Preventative Maintenance for Landlords
Don’t forget to varnish and seal your landlord at least annually.
You probably expect this to be a blog post about how important it is to have an expert come in and regularly perform the scheduled maintenance on all of your properties’ mechanicals and appliances. But if you expected that, why are you reading this? You already know! No, today, we’re going to talk about how a landlord can perform preventative maintenance…on himself. (Or herself, yadda yadda you get the whole generic-gendered-pronoun thing by now, right?)
A Duty of Care
Some of our tenants are the types of people who need in-home health care — some have physical issues, some have mental problems, some are just that old. And in chatting with some of the caretakers, we learned something interesting: apparently, being a caretaker is actually more destructive to your health than being caretaken. So much so that there’s rafts of information online about how a caretaker should take care of themselves. The major reason being, a caretaker that ends up in the hospital can’t really ‘take care’ very well, can they?
Now, before anyone jumps to conclusions, don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying that being a landlord is anywhere near as taxing as taking care of someone that needs your help to stand, get dressed, eat, and use the commode. But there is an analogy to be made here, because if you’re landlording over 4 or 5 properties all by yourself, you will end up stretched too thin.
It might not happen right away, but inevitably a month will come where two people are late on rent, one has a broken furnace, one has been arrested, and one just announced that they’re breaking their lease early due to family emergency. And when that does happen, you will find that you don’t recover for months. Not because the tenants’ situations don’t improve — but because when you’re a solo landlord, catching back up once you’re behind is damn near impossible.
How Do the Caretakers Do It?
Let’s take a look at the advice the experts give caretakers who need to recover.
• Reduce the stress in other areas of your life.
• Set non-work goals for yourself and work toward them regularly.
• Be very clear in your communications with your tenants, and document everything.
• Be prepared to take a legitimate break when the need arises.
Most of those are pretty straightforward — but how does that last one work for a landlord? How do you ‘take a break’ when you need to be present for rent collection, repairs, natural disasters, family emergencies, and any of the other dozen exigent circumstances that crop up as part and parcel of everyday tenant life?
It’s a question that there’s no good answer to. Some DIY landlords just leave and take their break and hope that nothing goes horribly wrong while they’re gone…but that’s a bit risky. Some make friends with fellow landlords and work out agreements to cover each other’s properties (joining your local Real Estate Investors Association is a great way to get this kind of support!) Others bite the bullet and hire a property manager, and accept the reduced revenue knowing that the stress is gone (and now they’ll have time to investigate other properties and possibly even further develop their portfolio!) The worst decision, though, is to stick around and keep dealing with the stress — take it from the hospitalized caretakers out there…no amount of potential profits is worth losing your health.