Landlord Advice: Complete Guide to Repairing and Maintaining Your Rental Property
What are Landlord Duties and Responsibilities for Repairs?
If there was a short answer, we would put it right here, and you would be on your way. Unfortunately, the answer can vary depending on the laws written for the specific state your property is located in. The best way to answer this question is to familiarize yourself with the local statutes via the internet, or with help from your local real estate professional. However, we can offer detailed guidelines when it comes to Florida law and landlord requirements for the Cape Coral, Port Charlotte and Lehigh Acres areas along the Suncoast. Even if your property is not located in the sunshine state, you can still be confident that these rules are pretty consistent throughout the United States when it comes to landlord responsibilities on repairs.
What to Expect as a Landlord
If you are a greenhorn when it comes to investment properties, you may not be entirely familiar with what a hurdle maintenance can be when it comes to having a satisfied tenant and nice cash-flowing property. Or, you are the seasoned veteran that is looking to brush some rust off those investment skills. Either way, the business of a landlord is a tricky one.
Often times tenants can complain about every nuance of your property and do their best to get you to pay for the repair, while other tenants take care of it themselves without a peep. You probably just shrugged your shoulders and thought, “Man, I want the tenant that does all their own repairs, that sounds pretty good!” Well, not exactly.
Typically, tenants that claim that they are good at “doing their own repairs” can perform subpar work in your home, leaving paint jobs look like a four year old did it, or electrical work that’s ready to start a fire. The goal here is to have you familiar with what exactly you need to repair as a landlord, and how you should go about getting those repairs completed.
Landlord Responsibilities in Florida
The majority of rental property owners are most likely not a business law majors that have passed the BAR exam, so let’s be clear about these guidelines. These are not our opinions.The following laws are taken directly from Florida Statutes, Section 83.15 and are what the state of Florida describes as “local property maintenance code”. The Florida landlord duties are as follows:
- The roof must not leak
- The walls must be weather-tight, and in good repair
- The stairs must be safe for normal use and maintained in good repair
- Windows and doors must be basically weather-tight, water-tight, rodent-proof, and kept in sound working condition. Outside doors have to have proper locks
- Window panes cannot have cracks and holes. Outside windows must have screens
- Inside floors, walls, ceilings must be basically rodent-proof and kept in sound condition, and should be safe
- The house or apartment must have hot water, which is connected to the kitchen and bathroom sinks, tub or shower
- All houses or apartments must have a flush toilet in good working condition
- When cooking and heating equipment are provided by the landlord, they must be safely installed and in good working order
- There must be adequate garbage disposal facilities or garbage-storage containers
- Every habitable room must have at least two separate floor or wall electrical outlets and, additionally, every kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and hallway must have a ceiling or wall-type fixture, or an outlet controlled by a wall switch near the entrance to the room
- All electrical systems must be in good repair and good working order
Most of it may seem pretty obvious and there is a good chance your property already meets 99% or all of these guidelines. Keep in mind that this does not cover smaller issues that may arise. What this statute is aiming at is to make sure the home is actually livable. What about other issues like broken A/C units, leaky hose bibs, cracked tiles, carpet stains, vinyl floor peeling up, or broken appliances? These are the types of situations that become a sort of “gray area” in what you should fix, and what you should not.
You Should Fix It Even if You Do Not Have To, But Why?
Any good property management company will urge a landlord to make repairs even if they are minor. Let’s begin by saying that yes, it is easier to spend other people’s money rather than your own. Landlords sometimes might feel a repair is not necessary for the tenant’s and property’s well being, and yes, sometimes that is the case! But think of it from a different perspective for a moment as sometimes putting yourself in other people’s shoes can help one understand the perspective more clearly. To illustrate this, let’s look at two stories that will help explain why small repairs can be beneficial to having a better experience with your tenants.
There once was a family of three little polar bears that lived in South Florida’s beautiful Cape Coral. They moved south to avoid the frigid winter air and were looking for the most perfect den to rent from the Florida black bears. After finding the perfect den to rent and signing their one year lease, things began to fall apart throughout the tenancy.
The baby bear’s bedroom light would always flicker at night making it hard to read his favorite book, and his shower never let him feel the warmth of hot water. The roof was leaky and the ice maker always made such a ruckus at night.
