Self-managing owners of rental properties can undertake as many (or few) repairs and maintenance as they wish. After all, it’s their decision if they choose to forgo maintenance on their own property.
It’s a different scenario if you hire a Property Manager…
If a landlord employs a Property Manager who charges a fee for their service, then they should expect a service above and beyond what they’ve been providing themselves.
Simply put, if a Property Manager markets themselves as undertaking (or organising) repairs and maintenance on behalf of their client, then they actually have to do it. They need to make it clear if they don’t provide a maintenance service.
The difference between repairs and maintenance
Typical repair requests from a tenant are communications saying that the toilet isn’t flushing, or a stove element isn’t working, or that there’s no hot water.
Maintenance work is something entirely different…
Rental property maintenance work is mostly identified by inspecting a property: something hasn’t yet failed, but it needs to be treated or fixed to return it to its original condition. It is also about complying with the manufacturer’s requirements for care of their product, i.e. paintwork, roofing materials, building cladding, etc.
For example, the visible pipework of any plumbing should be inspected at least once a year. The discovery of any small leaks in the early stages allows you to head off a much greater disaster and the consequential damage to carpet and other flooring.
Whilst a water leak in the early stages might be intermittent, the tell-tale signs might be water staining on the shelf directly beneath the water pipe elbow bend in the laundry cupboard or bathroom vanity.
Checking for such small leaks is part of the rental property maintenance regime. Most tenants will only advise you when there is a full-blown leak, or pipework has burst. This is then when you have a repair job on your hands.
A lot of rental property maintenance tasks can be identified with your eyes
Some of the most important annual maintenance is for building components that are exposed to the elements, i.e. the roof, gutter, eaves, cladding etc. These are exposed to wind, rain, contaminants, and the UV in sunlight.
It’s very important that the house exterior is washed every year. Property owners may not do this with their own house, but that is their own choice.
However, they should expect this to be arranged by a property management company that is pertaining to undertake repairs and maintenance on their behalf.
Why gutters should be checked and cleared regularly
It’s important that gutters are checked and cleaned so that there’s no obstruction of water flow. It often just needs someone to go up a ladder to see if the gutters are clean or not. The result of this check may reveal that leaves have built up in the gutter on the south side of the house and need to be removed.
On the north side, you may discover there’s surface rust appearing in the gutter. Now is the time to treat rust so it doesn’t progress into holes and then a leak. A leaking gutter would need to be repaired, or perhaps it could even mean replacement of whole or part of the gutter system. It’s far cheaper to maintain the gutter to maximise its life than to have to replace it.
By inspecting the gutter, you may notice that some gutter clips are missing (and that the gutter is starting to hang down), or that a section of gutter has parted at its join or is broken. It’s cheaper to repair these items in advance than deal with a major problem later on.
Without such inspection and maintenance you will reduce the life of a building component and then have to budget for a full replacement earlier than you need to.
The roof needs attention too
All roofing should have a treatment applied every 2 years that will clean the roof surface and kill any growth, such as mould or lichen.
Indeed, for any new roof you’ll find that the manufacturer requires such a treatment to be applied every 1 to 2 years for compliance with their warranty. So you need to undertake this treatment or else the warranty may be void.
If a roof is not treated regularly, contaminants such as dirt, bird droppings, lichen or weeds can easily take hold. Left unattended, these will significantly reduce the life of your roof and will assist in producing leaks well ahead of time. And repairing or replacing a roof is far more expensive than having a cleaning treatment applied.
These photos show why you need to pay attention to your roof maintenance:
Above: If no one inspects the roof and undertakes a gutter clean on an annual basis, then weed growth will appear.
Above: A healthy plant growing on your roof is the sign of no rental property maintenance. Remember that the roots of weeds, lichen and mould penetrate the roof surface and damage the integrity of roofing and water proofing.
Above: Carport and garage roofing also needs to be checked and cleaned on an annual basis.
Above: A common occurrence on Auckland housing is that Sky TV technicians screw antenna supports directly into cladding or onto roofing. This causes a point for water ingress. If you don’t inspect the exterior of a property, you’ll never discover poor workmanship that may be the cause of water leaks and building decay.
- Repairs and maintenance are NOT the same thing.
- Repairs are often emergencies, when the tenant has informed you of a problem (e.g. a burst pipe, blocked toilet, lack of hot water, or a stove element not working).
- Maintenance is preventative care – it’s about keeping your eyes open and looking for potential problems before they turn into a major issue. It is also about complying with the manufacturer’s requirements for care of their product, i.e. paintwork, roofing materials, building cladding, etc.
- A Property Manager who offers a rental property maintenance service is obliged to undertake such visual inspections on behalf of the property owner – i.e. if they advertise a maintenance service, then they must deliver it.
- Some of the important things to check visually each year include plumbing (exposed pipework), gutters, paintwork, roofing materials, building cladding and drains.
- Roofs should be treated at least every 2 years to keep them clean and thus minimise the risk of leaks developing. This is also a warranty condition for new roofing.
- Keeping on top of preventative maintenance works out a lot cheaper than dealing with repair jobs, which can be very costly as the issue has escalated into something significant.
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