Fall is a great time of year. I am realizing I like fall because of all the things that I don’t have to do or take care of! The grass slows down growing, I can open the windows and not have to run the A/C. Kids are back in school. Oh yeah. This is also a great time of the year to get in and take a look at your rental properties. If nothing else, it is an excuse to tell the tenant that you need to do your “semi-yearly inspection” so you can go in and take a look around at how they are treating your property. Here are some other items that are worth doing as a preventative maintenance to potentially prevent emergency calls later:
- Turn on the furnace! I can’t tell you how many calls I get once we have a cold spell from tenants that say their heat is not working. Often, those calls are at 9pm at night once the temp drops. Frequently, it is simply someone turned off the electrical switch next to the furnace, not knowing what it was. Fire up that furnace now, make sure it runs, and more importantly, make sure the tenant knows it runs.
- Change the furnace filter and leave a box of 6-8 more filters for the tenants to change out every 30 days. While I am pretty realistic that most tenants won’t change out the filters, at least the correct sized filters are next to the furnace. Then if I ever need to go in for any other service calls, I can simply grab one and throw it in. You will find that older home and homes that have smokers tend to have full filters much more often. I also stopped purchasing those $0.65 filters a couple years ago as they are worthless. I buy the next level up which are about $2 each.
- Turn off the outside water spicket and drain it. If there is a hose, put is in the garage so no one re-connects it once you leave. You do not want the spicket to freeze and potentially flood the basement! In fact, in many of my rentals, I simple remove these outside faucets. There is nothing that a typical tenant needs that outside water for. In fact, when they are installed, the tenants start watering the grass and filling kiddie pools (all of which costs me money and is unnecessary).
- Double check the operation of the front door locks and the garage door. While this is not a cold winter item, these parts of the building take a lot of abuse. Make sure they are lubricated and the screws are tight. I have started using some Loctite on the screws to insure the knobs stay in place.
- Pour some drain opener down the drains. Even if there is not a problem, this is an excellent preventative process. I had to go over to a tenant’s property on Thanksgiving day once to unclog a kitchen sink. She called me all in a panic because her sink was clogged and company was coming in 4 hours!
- Change the batteries in all the smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen tenants take the smoke detectors down and put them in a drawer because they were either beeping because they burned a pizza or because they were low on batteries. This way, you insure they have them mounted and insure they will not beep.
- If you are responsible for supplying a shovel and/or sidewalk salt, make sure both are ready to go. Fill up the salt container or leave another bag. Better to do this now than when it snows at the end of October and you are running around! Plus, I have noticed that Home Depot will be stocked out of both after the first snow fall.
- Winterize the lawn mower by at the very least putting some fuel stabilizers in the tank. If possible, drain the oil, change the spark plug and air filter and sharpen the blades. This is assuming you supplied it, which I don’t any longer.
- If it is already pretty cold outside, I will walk around and close all the storm windows (if any), plus lock the interior windows. Amazing how many tenants don’t realize this simple step will keep it much warmer in the building.
While all of these items may not be necessary for every property you own, getting into your units twice per year (once in the fall and once in the spring), can help you head off other maintenance calls and keep an eye on how your tenants are treating your investment property.