Ask any experienced, long-time property manager, and they’ll all tell you the same thing: the two keys to making consistent money off of an investment property are avoiding major expenses and keeping good renters happy. Unfortunately, many landlords end up running into major issues with their property that are both extremely costly and drive away their renters. In this article, we’ll review three of the most expensive rental property repair projects and how you can take steps to avoid them.
Clogged Sewer Line
A sewer backup is a disaster no property manager ever wants to face. This event—caused by a blockage inside of the sewer line that prevents wastewater from getting to the municipal sewer—can cause water damage and present a serious health hazard to all the occupants of the home. Sewer backups are often not covered by insurance policies and typically cost about $7 per-square-foot to clean up. That’s in addition to fixing the original issue with the sewer line, which could cost thousands of dollars.
As a landlord, there are some things you can do to protect the property’s sewer line. First, know where the line is and make sure that any large trees or bushes nearby are removed. Even the smallest crack in the line can attract thirsty roots that then open up and expand into the line, causing a blockage.
More commonly, sewer line blockages are caused by the buildup of grease, oils, food waste, and non-organic waste inside the line. We recommend you have a plumber come to the property and use a snake tool camera to look inside the sewer line. If there’s a clog that’s starting to take shape, the plumber can arrange to have it cleared out. This can help prevent a sewer backup scenario.
Foundation / Structural Damage
Any foundational or structural damage to a property is very bad news for you as a property manager. Over time, soil movement can cause damage to the foundation that often isn’t covered by most insurance policies. This could put you on the hook for thousands of dollars in repairs: in fact, most foundation repair projects cost between $4,000 and $10,000. Whether caused by the slow sinking of the foundation into the surrounding soil or sudden shock damage—such as that caused by an earthquake—foundation issues can wipe out your revenue and put the whole property at risk.
Structural issues present many of the same problems. Some are caused by extensive termite damage or improper remodeling work done in the past. Issues with the structure of the home can be expensive and time-consuming to repair. In most cases involving serious foundation and structural damage, any current tenants will need to move out until the property is safe to live in again. This means you are also losing out on rental income for the duration of the repairs.
Problems with the roof typically start out small and become bigger—and more expensive to deal with—over time. A missing tile or shingle may not seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but as the now-unprotected underlayment wears through, you’re allowing moisture and sun to eat away at the roof structure itself. The most common result is a roof leak. Leaks are insidious because they force the property manager to both deal with water damage cleanup and repair—which may include mold remediation—and fix the roof structure itself. All of this can add up and cut into your expected revenue from the property.
Unless caused by severe weather or an unexpected circumstance like a falling tree, most serious roofing issues can be prevented by being a proactive property owner. At least once per year, have a roofing professional out to inspect the roof of the property and ensure that everything remains in top shape. Keep gutters and drainage clear to prevent water from pooling on the roof, and take note of any dropped tiles or shingles.
Protect your investment and your revenue
You want to be the type of property manager who owns an investment property, not a money pit. Often, the difference comes down to proactive ownership and preventative maintenance. By scheduling professional inspections and keeping up with needed upkeep, you’ll prevent costly problems and keep your renters happier. That’s a win-win for everyone.