Rental Property Maintenance: Is DIY the Best Approach?

When you own rental property, you’ve got three options for handling maintenance and upkeep:
  • Do it yourself
  • Hire a maintenance person
  • Hire a property management company whose services include maintenance.
The right solution for you depends on the type of property you own, your budget, your free time, and whether you have the tools and knowledge necessary to perform common repairs. Following are some points to consider when deciding how you’ll handle maintenance.

Property Features

A studio apartment could be relatively easy to maintain, due to its small size and lack of external features. But maintaining a house with a yard can be costly and time-consuming – at a minimum, you’ll need to clean the gutters once a year, and maintain garages, fences, and other exterior structures. You may also have to respond to unexpected problems, like storm damage to a roof or fallen tree limbs. If your rental property is a house, or if you have more than one rental property, consider whether you’d have time to maintain those properties and still be able to take care of the home where you live. If not, you’ll probably need to hire someone to respond to maintenance requests.

Hiring Workers

First-time landlords may worry that hiring a maintenance worker would be too costly, especially if a rental property has no immediate repair needs. But you don’t necessarily need to hire someone full-time. If you’re able to handle minor tasks – fixing a broken doorknob, replacing a torn screen door – you could look for a part-time employee to tackle larger repair and maintenance needs. Many landlords will specify in lease agreements that tenants are responsible for general yard maintenance, such as mowing and removing weeds. However, when you assume responsibility for these tasks, you can keep a maintenance worker busy when there’s nothing else to do, and you can ensure the property won’t run afoul of local ordinances (some tenants are less than diligent about removing weeds or shoveling snow off sidewalks). An ideal maintenance employee is someone who lives near your rental property, has reliable transportation, three professional references, and the ability to respond quickly to maintenance requests. Ask candidates at what point they would need to turn over a repair to a contractor. Electrical problems and some plumbing malfunctions are generally better handled by people with expertise in those areas and may require someone who is licensed to do that work, so it’s OK if candidates feel uncomfortable doing that kind of work. Regardless of whether you choose to do your own repairs, to hire an employee, or hire a property management company, you may still need the occasional help of contractors who specialize in certain areas of home maintenance.

Using a Property Management Firm

A property management firm generally charges a set monthly percentage of a home’s rental income, in exchange for providing all management services. If you’re scouting around for someone to manage your property, ask what maintenance services are included in monthly fees, and how costs are managed, should a professional contractor’s help be required. Established property management companies may have agreements with individual vendors – plumbers, arborists, and masons, for example – that help keep costs low when their services are needed. They also handle other tasks such as advertising to find tenants, showing a property, and screening tenants. Landlords that use a property management firm are relieved of almost all time-consuming tasks. No matter how you decide to handle maintenance, your first priority should be making sure repairs are performed quickly and professionally. If an unrepaired defect in a rental property causes injury to a tenant, it could lead to legal disputes. If a conflict does arise concerning maintenance or legal issues in rental properties, Lusk Law, LLC is ready to assist property owners facing formal complaints or litigation. Investment property owners in Frederick County, Howard County, Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Carroll County, Washington County, and Anne Arundel County, and throughout Maryland can rely on us to handle residential or commercial landlord-tenant cases. With over a decade of experience in representing landlords, we’re ready to offer a consultation concerning your rights. Please call us at 443-535-9715 or fill out our contact form if you have any questions about this topic.