How to keep maintenance costs on your rental property to the bare minimum
Keeping a cap on costly “surprise” repairs to rental properties is a critical issue for landlords and becoming more so as tenants require more mod-cons in their homes.
No property investor wants to dig deep at short notice to replace an air-conditioner, hot water service or dishwasher or to fix a broken gutter.
Although some repairs can’t be avoided, the “secret” to keeping these events to the minimum is maintaining open and regular communication with your tenants. This allows you to deal with maintenance matters quickly and efficiently – and at reasonable cost.
Nelson Alexander manages more than 15,000 properties on behalf of landlords and encourages and facilitates real-time communication. Tenants are encouraged to contact property managers via text messages, emails or the phone to alert the managers about maintenance issues and what they believe are emerging problems with their homes.
The result? Small problems and niggling maintenance issues are almost always dealt with promptly before they become a bigger and potentially more expensive cost for landlords.
The head of Nelson Alexander’s inner-city property management division, Grant Gifford, says the company gets an opportunity to inspect each of its rental properties once every six months.
“That can be a long time between drinks, so it is good to have a tenant who will let us know that the exhaust fan in the bathroom is making a strange noise,” he says.
“Our professional property managers encourage people to make contact and to tell us: ‘Something’s happened that we think you should be aware of.’
“Good tenants will keep in touch with us. They will let us know about the things that might have changed within the property.”
Tenants in the Nelson Alexander network are told that they shouldn’t wait for a heater, a fan, a loose front-door lock or a rattling window to literally break. The aim is to encourage them to get in touch at the first sign of an issue with an appliance or item in their home.
Mr Gifford was contacted by a one tenant recently who advised that the fan on the lounge room heater was making a squealing noise and did not sound right.
The tenant was concerned that during winter, the heater might completely break down. So Mr Gifford sent out an electrician to the property and the problem was fixed for the short to medium term.
But the electrician advised that the heater was approaching the end of its life. As a result, Nelson Alexander arranged for the tradesman to provide a quote for a replacement heater, which was forwarded to the property’s owner.
“The owner has said, ‘If the tenant calls you again, just replace the heater with this model,’” Mr Gifford says. “We find that by actively encouraging open lines of communication, tenants are kept happy with their property and with the service they receive, while landlords can nip problems in the bud or, alternatively, get plenty of forewarning about any expenditure outlays that are coming up.”
Landlords are also kept aware of their property’s condition and the potential upside of making improvements through Nelson Alexander’s rigorous program of six monthly inspections of tenanted properties.
The changeover time in between tenancies is always the best time to repaint and re-carpet or put in a dishwasher.
Nelson Alexander agents will forewarn landlords during a tenancy that they need to consider replacing the carpets or repainting or undertake another upgrade when appropriate. The end of a tenant’s lease maybe one to three years away, so this forewarning gives property owners plenty of time to consider their options and set a budget.
The 17-office agency network can also provide owners with a wealth of knowledge and advice on preventative maintenance.
Gutter and downpipe cleaning is one of the most important preventative maintenance measures that an owner should carry out when they own a house, apartment or townhouse – even more so, when the property has large trees within close proximity.
For further information about any issue concerning your investment property or property management, contact your nearest Nelson Alexander office or fill in the form below.