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Question: I want to start preparing my property for sale within the next month or so. It’s still tenanted so it’s a little tricky to get access to the property. Is there a way to conduct a renovation while it’s still tenanted? What do I need to do?
Answer: Like anything involving property investment, you need to negotiate. Dealing with your tenants is no different, but you do need to afford them certain courtesies, as it is they who are doing you a favour by agreeing to accommodate the work. You need to consider how long the renovation is going to take, and how inconvenienced your tenants will be, ie will they be without running water, electricity, or working amenities such as an oven or toilet? If you undertake to carry out the renovation within a certain timeframe and it takes much longer than expected, goodwill can evaporate quite quickly.
I recently had a landlord client replace his kitchen. We estimated that it would take the tradesmen three to four days to carry out the work. The tenant was issued with a notice stating when the work was going to take place and requesting that they empty all of the cupboards in preparation for the renovation.
Importantly, the notice outlined the projected timeframe, clearly stating beginning and ending dates, and offering them one week’s free rent to thank them for their cooperation. Some smart planning meant we didn’t have to provide temporary cooking facilities, due to the short timeframe.
If it had been a bathroom, on the other hand, we would have been required to erect a portable bathroom on the premises. Some organisation, generosity and basic courtesy go a long way to fostering goodwill with tenants and ensuring your renovations and sales run as smoothly as possible.
Question: What are the most common maintenance issues landlords neglect when managing their investment properties? And how do I ensure these issues are taken care of by my property manager?
Answer: I have heard some real horror stories about neglected maintenance issues that have been left to fester for years due to lax property managers, and I’m not talking about generic, reasonable repairs involving heating, water, and power.
One of the most alarming, if you will, involves smoke alarms – either the lack of them in a property, or the failure to ensure they are in working order. Smoke alarms save lives, and properties, and are mandatory in all homes and other shared-accommodation buildings where people sleep.
Another household horror that no landlord likes to hear about is mould, which is quite pervasive in damp, dark and poorly ventilated homes. Mould is a fungal growth that can cause illnesses and can create structural damage in homes.
Properly treating and successfully removing mould is a two-pronged approach – it needs to be removed via intensive cleaning (the landlord’s responsibility), and the recurrence of mould needs to be prevented by regular ventilation of homes and opening of curtains to ensure the conditions that allow mould to establish and spread are not present (the tenant’s responsibility).
Monitoring the presence of mould should ideally be a shared responsibility; however, vigilant landlords can add this to their list of potential issues that can get out of hand if left unnoticed. Mould can become a big problem after flooding and following sustained periods of heavy rain, so keep a weather eye on your property.
Leaky taps in kitchens, showers and vanities often start off as an annoying drip for the tenant but can soon turn into hundreds if not thousands of dollars worth of damage to kitchen shelves, vanities and walls if left unattended.
I have seen cases where a tenant had a water leak under the kitchen sink for more than a year and just kept putting towels down instead of notifying the property manager about the problem.
The best way to ensure that minor maintenance issues don’t end up costing you big dollars is to ensure your property manager is carrying out regular inspections at least half-yearly, if not quarterly.
If you are concerned that your property has unaddressed maintenance issues, you can perform a number of quick and easy checks:
- Always read your property’s condition report
- Inspect your property once in a while yourself if you can
- Go through your owner statements to see if you have paid any accounts for maintenance
- Read and keep a record of your property manager’s inspections
- Ask for photos from the inspections and/or request photos of specific items you want to ensure have been taken care of by your property manager, and compare the photos with those you have received previously
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