As a landlord, you know that you’re responsible for the bulk of major repairs and ongoing maintenance for your rental properties. As a general rule of thumb, if the repair was not the fault of the tenant and if it in any way impacts the tenant’s quality of life, it’s on you to do whatever it takes to complete the repair in a timely manner.
The Appeal of DIY Approaches
Many landlords, especially those with only one property or those with some DIY experience, like the idea of maintaining properties themselves. There are several advantages to this:
- Cost savings. Doing the work yourself means you won’t have to pay a contractor or repairman. Depending on the nature of the job, that could end up saving you hundreds to thousands of dollars.
- Greater control. Looking at the problem yourself and completing the job with your own hands gives you more control over the situation. If you know what you’re doing, you can guarantee the work’s quality, and understand exactly what the issue is (should it happen again).
- Immediate availability. Emergency repairmen are usually available, but oftentimes you’ll need to schedule third-party contractors days or even weeks in advance. If you’re the one doing the work, you can travel to your rental property immediately.
Repairs You Shouldn’t Touch
However, there are some repairs that simply aren’t worth trying to do yourself. You might not have the right equipment or the necessary expertise to handle the job, or it might be cost inefficient to do the work yourself.
For various reasons, these are home repairs you should never touch yourself:
- Plumbing renovations. There are some plumbing jobs that even novice DIY-ers can handle. You should be able to change a leaky showerhead or take care of a basic clogged drain. However, if your problem requires any modification to the actual system, it’s better to call an expert. Even a small leak in a plumbing system can, if undetected, end up causing thousands of dollars of damage. If it gets into the floors, it may even compromise the structural integrity (and thus, the safety) of the house. Plus, most systems have at least some copper pipes, which means if you’re doing any repairs or replacements, you’ll need serious welding experience.
- Electrical repairs or rewiring. Again, there are some simple jobs that you should be able to handle. Replacing a light switch or even a ceiling fan is a reasonable job, as long as you can confirm you’ve shut off the electricity to your work area completely. However, any bigger jobs will require you calling in a professional. If you rewire the house incorrectly, it could pose a serious hazard to your tenants and your property; it doesn’t take much for a bad wiring job to start a fire. Plus, almost any amount of electrical current will be enough to seriously injure—or even kill you. If that weren’t enough, most cities have detailed regulations on how electrical wiring can be installed, and may hold you liable if your work wasn’t done by a licensed professional.
- Roof repairs. A leaky roof is one of the last things you want for your property, but you may believe that you can handle the job yourself. The short-term fix, using caulk to plug up the leak, generally isn’t effective, and the longer your leak goes unaddressed, the more damage it’s going to cause to your roof, attic, or upper floor. If all you need to do is replace a shingle, you may be able to handle the job—most shingles even come with instructions that tell you what to do—but it’s better to let a professional take care of the repair and ensure the job is done correctly. Plus, you need to remember that one-third of all construction fatalities are from people who fell off roofs—it’s not safe to be up there if you don’t know what you’re doing.
- Natural gas repairs. There are several home appliances that run on gas, including your stove, oven, water heater, and clothes dryer, some of which are likely used by your tenants directly. You may experience a problem with these appliances, or you may need to remove them or adjust them for other reasons—for example, you may need to move the oven to re-tile the kitchen floor. However, gas is like water, and any error you make in the lines could result in a leak. This leak won’t eat away at your property the way water will, but it does pose a fire hazard, and far more seriously, could kill your tenants—more than 400 people every year die from carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Taking out walls. You might be tempted to take out walls to add new insulation, put up better drywall, or even make a major change to the layout of the property. It’s fun to think about literally tearing down the walls, and putting up new ones doesn’t seem too complicated. However, depending on the way the house was built, removing a wall without the proper precautions could result in a major catastrophe. You could hit a gas or water line, or you could interfere with the structural integrity of the entire unit. If you don’t know what you’re doing (i.e., you aren’t a licensed professional with years of experience), don’t do anything to the walls without professional help—unless you’re just using putty to fill a nail hole after a tenant leaves.
Leave these jobs to the experts, and you’ll end up saving money and hassle in the long run.
If you have more property than you can reasonably handle, or if repairs seem like too much to deal with on your own, consider enlisting the help of a property management firm like Green Residential. For a reasonably low monthly fee, we’ll take care of everything from tenant screening to ongoing property maintenance—so contact us today!