As we know, it’s important and cost-effective to fix problems before something bad happens. You can stay on top of what is needed on an annual basis for your rental properties —from routine maintenance to money-saving must-dos—by following this checklist (or making sure your manager does).
1. Renew Leases
Unless you purposefully rent month to month, it’s wise to re-up your tenants to a year-long lease agreement. In most states, an annual lease will revert to a month-to-month lease if you don’t renew the lease each year.
You should offer your tenant a lease renewal 90 days before the lease expires. Make sure you include details on the current lease as well as terms of the renewal, including the rental price.
One tip: If you are renting a unit during the winter, only sign a six- or nine-month lease to begin with, so the renewal date will end in the summer when units are easier to fill; then renew with a one-year lease after that.
2. Verify Market Rents
The rental market is fluid and, as such, the market rent is bound to change. Each year, you should verify that all your rents are close to what the market will bear, or you could be throwing good money out the window.
You can verify market rent by checking with your property manager or asking real estate agents. If your rental prices don’t fall in line with similar properties in your area, you may need to change them.
Adjusting rental prices to match market rent can make your property more competitive in the rental market. If your prices are too low, you could be losing money. But if they’re too high, it may be difficult to find a renter willing to pay your price.
3. Check Smoke/Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Making sure all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order will keep your tenants (and building) safe by minimizing the risk of fires or other safety-related issues that could cost you valuable time and resources.
Alternatively, you can include a clause in the lease that requires each tenant to carry out this responsibility. This would save the landlord from any lawsuits resulting from a fire or carbon monoxide leak.
4. Check for Water Leaks
Water leaks can cost you a lot of money in the long run.
Leaks can cause water damage to walls and floors, which can be costly to repair. It’s much less expensive to check regularly for leaks and fix the plumbing before they become a real problem. Make sure to look at your water heater, drains, faucets, air conditioner, and any water-using appliances to make sure they’re not causing leaks—and pay close attention to any wet spots on the ceiling.
Fixing a leak early will be worth the money spent on the problem.
5. Make Sure Your Keys Work
Tenants change their locks for any number of reasons. However, it’s important that you have a working key for all of your properties so you gain access (legally, of course) if you need to when the tenant is not home.
Make sure your lease agreement includes a clause prohibiting your tenants from changing locks on the property without your consent.
6. Check Your Insurance Rates
Switching insurance companies can be a nightmare, so only switch if you will be getting considerable savings or significantly improved coverage.
To determine which companies offer the best prices, look online or call local insurance agents. Take advantage of special promotions and deals as well. Some companies benefit from new members by switching to them, which would save you money.
7. Change Furnace Filter
Furnace filters need to be changed often, and although it’s likely the tenant’s responsibility, they probably aren’t doing it. Make sure your manager is taking steps to verify that this happens.
Old furnace filters damage air quality, pose safety issues, and cause fires in the home, which would also be bad in terms of insurance, lawsuits, and property damage.
In addition, having an old or poorly fitting filter will cause the furnace to work harder. That will lead to more frequent maintenance that costs extra money that wouldn’t be required if the filters had been replaced regularly.
8. Clean the Gutters
If there are trees near your rental property, your gutters will likely need to be cleared of leaves and debris at least once per year. Ensure your manager includes this in their seasonal maintenance. Keeping water flowing properly is fundamental to keeping your property in the best shape for the longest time possible.
9. Renew Your Rental License
You may be required to register your rental property or have a rental license, and any renewal usually is on an annual basis.
Ensure your manager has properly licensed or registered your property with the city.