Plumbing systems. It’s hard to conceive what life must have been like before indoor plumbing and on-demand hot water. We tend take them for granted in our own homes. We barely think about them. But when it comes to investments homes, plumbing systems can be a drain (no pun intend) on our pocketbook.
If your read this and implement the items outlined below, you will save yourself thousands of dollars over the course of owning your rental. We know this from personal experience.
1) Garbage Disposals
"Broken" disposals are the second most common call we receive from our tenants. 90% of the time, the problem is caused by the tenant (tripped breaker, disposal resets & blade jams). Costs to resolve can be mitigated by educating the tenant on steps to resolve these common problems. We even go as far as leaving a 1/4 inch Allen Wrench under the sink, that can be used on the bottom of the disposal to clear jams. When your tenant calls you with a disposal problem, ask specific questions about the problem and force them to troubleshoot with you on the phone. If the person you speak with is not very mechanically inclined, ask that their spouse or roommate give you a call when they are available. It's much cheaper than paying a plumbers trip charge, only to learn that the breaker was tripped.
Recently, we've figured out a method to eliminate 100% of our disposal calls by installing lifetime warranty disposals. We direct all tenant calls to the disposal manufacturer’s hotline if they have a problem. Contact the author of blog for a full explanation.
2) Angle Stops
Angle what? you say. Yeah, angle stops. They are the little valves that connect the facet or toilet to the home water supply. These little buggers can be a nightmare for an investor. Especially, once they ware out. Every take back a rental property only to find that the sink base cabinet has severe water damage and needs to be replaced? Frustrating, right? A lot of the time, the source of the leak is the angle stop. When you turnover your property, replace all of the angle stops with new, quarter turn style stops. They are much easier to turn on/off and they are much harder to 'over-tighten' and break.
Clear a drain for less-than $5. Over the last decade of owning and managing investment properties, we've learned that most tenant caused clogs (hair, toilet paper, even a GI Joe action figure on one occasion) occur within 18 inches of the drain intake. Most owner responsible clogs (tree roots, drain breaks, etc.) occur under the slap or in the yard. You can't hold the tenant responsible for tree roots, but you can hold them responsible for attempting to flush a diaper down the toilet. Before you lease your next investment property, run to Home Depot (or order online) a Zip-It snake. These little bad-boys do a great job at clearing tenant caused clogs. Leave one at the property, and when that tenant calls with a clog problem, walk them thru how to use it.
4) Pre-emptive Snaking and Drain Test
Before you lease that property, do a drain test and snake the drains if the drains are slow. Make sure they are in good shape before your new tenant takes over. It makes a good impression on your new tenant and it gives you the confidence to hold the new tenant responsible for tenant caused clogs (no one likes finding the prior tenants hair in the shower drain!).
5) Running Toilets
These are my least favorite calls to get. Mainly because they are so easy to fix, if the tenant would be willing to spend just 2 minutes attempt to figure out the problem on their own. However, some tenants will call and expect you, the owner, to send someone out to adjust the toilet float. When you get a running toilet call, remind the tenant that this is a single-family rental home and not the local Marriott. Send them a DYI video link or have them Google "toilet float adjustment" for the answer. Be courteous, but firm. It’s very easy, especially for the handy-man type investor, to be condescending in this situation, but it’s always better to be nice & helpful.
If you own investment properties, eventually you will have to deal with a broken water-heater problem. Minus, the occasional blown out pilot light (gas) or tripped breaker (electric), most hot-water calls are legitimate. Great, you’re thinking, $600-$1,000 to replace the unit. There goes my cash flow for the year. Not so fast. Water heaters tend to have pretty long warranties (6,8,10yrs). It has usually been so long since you bought the unit, that you don't even think about checking the warranty. Even more common, you bought the property with an existing unit so you don't know how old it is. A warranty claim on a water-heater can be very simple. Find the manufacturer’s information on the side of the water heater and call them with the serial number. They will tell you if it’s still under warranty. Most companies, won't require you to return the broken unit, they'll just instruct you to peal off the serial number sticker and run to ABC Plumbing Supply to pick up a new one. We didn't figure this one out until we had been investing for a number of years. It cost us several thousand dollars. Hope this saves you some cash!