By David Crown, Chief Executive Officer, Los Angeles Property Management Group
I once knew someone who ignored a termite report, thinking the problem couldn’t really be that bad. They then had to completely reframe a four-unit building, replacing every single piece of wood in two of the units. Who was the foolish owner in that scenario? That was me. I was relatively lucky—it only ended up costing me about $50,000 to fix that quadruplex in Silverlake, but that’s still an expensive lesson, and believe me, I learned it. I’ve been in property management for three decades now, and in that time, I’ve seen the best and the worst of what this industry has to offer, ranging from impressive workmanship to a few tragic mistakes.
I’ve written about preventative maintenance before, but it’s a subject I couldn’t possibly exhaust in one article—or ten. Nor can I overstate its importance to this industry. It might be the best thing we do for rental property owners, maybe even the best case for property managers to exist at all. Preventative maintenance isn’t just about cautionary tales. You’re not just averting disaster by taking these measures; you’re shrewdly pushing your property to the highest level of its potential profits. It’s better to go out of your way to do something smart than it is to just avoid doing something dumb.
To that end, here are three preventative maintenance “hacks” that will significantly impact the “health” of your building in the long term.
Main Line Cleaning
This service scrubs out your main line of any debris or blockages. It will extend the life of your building’s sewer main by many, many years. It’s one of the most effective but neglected maintenance hacks out there. Don’t assume your current management has already thought to have it done—this is something to ask about. The cost of a new main line is far higher than the cost of getting a main line cleaned. This actually serves as a fairly reliable measure of capable managers. If your management company can tell you the last time they scrubbed out your main, you’re probably in good hands.
Gutter and Downspout Cleaning
Sounds stupid simple, but a lot of people never have it done. It’s crucially important to help water drain from the roof. Especially in a year like the one we’ve had, with record rainfall, it goes a long way in keeping your property safe and leak-proof. Anybody who’s ever had to deal with a mold remediation situation can attest to the importance of keeping unwanted moisture out of a rental property, and the astronomical costs that can come with failure to do so. I walked through a prospective client’s building a week ago that had three apartment units stacked on top of each other, and all of them were entirely ruined by one leak.
The third “hack” wears boots! That’s right, it’s a team that keeps a careful calendar and performs all of the above and more maintenance actions on a regularly scheduled basis. Once, I was walking a property to inspect it when my colleague and I found a lit pilot light that was burning yellow, which meant it was emitting carbon monoxide. Thankfully we took action and immediately fixed the issue, but we might not have had the chance if we hadn’t been there in the first place conducting our inspection. So if you own apartments, I recommend hiring a management company with a dedicated maintenance team that runs on a strict schedule, visiting properties often and inspecting them thoroughly
Sometimes, the simple fixes are the most impactful, and if you overlook them, you risk winding up in one of my many cautionary tales. But none of this is rocket science or requires cutting-edge technology. I didn’t get my Ph.D from Harvard in Property Management. (I did get my BA in English from Northridge. Go Matadors). Apply these maintenance hacks to keep your property healthy.
David Crown is the Chief Executive Officer of Los Angeles Property Management Group and has over thirty years of experience managing all types of income properties. Mr. Crown has been asked to serve as an expert witness in property management matters, and currently serves on the Forbes Real Estate Council. He can be reached directly at (323) 433-5254.