The Ultimate Guide to Rental Property Maintenance

Home » The Ultimate Guide to Rental Property Construction » The Ultimate Guide to Rental Property Maintenance
Rental Property Maintenance

Maintenance is an extremely important component of rental real estate management – both from the perspective of rental property management and preserving property value. Depending on the size of a property, an investor may handle maintenance issues themselves, or a third-party vendor such as a gardener might be contracted for periodic service. Larger properties might have a full time dedicated maintenance technician just for that one property.

Search Rental Real Estate

Try searching our site for hundreds of rental property topics. We cover everything from landlord topics, building products, market data, and more.

What is Rental Property Maintenance?

Rental property maintenance is the act performing repairs, safety checks, and general upkeep throughout a rental property. Rental property maintenance keeps a leased property in optimal condition in terms of functionality, aesthetics, and value preservation through a number of proactive and reactive maintenance tasks.

Types of Property Maintenance

Not all property maintenance is the same. In fact, a maintenance job can usually be broken down into one of several different types. By categorizing the type of maintenance, property managers and maintenance repairmen can better understand and plan how to address the repair. Below we explore the various types of property maintenance commonly used for addressing rental property repairs:

Routine Maintenance

Routine maintenance refers to repairs and upkeep tasks that are performed at regular intervals such as weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, daily, or annual basis. Common examples of routine maintenance include landscaping, window cleanings, and pressure washing on commercial properties.

Seasonal Maintenance

The nature and frequency of seasonal maintenance will vary depending on the location and type of rental property. Common examples of seasonal maintenance include snow removal, tree pruning in the winter, and gutter cleaning in the fall.

Planned Maintenance

Also called “Regular Maintenance”, planned maintenance is routinely scheduled and performed ahead of time to prevent maintenance issues from arising at a property. Planned maintenance can be minor repairs such as painting or even larger mechanical repairs on HVAC units or mechanical gates.

Cosmetic Maintenance

Cosmetic maintenance refers to the repair of aesthetically poor aspects of a rental property that need to be addressed. While they do not pose a risk to the integrity of the property, they are unsightly.

Corrective Maintenance

Cosmetic maintenance is performed as-needed on non-emergency repairs. Corrective maintenance is low-priority in nature and does not need to be escalated to Emergency Maintenance.

Emergency Maintenance

Emergency maintenance is the highest priority, in which the repair needs to be done as soon as possible and the issue can pose a health or safety risk. Examples of emergency maintenance for rental properties usually include plumbing (e.g. flood or sewer backup), electrical failure (e.g. no power), or mechanical failure (e.g. stuck elevator).

Rental Property Repair Costs

1% Rule

Annual maintenance cost will be equal to approximately 1% of the unit cost or overall property value.

50% Rule

Maintenance expenses can be estimated to be equal to half of the gross rental income each month.

Square Foot Rule

Annual maintenance costs will be equal to approximately $1 per square foot.

Aside from a monthly mortgage payment, utility bills, and property management fees, property maintenance repair costs are one of the biggest variable monthly costs for a rental property owner. Improper budgeting for maintenance costs could result in a net-loss for the investment and create unfavorable conditions for tenants. There are several industry standard metrics used to estimate a rental property’s annual maintenance expense, with our property maintenance cost calculator being our personal favorite. The overall goal is to ensure that property owners allocate sufficient capital aside for maintenance and emergency repairs.

The #1 Rental Property Newsletter

Once a month, we send out an exclusive Rental Property Market Update with top stories, current mortgage rates, building products, and more. No spam and unsubscribe anytime.

4 Types of Rental Maintenance Inspections

Most types of preventable repairs or potential issues can usually be found during an inspection. Inspections are not only a great way to stay on top of what is happening at a rental property, but they  help prevent many misunderstandings with tenants and major repairs. Below we take a look at the 4 types of maintenance inspections.

1. Move-In Inspection

This type of inspection is usually done in person (walkthrough) with both the property manager (or owner) and tenant. It ideally takes place when possession of the unit is being turned over to the tenant. This inspection allows the tenant to identify any concerns regarding unit condition,  and for the landlord to document the unit’s condition as it was provided to the tenant. It is recommended that both Landlord and tenant take pictures of the unit condition when first delivered. 

2. Routine Inspection

Routine inspections are usually done in-person and are to be scheduled in advance with the tenant to allow access. During routine inspections, property managers or owners can identify potential maintenance issues or learn about any existing maintenance issues from the tenant directly. These types of inspections are to be ideally done on a semi-annual basis. Lease agreements and local laws usually outline the required notice that landlords need to provide before entering the unit.

3. Drive-By Inspection

As the name implies, a drive by inspection is the easiest type of rental property inspection, that involves a simple drive-by at a random time to observe outside conditions of the property or any unauthorized activity or major unreported maintenance issue. While drive-by inspections cannot catch many interior issues, their simplicity can sometimes help prevent major issues. Frequency and depth of these types of inspections is up to the inspectors determination of what the property needs.

4. Move-Out Inspection

This type of inspection occurs when a tenant is moving out. It is usually done in person (walkthrough) with both the property manager (or owner) and tenant. During this inspection, the landlord identifies and assesses the wear-and-tear and any damages that the tenant may have caused. During the move-out inspection, it is important to compare any documentation and pictures from the move-in inspection, because this inspection is what determines if any security deposit deductions need to be applied.

Rental Property Maintenance Services

Proper and timely rental property maintenance is the key to keeping quality tenants and justifying top-of-market rents. The overall umbrella of property maintenance is actually made up of many different types of services. These services range in complexity and frequency including as-needed services or routinely scheduled services. Below we explore a few of the most common types of maintenance services for rental properties.

