Own rental property? Here are 14 things to check to avoid major problems in future

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Own rental property? Here are 14 things to check to avoid major problems in future

If you're one of the 7.9% of Australians* who own an investment property, you'll know that like any home, it requires a lot of time and money spent on maintenance. The good news is that if you’re prepared to spend on professional maintenance and property check-ups, you could avoid some high-cost issues in the long run and improve the wellbeing and happiness of your tenants. One of the main differences between owning your own home, and owning a rental property is that anything spent on maintenance and upgrades has the potential to be earned back in rental income.

*Based on 2011 census

Here are a few things you should keep an eye on next time you visit your rental property:

#1 Replacing smoke detectors

While changing batteries may seem like a simple task, it is still the landlord's responsibility and should be undertaken by the property owner or real estate agent. By checking working smoke detectors are installed in the right areas throughout the home, you are firstly ensuring the safety of your tenants, while also reducing the risk of any fire damage to your property.

#2 Unclog gutters and pipes

The damage caused by clogged guttering and pipes can end up costing you thousands if flooding or pipe breakage occurs. Hiring a professional to undergo a regular check and remembering to remove leaves and debris from exposed guttering could save you money in future.

#3 Undertake regular pest checks

If you’ve ever experienced a termite or mouse infestation, you’ll understand the perils of trying to mitigate the problem once it’s already out of control. Encourage your tenants to alert you of any sightings early on and engage a professional to deal with the problem and provide you with a plan to prevent the issue escalating.

#4 Get onto mould issues ASAP

Regularly check shower grouting, ceilings, behind furniture, window sills, and damp zones (such as bathrooms, foyers etc.) for any signs of mould. Stachybotrys Chartarum (or black mould) releases toxic compounds known as ‘mycotoxins’ and when inhaled can lead to a myriad of health complications. While regular cleaning can help eliminate mould, often it’s a greater issue and requires professional attention. Protect your tenants by seeking mould specialists, who can often deal with the problem for around $300 per room.

#5 Eliminate hazardous materials

From exposed rusty stakes to asbestos cladding, it’s always a good idea to undergo a building inspection to ensure your home is safe for its inhabitants. Removing anything that could be toxic, flammable or hazardous will eliminate the chance of future issues to arise.

#6 Check bathroom extractor fans

Extractor fans play an important role in bathrooms – especially those without an opening window. Ensuring the fan is working will help with reducing mould and mildew growing in the bathroom.

#7 Change locks between tenancies

During a tenancy, you often don't know how many keys have been cut for household members, as well as their friends and family. Ensure the safety of your property and your new tenants by having the locks changed. This is a relatively simple task which can be done on the property, within an hour or two by a locksmith.

#8 Invest in value upgrades

Upgrading the kitchen or bathroom of your rental property is often likely to increase its value, reduce vacancy rates and will encourage your tenants to treat your property with respect and care. Significant property upgrades are also likely to increase the market value of your property once you decide to on-sell it.

#9 Employ a gardener

The unrulier the grounds, the more challenging they are to deal with. Aim to keep weeds at bay and lawns short and consider employing a gardener as this can be a tax-deductible expense.

#10 Identify wood rot early on

A deck layered with algae or wood that is disintegrating can pose accident risk for your tenants. Fix the problem early by replacing the deck or undergoing remedial work.

#11 Look for leaks after a downpour

While many homes aren’t hermetically sealed and often have gaps to encourage airflow, water pouring in through the window or dripping from the roof is never a good sign and needs to be addressed immediately. Mould can occur within the walls/ceiling and are sometimes issues that only present themselves when it’s too late. Consider using a waterproof paint and silicone sealant.

#12 Aim to prevent foundation repairs

Foundation repairs can set you back anywhere from $450 - $11,000 and are often due to natural causes such as soil swelling. It’s important to keep the soil around your home moist and ensure there is sufficient water drainage – ideally a gradual slope. If foundation repairs are likely to be needed, some signs can include doors and windows which are hard to shut, cracks on the walls, sloping flooring and water pooling in your garage/basement or in corners of your house.

#13 Periodic roof inspections

Similar to foundation repairs, to replace a roof can cost from $650 - $6,000. The general rule of thumb is to get your roof checked 10 years post installation and every 3 years after.

#14 Wash flooring and carpets

Keeping your floors in good nick could make them last longer. Between each tenancy, hire a professional carpet cleaner, and repolish wooden floors. When you clean a carpet stain, you are only cleaning the surface layer, meaning the stain won’t be removed completely. Regular carpet cleaning can reduce permanent damage to your flooring.

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