The most common repair requests we get from tenants are the following.
The 10 Most Common Rental Repairs You’ll Encounter
1. Fridge/Stove/Dishwasher Not Working
Appliances have a lot of moving parts and therefore tend to break down fairly often. Although some issues can be fixed by the landlord themselves (replacing a burned-out light bulb, installing a new heating element), many issues will require a qualified appliance repair person. Unless a new appliance is needed, the typical cost to fix this sort of issue is between $50 and $100 per hour, and most repairs can be handled in one hour. If you do need a new appliance, consider buying a used one. Used appliance stores exist in almost every town and, especially in the case of stoves, can provide units that are just as good as new (though I never buy used dishwashers).
2. Water Leak in Ceiling or Under Windows
Water may be required for the human body to survive, but it’s deadly to a rental property. If left unchecked, water can destroy wood, drywall, flooring, and virtually every other surface of your property. Even in small amounts, moisture can cause mold to grow, which can be expensive to remediate if it gets out of control. When your tenant reports a water problem, make this your number one concern!
Hire a qualified contractor to check the problem out and fix it immediately. When you’re dealing with a water leak, don’t hire the
cheapest guy, hire the best. It’s also a good idea to know whether your property has water supply lines in the ceiling, so if there is a leak, you can call a plumber instead of a roofing contractor.
3. Water Leak Under Sink
A water leak under a kitchen or bathroom sink can have one of two causes: the supply line (the pipe that brings water to the sink, both hot and cold) or the drain (the drain that takes the water from the sink and sends it out to the sewer). I estimate that 90% of water leaks are caused by the drain pipe not fitting together correctly. This is a fairly easy thing for you to learn how to fix (watch some YouTube videos to find out how) or hire a plumber, which should cost approximately $100.
4. Water Drip from Faucets
A slow drip from a sink or bathroom can end up costing you hundreds of dollars per year. So if you have a slow drip, get it fixed right away. In most cases, the problem can be solved with a $.50 rubber washer and about an hour of work by a plumber (or you).
However, occasionally, the entire faucet will need to be replaced. If this is the case, don’t buy the $18 faucet that is mostly plastic. You’ll just be tearing it out next summer and replacing it again. And again. And again.
5. No Hot Water
If the tenant loses their hot water, it’s likely a problem with the hot water heater. If they need a new hot water heater, you’ll spend approximately $600 for a plumber to replace it. However, it might just be the heating element inside the heater, in which case you can either replace it yourself for $20 and a couple hours of work or hire a plumber for a couple hundred bucks to do it for you.
Dealing with pests can be one of the most annoying jobs for a landlord, because much of the time, it’s the tenant’s fault because they are dirty! Bugs and rodents like crumbs, so tenants with clean houses rarely have a problem. That said, it’s still your responsibility to make sure that any infestation is taken care of. We tackle this issue on two fronts: educating the tenant and
hiring a pest specialist to deal with the issue, which typically costs a few hundred dollars. Also be sure to seal up any holes, no matter how small, that bugs or rodents could use to get into the property.
Many landlords include in their lease that pest control is the tenant’s responsibility after a certain number of weeks. This way, the landlord can say that it was definitively not the property’s problem but must be the tenant’s. I find this works okay in single-family houses, but in multifamily units, it can be impossible to find out where the bugs originated from, because they travel through walls easily.
7. Garbage Disposals
These technological wonders may be great for grinding up food in your house, but they are a constant thorn in the side of landlords. They break all the time! I believe this is mostly because tenants put things into them that never belong in a garbage disposal. (“I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to put whole chicken bones down there!”) For this reason, I try to remove garbage disposals from my properties whenever possible. However, if your garbage disposal breaks while a tenant is in the property and you need to fix it, there are generally two things that could be wrong. First, it might just be “stuck” and needs an Allen wrench to unstick it. Or the motor might be burned out, in which case, you’ll need a new disposal, which might run a couple hundred bucks, including installation by a handyman.
8. Toilet Water Leaks
Toilets may be made of long-lasting porcelain, but the tank parts are generally cheap pieces of plastic that break all the time. If a toilet is running (water can be heard going through it 24/7, or the tank refills with water on its own every so often), it’s most likely a problem with the flapper. Typically, these kind of problems can be fixed with less than $20 in parts and an hour of labor by a plumber, handyman, or you.
9. Clogged Toilet
If your tenant clogs their toilet, this is not your responsibility. Problems that are caused by the tenant are the tenant’s responsibility, so inform them that they need to call a plumber to deal with the issue. Or call a plumber yourself and bill the tenant for the cost. However, if the drains seem to be clogged in the bathtub or bathroom sink as well, this is a good indication that the problem may lie with your drain pipe, such as a collapsed pipe or a tree root that has grown through it. (I once had a tenant who flushed huge rocks down the toilet! This caused a major problem for me—and resulted in a hefty plumber’s bill!)
10. Furnace Repairs
Heat is vital, so a furnace repair (especially during the winter) is one of the most important repairs on this list. If a furnace goes out, it could be something as simple as the pilot light going out or as complicated as a gas leak. When your tenant calls, get a furnace repair specialist out to the property immediately. Also, many furnace problems would have never happened had the furnace filter been replaced often, so be sure your tenant knows how and when to do this.
You’ll likely encounter more problems than I’ve listed here while owning rental properties, but these ten issues will likely represent 99% of the issues you’ll face. None of them, by themselves, are that expensive to fix.
However, if left untreated, each of these can end up costing you thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars in damage. Treat each of these items with care and address them immediately. Your tenant, and your wallet, will thank you.