Aside from finding tenants and collecting rent, one of the biggest responsibilities of rental property owners is to maintain your rental property. But maintaining a rental property isn’t the same as maintaining your primary home and comes with its own challenges and opportunities.
Maintenance requires regular work and upkeep to ensure your rental property is not only safe but also comfortable and healthy for tenants.
Here’s everything you need to know about maintaining a rental property:
It pays to have a well-maintained property. Not only does it show better to potential tenants and drive attention to the property, but it also increases the possible rent.
When given the choice between two rental properties, one of which is well maintained and cared for and the other that looks neglected, renters will almost always choose the property that is better maintained and be willing to pay more to live there.
The time and money it takes to maintain a property is well worth it in increasing the value and profit to you, the property owner.
But more than that, maintaining the property is actually the legal responsibility of the landlord. Under the law, landlords are responsible for the health and safety standards in the homes they rent out.
A tenant can end a lease early without a penalty if the landlord doesn’t maintain the unit to the legal habitability requirements.
In Colorado, that includes situations that interfere with a tenant’s health and safety, including things like a leaky roof, gas and plumbing problems, rodent infestation, and a host of other potential issues.
If a tenant repeatedly reports issues and the property owner doesn’t respond or fix the issues properly, the tenant can also take legal action against the landlord.
Clearly, maintenance matters. Keeping a well-maintained rental property attracts more renters and likely brings in higher rates and protects you from potential legal issues.
Owners’ Maintenance Responsibilities
Legally, the property owner takes the bulk of responsibility for maintaining your rental. By renting out the space, the landlord agrees to keep the property safe and meet health guidelines. The details of what a landlord is legally required to maintain vary by state and often by city or county.
Some cities and states have very basic maintenance requirements, while others hold their landlords to a higher standard, such as by requiring bedroom windows to be a certain size based on the square footage of the room.
When planning maintenance projects for your rental property, be sure to check the local guidelines to ensure your property meets all the legal requirements.
In general, property owners are responsible for the following maintenance:
- Roof repairs and maintenance. Roofs can’t have leaks or cracks that create an unsafe environment.
- Windows and doors. The landlord is responsible for fixing broken windows and doors.
- Building codes. Landlords must keep up their units according to local building codes, which vary between cities and counties. If the building code requires a certain type of exterior door, particular size of lock, emergency exit path, or anything else, the property owner has to ensure it is included in the property and working properly. This also includes supplying enough smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Plumbing and gas. Rental units must have running water and working plumbing and gas fixtures, such as working sinks, showers, and toilets.
- The property owner is responsible for ensuring the unit has adequate hot water and for making repairs to the water heater as necessary.
- Heat and electricity. The unit must have working heat and electricity. It is the property owner’s responsibility to make sure the heat and electricity is turned on with the utility companies and that the systems are working properly.
- Pest control. Vermin shouldn’t be inside the rental property, and landlords are responsible for ensuring they stay away.
- Basic safety. A rental unit must include locks on exterior doors and windows. Making sure the locks work and changing them as necessary is a landlord’s responsibility.
- Common areas. All common areas of the rental building must be safe and clean, including proper lighting, sturdy stairs and railings, and no debris.
- Trash removal. Each rental unit must include an adequate number of trashcans or dumpsters that are serviced regularly. The property owner is responsible for setting up trash service.
- The landlord must meet local regulations about parking availability and ensure the parking area is clean and well-lit to meet local ordinances.
Aside from what is legally required, the property owner may also want to perform other maintenance to keep the property in great condition and provide a good living experience for tenants. These types of maintenance include:
- Seasonal snow and leaf removal.
- Tree trimming and cleaning of common areas.
- Updating and repairing appliances.
- Replacing old flooring and paint.
Property owners are also responsible for most repairs, especially those that aren’t the fault of the tenant. If a water heater bursts or a window starts to leak on its own, it is up to the landlord to respond quickly to the tenants and fix the issue as soon as possible.
For this reason, it’s crucial that property owners are always available and have a way for tenants to report emergency issues for fast repairs. All landlords must have some kind of system to accept maintenance requests and respond to them promptly.
Maintenance for Property Management Company
A property management company takes much of the day-to-day responsibilities from the property owner. Typically, these companies take over much of the maintenance so the property stays in good condition and meets local regulations and the property owner can sit back and enjoy their passive income.
At the most basic level, a property management company will ensure the unit meets the health and safety standards and is clean. They can perform seasonal maintenance and routine checkups of the unit to ensure everything is in working order.
Although a property management company doesn’t assume all the legal responsibility of the property owner, they can take over the bulk of the maintenance so the unit stays in good shape.
As a bonus, most property management companies have set schedules to regularly maintain their units, which means the property owner also doesn’t have to think about what is due for maintenance or make appointments.
Property management companies in Colorado are also experts at snow removal and winterizing units as the seasons change, which mean they can keep a rental property operating smoothly during any time of year.
One of the biggest advantages of a property management company is for emergency maintenance. Nothing ever seems to break when it is convenient or during normal business hours, but many property management companies offer a 24/7 repair hotline for tenants to report issues that can be resolved quickly.
This arrangement benefits everyone—the property owner doesn’t have to deal with emergency repairs, and tenants get faster service and access to a larger network of handymen.
Tenants’ Maintenance Responsibilities
The tenant responsibilities for maintaining the rental property should be clearly stated in the rental contract.
There aren’t set guidelines for tenants, which means it is up to the landlord or property management company to specify what the tenant is responsible for. But as soon as the lease agreement is signed, the tenant assumes responsibility for whatever is included.
Common maintenance responsibilities for tenants include:
- Paying for utilities. The landlord is only responsible for making sure the plumbing, gas, electricity, and other utilities are in working order, not for supplying or paying for the utility. It is often up to tenants to create an account and pay for utilities to the unit.
- General cleanliness. A landlord can require that tenants keep the unit relatively clean, including taking out the trash. They can’t destroy or deface property or remove anything from the property that is permanently attached.
- Incidental repairs. The landlord isn’t responsible for repairing something because a tenant broke it. It the tenant drives through the garage door or clogs the sink, it is their responsibility to fix the problem within a reasonable time frame or at least cover the cost.
- Alerting the landlord for needed repairs. The property owner likely isn’t at the unit very often, but they can put in the lease that it is the tenant’s responsibility to alert them of any issues. These don’t have to be emergency repairs that need to be fixed immediately, but longer-term issues that need attention, such as a squeaky stair or an unreliable oven.
Maintenance is crucial to creating a safe and healthy place for tenants to live. It is a core responsibility of property owners but can be made much easier with the help of a property management company.
To succeed as a rental property owner, stay on top of maintenance and create a safe and welcome unit for your tenants.