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    Maintenance is a critical aspect of owning and managing multi-unit rentals. Regular upkeep not only helps ensure a comfortable living environment for residents, but it also protects the value of your investment. By taking proactive steps to maintain your property, you can minimize the risk of costly repairs and increase the longevity of appliances and systems. 

    In this article, we will provide tips on how to manage maintenance in your multi-unit rental property effectively. The information in this article is generalized for multi-unit rental properties, including duplexes, townhouses, and apartments. However, applying the tips in this article will vary depending on your situation. 



    Conduct individual unit inspections


    Regular inspections are essential for identifying potential maintenance issues before they become major problems. By catching small issues early, you can save time and money and reduce the inconvenience to your residents. The frequency of inspections should depend on the age of your property, the number of renters, the type of property, and other factors. 

    Some property owners conduct individual unit inspections semi-annually, while others do inspections as often as every three months. In general, properties with high turnover rates require more inspections than properties with lower turnover rates.

    Keep in mind that property owners need to give reasonable notice before conducting inspections on occupied units. The duration of reasonable notice differs per state, so be sure to check in with the landlord-tenant laws in your area

    When conducting inspections, prepare a checklist of items to inspect, such as

    • Walls and ceilings: Check for cracks, water damage, and peeling paint.
    • Floors: Check for loose tiles, worn carpet, and any signs of water damage.
    • Windows and doors: Check for proper operation and any signs of damage or wear.
    • Plumbing: Check for leaks, clogs, and proper operation of faucets, toilets, and showers.
    • Electrical systems: Check for frayed wires, tripped breakers, and proper operation of lights and outlets.
    • HVAC systems: Check for proper operation and any signs of wear and tear.
    • Appliances: Check for proper operation and any signs of wear and tear.
    • Safety hazards: Check for exposed electrical wires, fire hazards, and any tripping hazards.

    Pay special attention to areas that are frequently used or are prone to wear and tears, such as bathrooms and kitchens. Also, check for any signs of pest infestation and address them immediately.



    Inspect and maintain common areas regularly


    Inspecting common areas is just as important as inspecting individual units. Common areas in your multi-unit property, such as hallways, elevators, gardens, and laundry rooms, should be checked and maintained regularly for cleanliness, safety, and functionality. 

    Since common areas are used frequently by many people, it is recommended that they be thoroughly inspected at least once a month and regularly maintained throughout the week. This will help maintain the overall appeal of your property and reduce the risk of accidents or injuries.

    Here’s a checklist of items to inspect in common areas:

    • Lighting: Check for proper operation and any broken or burned-out light fixtures.
    • Hallways and stairways: Check for any signs of wear and tear and tripping hazards. 
    • Laundry facilities: Check for proper operation of washers and dryers and any signs of wear and tear.
    • Landscaping: Check for any overgrown plants, damaged sidewalks, and any signs of water damage.
    • Parking areas: Check for any signs of damage, such as potholes or cracks, and any safety hazards.
    • Elevators and escalators: Check for proper operation and any signs of wear and tear.
    • Pool and spa areas: Check for proper operation and any signs of wear and tear.
    • Safety equipment: Check for proper operation of fire alarms, smoke detectors, and any other safety equipment.

    Regular inspections are a proactive approach to maintenance, and they will help you identify and prevent issues before they escalate. They are also important in ensuring that your rental property is up to date with the latest building codes



    Plan for preventive maintenance


    Preventive maintenance is the practice of regularly maintaining appliances and systems to prevent breakdowns and prolong their lifespan.

    What you include in your preventive maintenance plan and the frequency of maintenance will depend on several factors, including the age of your appliances, the size of your units, and resident turnover rates. 

    Man conducting maintenance for HVAC


    For example, a townhouse occupied by small families may only require trimming of the shared landscape, annual plumbing maintenance, and quarterly replacement of air filters. Whereas a large apartment building with a high turnover rate and several shared amenities may require a full-time maintenance team constantly maintaining the building. 

