re operational - you never know when a property emergency might strike.

Clean out your dryer vent 

Your dryer vent can collect all kinds of lint and debris. Over time this can cause clogs, but also it can be a huge fire hazard. Definitely worth your while to clean this out at least once a year. 

Flush out your water heater annually       

This is pretty easy on most water heaters. Usually you can just attach a hose and let all the water out.  Sometimes water heaters that can last 20 or more years go out in 10 because nobody bothered to maintain them. Draining the water heater removes sentiments and helps it to run more efficiently. This also helps to reduce the rumbling that you hear when the burner runs out.  

There are many other regular maintenance issues that you need to stay on top of, but what’s your opinion? What other real estate issues do you see as needing to be kept up on? Let’s continue the conversation in the comments section below. 

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Topics: Property Maintenance, Rental Property Tips