There are many misinformed ideas about rental repairs. While rental property maintenance is inevitable, it doesn’t have to be a nightmare. So let’s clear up some of the most common rental property maintenance myths that we hear in Rutherford County:
Rental Property Maintenance Myth #1: Do-it-Yourself Repairs Always Save Money
Being able to take care of your own repairs around the house definitely comes in handy. But even if you’ve got the time and skill to take care of the repair yourself, it often actually makes better financial sense to let a dedicated professional handle the job. Even the most capable DIY landlords find themselves regretting trying to handle every job.
Additionally, if you cannot complete the job quickly and correctly, you owe it to the tenant to find a qualified technician. Tenants cite that their worst experiences from renting are due to poor maintenance. The money you might save doing it yourself is often just a delayed loss. The same can typically be said about the cost of hiring a full-time property manager. Many times hiring a professional property manager makes the most long-term financial sense. We are fortunate that in Middle Tennessee, we have many reputable professionals to call.
Rental Property Maintenance Myth #2: Tenants are Responsible for Maintenance & Repairs
Except in certain cases such as battery and light bulb replacement, maintenance is the physical and financial responsibility of the landlord. Yes, if the tenant throws a baseball through a window, they are responsible. But even then, the landlord should be notified and handle the repair, working with the tenant for the funds. But when an appliance breaks down during the tenant’s stay, it’s typically the result of years of normal wear-and-tear, in which case the landlord is responsible for the repair.
Rental Property Maintenance Myth #3: Replacing vs Repairing
This particular property management myth goes both ways. On one extreme is the optimist who insists that anything can be repaired, even the avocado-colored refrigerator that never gave them any problems. On the other end is the argument that it’s going to be cheaper to replace than to repair the appliances available these days.
Neither extreme is accurate, and deciding between repairing or replacing an appliance depends on a number of factors. The general rule is if an appliance is older than half of its expected lifespan, and the cost of the repair is over half the cost of replacing, then you should replace rather than repair.
Another consideration is tax deductions. The costs of rental property repairs are deductible that year. The cost of an “improvement” – which most replacements qualify as – will have to be depreciated over years.
Rental Property Maintenance Myth #4: Estimating Rental Property Maintenance Costs
There are many formulas out there for budgeting maintenance costs, but there are also many variables that go wrong. Keep in mind these two estimates:
- 76% of yearly rental property maintenance and repair costs will be higher than you’ll expect.
- 99% of rental property repair and maintenance expenses will be higher than you’ll want.
Rental Property Maintenance Myth #5: What Security Deposits Cover
Security deposits are a cause of contention for many tenants. There are two common myths related to security deposits:
- Tenant Misunderstanding: the security deposit is for the last month’s rent, right?
While many landlords ask for a security deposit that equals a month’s rent, that doesn’t mean it’s earmarked for the last month’s rent. Unless a different agreement was made in writing, the last month’s rent still needs to be paid in full, and the security deposit will be handled separately.
- Landlord Misunderstanding: the security deposit can be used for any repairs and cleaning costs.
Wrong again. The security deposit is a safeguard for unpaid rent and for needed repairs or cleaning that result from more than normal wear and tear. Some landlords stretch this rule. Regardless, the security deposit should not be used to replace 15 year old countertops or to paint the home after 7 years. Unless severe damage was caused by the tenants’ negligent behavior, these standard wear-and-tear chores are NOT to be paid for with the security deposit.