Of course daddy bear called the blackie black bear, the landlord, and complained about all of the issues, but he said he had to use his money to buy honey rather than help fix up the den. Frustrated by the black bears negligence to the den, the polar bear family began treating the den like a Las Vegas hotel and neglected the property themselves too.
There once was a family of Florida Ospreys that were looking for a new nest. The owner of their last nest decided to sell, so off they went in search of the perfect place to call home. They found a nest up in Port Charlotte Florida that they fell in love with. The location was perfect, and it was not too high up in case the baby osprey fell.
Once they moved in, they noticed the nest didn’t have a very good cooling system and it kept shorting out whenever it rained.
Hesitantly, mommy osprey contacted the nest’s owner to explain the issue. The nest owner assured her that he would get an estimate to repair, and would get it handled quickly. The next morning, a licensed and insured osprey was there and fixed the problem with no issue.
The osprey family was so overjoyed at the owner’s response, they felt obligated to treat the nest like it was their own, and they rented for another 2 years and were the perfect osprey tenants.
Were these stories a bit childish? Yes. But it is a good way of breaking down a concept so it is easy to understand. Any property management professional, that is even halfway decent, will help explain that the better care you take of your tenants, the better care they will take of you.
Who Should I Hire for Repairs to My Rental Property?
Property management companies typically have huge lists of vendors that they have used over the years. The benefits are lower costs per job where they pass the savings on to their clients due to economies of scale (amount of business they get from the company), and they have established relationships with those vendors so there is a huge deal of trust and reliability.
Websites like Angie’s List can help home owners find licensed and insured companies or handymen to help complete the work. It all goes back to you get what you pay for. It’s all too often landlords will go with a cut rate vendor to save a few bucks, and the repair is done inadequately, or sometimes not at all (even when they say it is done).
Here in South Florida, we especially caution those looking for workers as the more laid-back lifestyle here tends to cultivate some lazy vendors that even Douglas Realty has had to weed out over the last three decades.
Benefits of Hiring a Professional Property Manager
This section could be 30 pages long, but a condensed version will still explain the key advantages to using a management company that will handle all of your repairs.
Coordinating when a tenant will be home to let a vendor in can be really time consuming, and requires many phone calls. Sometimes tenants are not home when they say they will be, and sometimes the vendors are late or do not show up. There is usually a limited window that tenants can be home, and many companies will provide a window of time they will arrive (mainly larger corporations) which leads to scheduling issues. You will save a HUGE headache by removing yourself from this process.
Some landlords are hesitant to using a management company as it is typical for a fee to be added to pay for maintenance coordination. To the untrained eye, yes, this can seem like an unnecessary expense. For the companies that do charge a fee, there is a reason. They are allowing you access to a pool of vendors they have collected over the years that do repairs at steep discounts which they pass on to the landlords, and take a nominal fee to do so.
Verified Documentation and Visual Confirmation
Typically the management company will provide pictures of the completed repairs that are done to the property along with an invoice from the vendor so you can be assured there really was an issue at the property, and that it was properly repaired!
Red Flags: What to Look For When Hiring a Property Management Firm
If you do decide on having your property professionally managed, there are a few key things to look out for when it comes to maintenance. Sometimes property management can have a pretty bad stigma as being a scummy business, and it usually falls in the maintenance division. Here’s a few tips to help avoid any issues you may face:
- Companies that do their own maintenance and provide in house invoices can be a big conflict of interest. How do you know if there was actually a problem? Couldn’t they just make up maintenance issues and send you a bill? Sadly this does in fact happen with some “property managers.”
- Maintenance departments need to have detailed reports for property conditions before a tenant moves in so they can compare it to when the tenant vacates. If they do not fill our reports accompanied by pictures, run!
- Look for companies that haven’t been in business for more than 10 years to ensure they have a good vendor base.
- Make sure their vendors are insured and licensed in case someone is hurt on the job so you’re not liable.
Do not be fooled, every aspect to managing a property is important, but maintenance is not a topic to take lightly. You should now be familiar with your responsibilities as a landlord in what you should provide for you tenants, how to handle repairs when they come up, and what the benefits are of having a professional help you along the way.
Forget The Headache of Property Maintenance
Maintaining and repairing a property yourself stinks. Let Douglas Realty handle it for you!