Exterior Property Grounds Maintenance

The type of inspection can usually be done by a landlord, property manager, maintenance technician, or anyone else who has sufficient experience to spot potential issues. Exterior property grounds inspections can be a drive-by or property-walk where the goal is see if there are any obvious exterior issues that require attention either now or potentially in the future. Issues that can be found during these inspections include exterior water leaks (e.g. leaking tank water heaters), untrimmed landscaping, broken irrigation systems (e.g. sprinkler heads), graffiti or vandalism, undisposed trash, chipping paint, and much more.

Inspect Interior Units

Depending on the number of units and property size, interior unit inspections can be a quick or timely task. As mentioned above, interior unit inspections should be part of a “routine inspection” plan and performed on a semi-annual basis if possible. Proper advance notice needs to be provided to the tenants for entry, as noted in any lease agreements and/or local or municipal laws. These types of inspections allow property caretakers to discover any ongoing maintenance issues or preventable future issues.

Perform Maintenance Repairs

Performing maintenance repairs can either be done DIY (do it yourself), with a handyman, or via a licensed trade professional. Most types of rental property maintenance can be broken down into interior maintenance or exterior maintenance. Interior maintenance usually includes common repairs such as plumbing, electrical, and HVAC. Exterior repairs (also known as grounds maintenance) usually includes common exterior repairs such as roof-leak patching, painting, door/window repairs, exterior cleaning, and more. See our “Types of property maintenance” above which explains the 6 different classifications of maintenance repairs such as seasonal maintenance, corrective maintenance and cosmetic maintenance.

Landscaping Maintenance

Keeping lawn areas and trees properly trimmed not only creates an inviting environment for tenants, but also limits the risk for liabilities such as falling branches, fires, pests, and more. Depending on the complexity of the property’s landscaping, most gardening services can be performed weekly or bi-weekly. Some gardening services can also handle other related maintenance issues including irrigation repairs such as broken sprinkler heads, trash pickup and more.

Pest Control

Pest control can be optional on smaller properties, but becomes more of a necessity on larger properties. Pest control is the routine prevention, treatment, and removal of pests and rodents from a property. It usually involves a third-party pest control company that periodically visits the property to spray anti-pest chemicals that either exterminate and/or detour them.

Trash and Recycling

Usually an issue found in larger properties, proper separation and disposal of trash is something to be regularly monitored and upkept. In larger properties with frequent tenant turnover, old furniture and bulky items can quickly pile up around designated trash areas. Many municipalities are also tightening rules on recycling and even imposing fines on improper trash disposal. In addition to property cleanliness, proper trash controls can also be an important part of preventive maintenance for pest control.

Safety Checks

Safety checks include checking and maintaining safety devices such as smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers where required. In addition to checking these devices, other checks should be periodically performed such as proactive inspections of electrical and mechanical systems and safety inspections of the property grounds for potential hazards.

Property Maintenance Software

Although more tenants means more profit, it also means more maintenance issues to oversee. In order to easily track and manage maintenance issues on a larger scale, several innovative property maintenance software programs (also called facility maintenance) have emerged as helpful tools for property managers to assign, track and assess maintenance issues. Some property management softwares integrate this feature into their program, but other standalone facility maintenance software programs allow for exclusively streamlining maintenance-related processes.

Commercial Property Maintenance Services

Although there is some overlap with regular non-commercial rental property maintenance, there are several differences in commercial property maintenance services. Below we take a look at some of the most common types of commercial property maintenance services.

Parking Lot Sweeping

Most commercial properties have parking lots that need to be periodically cleaned. Parking lot sweeping services are sweeping trucks that mechanically drive through the parking lot and sweep up any trash, dirt, and debris on a periodic basis.

Snow Removal

If the rental property is located in a location that experiences snowfall then snow removal services should a service that is established before the first snowflakes begin to fall. Snow removal usually takes place within the first 24-48 hours after the snow has stopped falling. State and municipal laws may also include language about snow removal that includes de-icing procedures such as putting salt or sand down.

Landscape Maintenance

Properly trimmed landscaping not only creates an inviting environment for customers, but also limits the risk for liabilities such as falling branches, vandalism, fires, pests, and more. Most commercial gardening services are usually performed on a weekly basis.

Window Washing

Window washing is a simple but effective commercial property maintenance service. The frequency of how often window washing occurs will depend on the property type and how many windows the building has.

Power Washing

Commercial properties typically bring a lot of traffic by nature. The more traffic a property brings in, the quicker that it gets dirty. in which things get dirty and need cleaning. The frequency of how often power washing occurs will depend on the property type and type of traffic that is visiting the property.

Common Area Maintenance

Since commercial property tenants usually share common areas, those common areas are usually maintained by the building owner or management. Common type common area maintenance include the upkeep (repairs and cleanliness) of common areas such as stairways, hallways, pools, recreation rooms in senior living facilities, gyms in student housing apartments, mail rooms, etc.

Property Maintenance Jobs

Construction Jobs

Property Maintenance Technician

Property Maintenance Technicians refer to the trained professionals who either conduct, coordinate, or oversee building and property maintenance jobs, safety checks, and related duties. Trained and certified technicians are also available such as those in specialized trades such as Elevators, HVAC, Fire Protection, and more.

Day Porter

A day porter is someone responsible for keeping properties looking clean, professional and inviting between regularly scheduled cleaning services. Day porters perform routine cleaning tasks usually during business hours to support and maintain a positive presentation of the property. They discreetly do this to ensure everything is taken care of, without interfering with the property’s daily activities.

About the Author

I’m an investor, real estate developer, and property manager with hands-on experience in all types of real estate from single family homes up to hundreds of thousands of square feet of commercial real estate. RentalRealEstate is my mission to create the ultimate real estate investor platform for expert resources, reviews and tools. Learn more about my story.

More Rental Property Construction Guides