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The Frugal Landlord: Reducing Maintenance Overheads

149 views March 6, 2024 Karina Jugo 1

As a landlord, you want your property rental business to run as smoothly as possible and avoid any unexpected costly surprises along the way. One unfortunate overhead that plagues every landlord is maintenance costs. They cannot be avoided and really can cost an arm and a leg when something drastic goes wrong.

Imagine burst water pipes flooding the ground floor of a family home or a boiler breaking down in the winter months and needing emergency replacement. A key aspect of being a successful landlord is being economical and knowing how to reduce the risk of unexpected costs.

Be Proactive, Not Reactive

One of the best ways to achieve the most efficient cost reduction for your property rental business is to fix minor problems before they become more significant problems. You might get tenants asking you to fix a leaking tap or do something about the stiff key lock on the front door. These may seem like insignificant jobs in the grand scheme, but not when considering the consequences.

Leaking taps will mean higher water bills, and a broken faucet could result in an expensive emergency plumber call-out. A stiff key lock could be fixed with a simple squirt of grease, but if left untreated could result in a key being broken off in a lock and the entire lock having to be changed.

If a tenant is requesting repairs and this goes ignored by a property manager, they do have legally accepted recourse. There are a number of options, again, varying state to state but these can include:

  • Withholding rent
  • Hiring someone to make those repairs, then deducting this from their next rent payment
  • Moving out and termination of lease
  • Reporting this to a local building inspector
  • Lawsuit for a refund of past rent payments, with additional damages for any distress caused by the issue

This is why taking care of  issues as soon as they come up, or even offering reduced rent if the tenant takes care of it is important. If the issue isn’t major, it’s acceptable to respond within 48 hours, but always keep them in the loop in terms of how things are going. Remember, your tenant is the one that has to live with whatever that issue is, and a little courtesy will go a long way in defusing a potentially bad situation before it starts.

A good strategy is to give your property a thorough once over each time the tenants change so that you know everything is working correctly and you have time to fix problems before new tenants move in. What might seem like a small, insignificant job can turn into something much worse if it is ignored for too long, so get things sorted quickly and adequately.

rental maintenance

Doing the Small Jobs Yourself

You can do plenty of maintenance jobs yourself, so do not always reach for the phone when you need something done. Whether it is painting a fence, cleaning an oven, changing a door handle, or wallpapering a room, spending your free time doing these things is a great way to reduce your costs. You do not need to pay somebody to carry out every maintenance job required in your properties unless you like throwing many down the pan. While there are many occasions where the services of a tradesman are not needed, do not try to attempt things you are not trained to do, like plumbing or electrical work, because you could end up causing more harm than good.

Getting Tradesmen Onside

Following on nicely from the last section, when you do absolutely positively need the help of a trained technician or tradesman to get your property in shape, try to use a trusted friend if at all possible. This will not always be possible, but it is worth building a trustful working relationship with tradesmen that can mutually benefit both of you. By using the same guy over and over again, they will get familiar with your properties and know the best and cheapest ways to avoid potential problems. Perhaps you can even take advantage of their tradesmen discount at the builder’s merchants if you throw enough work their way.

Read our other resource on how to hire a handyman for your rental property by clicking on this link.

Avoiding Bad Tenants

It could be the biggest reason behind enormous maintenance costs for landlords, and the benefits of having clean and careful tenants should not be underestimated. Tenants that do their best to keep your property in good shape and even sort out the minor problems themselves really are gold dust to a property rental business. On the other hand, ending up with the tenants from hell can put one hell of a dent in your bank balance.

Cigarette burns on the carpets, shoe scuff marks on the walls, mold in the bathroom, filthy furniture, the list goes on. Avoiding bad tenants goes a long way to reducing your maintenance overheads, and there are some surefire ways that you find the best out of your crowd of potentials.

Remember to always background check tenants so that you have their credit rating, an employer reference, and a reference from their last landlord. If anything looks a bit iffy, then the best thing you can do is to hold on and wait for the next potential tenant to call. Holding out for a good tenant might lose you a week’s worth of rent, but it can really pay off in the long term.

In All Instances, Give Due Notice

All too often, big issues involving plumbing or heating need to be dealt with in a very timely fashion. However, this is where you may run into a bit of an issue: advance notice. In most areas, it’s simply letting your tenants know 24 hours in advance you’ll be stopping by. There are situations where you can enter without notice, but those are typically emergency situations such as heavy water leakage or fires

Set up an Emergency Fund

An emergency fund serves as a crucial safeguard in the realm of rental property management, offering a shield against unexpected maintenance expenses. This financial reservoir empowers landlords to swiftly address urgent repairs without draining their resources or compromising their property’s upkeep.

When a water pipe leaks or the HVAC malfunctions, having an emergency fund at the ready means immediate action can be taken to prevent problems from escalating and causing more extensive, expensive damage. By promptly addressing maintenance concerns, landlords can mitigate potential risks and avoid exacerbating issues that could lead to costly repairs down the line.

The emergency fund provides the means to conduct timely fixes, ensuring the property remains safe, habitable, and appealing to tenants. Moreover, this proactive approach bolsters tenant satisfaction and retention, preserving positive landlord-tenant relationships. Ultimately, an emergency fund not only minimizes the financial strain of unexpected maintenance expenses but also contributes to the overall stability and profitability of a rental property investment.

A Final Word

Address maintenance requests promptly to prevent small issues from escalating. Quick response times can help resolve problems before they become more significant and costly to repair. Better yet, conduct regular inspections to identify and address potential issues. Reducing maintenance overheads in a rental property can help increase profitability and minimize your expenses.


  • Karina Jugo

    Karina Jugo is a content administrator at RentPost who works directly with real estate and property management experts to create resources and guides for property managers. She has more than 15 years of experience in content research and writing for various industries.

  • Jacob Thomason

    Jacob Thomason is the CEO and co-founder of RentPost, software platform providing property managers, landlord or owners with the tools necessary for property management. Jacob is a software entrepreneur with with a vast array of expertise ranging from business concept design to software architecture and development. He is running RentPost for more than 14 years and helping property managers and property owners.

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