    Here are some examples of routine tasks to include in a preventive maintenance plan:

    System Procedure Frequency
    HVAC System Clean and change air filters, check refrigerant levels, and check ducts for leaks. Every 3 months
    Plumbing Flush water heaters, check for leaks, and clear clogs in drain lines. Annually
    Electrical systems Inspect electrical panels, check for frayed wiring, and ensure that outlets are functioning correctly Every 3-5 years
    Landscaping Regularly trim trees, remove dead foliage, and maintain proper irrigation. Every 2 weeks
    Pest control Regularly check for and treat pest infestations, such as ants, roaches, and rodents. Every 3 months



    Have a quick response time


    Quick response time is crucial when it comes to addressing maintenance requests in a multi-unit rental property. In fact, unaddressed maintenance requests are among the leading complaints of renters

    Renters expect prompt attention to their maintenance needs, and a slow response time can lead to dissatisfaction and potentially even turnover. By addressing maintenance requests promptly, you can demonstrate your commitment to providing a high-quality living environment for your renters.

    There are several strategies that are effective for large multi-unit rentals, and one of these is to have a dedicated maintenance team in place. This team should be trained and equipped to handle a wide range of maintenance issues, from routine repairs to emergency situations.

    Another option is to hire a tech-enabled property management company, like Poplar Homes, that streamlines the maintenance request process and acts on work orders according to their urgency. With Poplar Homes, renters can submit maintenance requests online, and you can track and manage requests in real time. This can help you respond quickly to maintenance needs and keep your tenants informed about the status of their requests.


    Recommended: How Poplar Homes’ property management maintenance software makes rental investing easy



    Ensure effective communication


    Effective communication with renters is critical to maintaining a positive relationship and ensuring their satisfaction with their living environment. Keeping renters informed about maintenance issues, schedules, and procedures can prevent misunderstandings and minimize the risk of dissatisfaction.

    Furthermore, actively listening to your resident’s maintenance and other concerns while giving them honest answers and updating them on the status of their request can go a long way in keeping your units occupied. 

    To maintain open lines of communication, consider using a resident portal or sending regular updates through email or text messages. A resident portal allows renters to easily report maintenance issues, receive updates on the status of their requests, and access important information about the property. Regular updates can also keep renters informed about any planned maintenance or upgrades and help them prepare accordingly. When you sign up for Poplar Homes, each of your residents receives a unique resident portal. 

    When communicating with renters about maintenance issues, be prompt, clear, and professional. Provide detailed information about the issue, the steps being taken to resolve it, and an estimated timeline for completion. If there will be any disruptions to their normal routine, such as scheduled power outages, provide advance notice and offer alternative arrangements if possible.



    Allocate budget for maintenance


    Maintaining a multi-unit rental property can be costly, but proper budgeting can help you keep expenses under control. A maintenance budget should include the cost of regular inspections, preventive maintenance, and any repairs or upgrades that may be necessary. 

    Here are a few tips for creating and sticking to a maintenance budget:

    • Determine your monthly maintenance costs: Review your past expenses and identify any recurring costs, such as HVAC maintenance or landscaping. Use this information to create a monthly budget for maintenance costs.
    • Set aside a contingency fund: Emergencies happen, so it’s important to have a contingency fund set aside to cover unexpected expenses. A good rule of thumb is to set aside 10-20% of your monthly maintenance budget for unexpected expenses.
    • Prioritize repairs and upgrades: Determine which repairs and upgrades are most important and prioritize them based on urgency and budget constraints. This will help you allocate your maintenance budget more effectively and ensure that your property is well-maintained.
    • Track expenses: Keep detailed records of all maintenance expenses, including invoices and receipts, to help you track your budget and identify any areas where you may be overspending.

    Most long-time rental property investors set aside 50% of their total rental income for operating expenses such as maintenance. By creating and following a budget, you can ensure that your property is well-maintained while also keeping expenses under control. Regular monitoring and adjustments to your budget can help you stay on track and keep your property in top condition.


    Up next: 3 ways to determine your rental property’s maintenance costs.



    Final Thoughts


    A comprehensive maintenance plan is essential for the successful management of multi-unit rentals. Regular inspections, preventive maintenance, quick response times, effective communication with residents, and allocating a maintenance budget are all critical components of a successful maintenance strategy. By following these tips, you can minimize the risk of costly repairs, extend the life of appliances and systems, and provide a comfortable and safe living environment for your renters.

    Implementing a comprehensive maintenance plan benefits not only your renters but also protects your investment. Regular maintenance can increase the value of your property and reduce the likelihood of major repair expenses down the road. In short, taking the time to maintain your multi-unit rental property properly is a smart investment that will pay off in the long run.




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