Mr Fix-it:

 Mr Landlord, Mr Fix-it


Chapter 1 (opening)

Rental property maintenance

Maintenance is an on-going task for property owners, regardless of the age of their investment. And with property, new does not necessarily equate to durable although new materials and construction methods generally have advantages over the old.

Your approach to rental property maintenance might differ from your attitude to maintenance of the family home. This is a business decision, and you are not so influenced by emotional factors. On the one hand you might say “these tenants are my valued clients, and I need to do this work in order to keep them happy, keep the rent flowing, and make it easier to attract new tenants when these ones leave”. On the other hand, you need to ask yourself the question “can this be satisfactorily repaired, patched, or painted rather than replaced?” It is not a question of maintaining properties in immaculate condition; otherwise the tasks would be endless and eat up all the rents. The aim is for a good state of repair, in which you maximise the lifetime of the property components in order to maximise your return on investment.

Your tenants depend on you to keep a weather-proof roof over their heads, and to keep the property safe, secure, and hazard-free.

You want your properties to look good and hold their value. Otherwise you risk losing tenants, they will become harder to let, and their market position will spiral downwards. The idea is to fix up minor problems immediately before they become major, and budget several years in advance for things like exterior painting, re-roofing, and redecorating.

If something around your home needs fixing, you might plan to do it yourself to save money, bearing in mind two factors: the costs are paid with after-tax dollars (i.e. the real cost is expanded by your marginal rate of income tax and cannot be offset in any way); and you can move as quickly or as slowly as it suits you. But with investment properties, maintenance costs are deducted from the rental income before tax is levied; therefore there is more incentive to use contractors and get the work done quickly and efficiently. Speed and quality workmanship are what you hope to spend your money on. Each tradesman is a specialist in his profession, but no one can hope to be proficient in all areas; if you’re in a job or self-employed and a working landlord on the side, it helps if you attempt to be handy in the trades even if you’re master of none.

You can’t hope to do all your maintenance, unless you are retired, live close to the properties and enjoy spending your spare time in such activity. Even then, there will be jobs too specialised for you to tackle.

The other extreme is to do no maintenance yourself, and if you are remote from your properties, you have no option. You either have kind friends and family members whom you call upon to assist, or you pay for contractors. However, few will want to pay someone to tighten every screw that works loose.

The happy medium is found somewhere in between, and I suspect you will like my new book Mr Landlord, Mr Fix-it if you share this goal.

Note that while maintenance may involve improvement, my book targets maintenance that is funded from rental revenue. The subject of major development and capital improvement of your properties is outside my scope. You can certainly make alterations and additions which raise the worth of your investments and the cashflow they generate. I like the topic, but other writers have covered this area well. On the other hand, few have written about maintenance, which is of course the primary reason for my writing Mr Landlord, Mr Fix-it.