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Commercial roof maintenance being completed by Custom Exteriors

Educating Tenants on Exterior Maintenance:
Tips for Property Managers

My husband and I own an exterior maintenance company and a handful of rental properties. Because of this, we understand firsthand the role exterior maintenance plays in maintaining property value and keeping tenants satisfied. This unique perspective provides us with the knowledge to help address property managers’ challenges in educating tenants on exterior maintenance and the important role it plays in keeping their properties in top shape. 

When a clogged gutter caused water damage to the ceiling of one of our rental’s front porches, it not only cost us thousands of dollars in repairs but also consumed a significant amount of our time. 

For us, this experience showed us the importance of proactive maintenance and effective communication between property owners, managers, and tenants. If we had conducted routine maintenance on that property, we would have never encountered the issues we did. They could have also been avoided if our tenants had a clear line of communication with us about anything that seemed out of the norm for the property, i.e., overflowing gutters. These simple steps could have helped us avoid both the financial burden and the inconvenience of extensive repairs. 

We aim to share our expertise and experience in hopes of helping owners and property managers educate their tenants on the role you both play in a properly maintained exterior. By implementing the tips and strategies we have put into place personally, property owners can not only save money on costly repairs but also streamline the maintenance process. Ultimately, this will improve the overall experience for both you and your tenant. 

Why exterior maintenance matters for rental properties

As business and rental property owners, we completely understand that busy schedules and work obligations take up much of our time. They can certainly take precedence over tasks like cleaning the gutters of your rental property. After all, with just our family and work obligations, it sometimes feels like there isn’t enough time in the day. This doesn’t even consider the time it takes to manage rental agreements, maintenance requests, and everyday property management tasks.

However, neglecting exterior maintenance can have serious consequences, including: 

Damage due to failing caulking discovered by Custom Exteriors while painting their home

The Cost of Neglect: why Exterior Maintenance Matters

As exterior remodeling contractors, we have seen the severe consequences of neglecting exterior maintenance. A common but dangerous issue we often encounter is mold or mildew. This can happen when the caulking used to seal the seams around your windows or other penetrations fails, as shown in the photo above. When caulking around windows, doors, and siding begins to deteriorate, it allows moisture to penetrate the property’s exterior. 

Over time, this moisture can cause wood to rot, mold growth, and even damage the siding. The danger in this situation is that mold often grows under the siding. In extreme cases, entire sections of siding and OSB may need to be replaced, resulting in significant expenses for property owners. 

We have also witnessed similar damage caused by neglected gutter maintenance. Without regular maintenance, gutters become clogged with debris and cannot properly channel water away from the property. This can result in water seeping into the walls and foundation, creating an ideal environment for mold to thrive. This lack of gutter maintenance then compromises the property’s structural integrity and creates health risks to the occupants. 

Proactive Protection: How exterior maintenance can save you money

Because of the many potential issues created by neglecting exterior maintenance, it should be a top priority for property owners. Your tenant also plays an important yet straightforward role in exterior maintenance: communication. By setting clear expectations and encouraging open dialogue, property managers can help tenants play an active role in identifying and reporting maintenance issues. Whether it’s loose shingles, a dripping faucet, or a crack in the siding, tenants should feel comfortable notifying their landlord or property manager of any irregularities they notice on the property. 

We sense the collective sigh that every landlord just let out. We know it isn’t realistic to expect a tenant to notify you or even notice many times. So, in addition to tenant communication, property owners should also take proactive measures to ensure the ongoing maintenance of their exterior systems. Conducting biannual inspections during the shoulder seasons of severe weather can help identify potential issues before they escalate. 

According to the NAHB, about 10.8% of a home's total operating expenses are associated with regular maintenance and routine repairs. By specifying average annual operating costs across the county, the NAHB can provide a reasonable idea of projected maintenance costs for your area. 

Clear communication tips for owners and property managers

Effective communication is an important part of successfully managing a property. However, with our busy lives, our property managers’ busy schedules, and our tenants’ schedules, communication can be difficult. If you expect effective communication with your tenants, you need to make it easy for them. For instance, some tenants may not want to have a conversation on the phone, whereas other tenants may prefer a phone call as their method of communication. 

We learned this from a local marketing company we used for Custom Exteriors. What stood out to me right from the start was their approach to communication. At the beginning of our relationship, they took the time to ask me about my preferred method of communication. I chose text messaging as I am a bit of an introvert, and I find texting convenient. I also like that it allows for quicker communication than some other methods. This simple act of asking for my preference made the entire communication process better. It also highlighted the importance of understanding and accommodating people’s communication preferences. 

Similarly, when managing rental properties, it’s important to recognize that tenants may have different communication preferences. Because of this, communicating with them may be easier if you utilize their preferred method. By asking tenants about their preferred communication method early on, you can use this method to tailor your communication and hopefully encourage communication. 

Protect your property with clear expectations

Setting clear expectations that your tenants contact you if anything changes about how the property looks or works is important. Whether it’s a leaky faucet, a cracked window, or a loose shingle, tenants should understand the importance of letting you know quickly. The best way to accomplish this is by having an easy and effective way to do so. When tenants move in, explain to them the importance of timely communication. This information often helps prevent minor issues from escalating into costly repairs. 

Additionally, property managers and owners should provide tenants with multiple ways to report maintenance issues. This may include providing contact information for emergency situations, creating an online portal for non-urgent requests, or posting signage with instructions for reporting issues. By making it easy for tenants to communicate maintenance concerns, property managers can ensure that issues are addressed promptly and efficiently. 

Educating tenants on seasonal maintenance tasks

While some tenants may be experienced in home maintenance tasks, it’s important to recognize that not everyone possesses the same level of knowledge or expertise. Many tenants simply may not be aware of how to keep the property in good condition. In our experience, a significant number of tenants are willing to work with you to help maintain the property if they are informed and know how to do so. 

By providing them a list of expectations for exterior maintenance and who is expected to complete the task (you, them, or an outside contractor), you significantly increase your chances of preventing neglect. A basic example of some important tasks looks like this:

1. spring Maintenance

2. Summer Maintenance

3. Fall Maintenance

4. Winter Maintenance

Every list will be unique, based on your particular property and the level of maintenance it requires. But, by providing tenants with a comprehensive list of seasonal maintenance tasks and clear instructions on how to perform them, you can significantly increase the chances they will actually get done.

Depending on your circumstances, this may translate into an outside company doing your exterior maintenance, or maybe you have the time and ability to complete the tasks personally. We are of the opinion that it is irrelevant who completes the tasks as long as they are getting done. On that same property with the leaking gutter, routine maintenance on our part would have also noticed the large sheets of OSB on the grass in the backyard before it killed it. Remember, in addition to protecting your home, it provides you the opportunity to personally lay eyes on the property and possibly save yourself some expenses down the line. 

Ultimately, the success of seasonal maintenance efforts relies on effective communication, clear expectations, and a collaborative approach between landlords and tenants. By working together, we can ensure that rental properties remain safe, well-maintained, and a place that tenants are proud to call home. We encourage you to continue prioritizing exterior maintenance for the benefit of everyone involved. Whether that looks like an exterior maintenance plan or dedicating a Saturday to your rental once a quarter, your bottom line will reflect your efforts! 

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