The winter months draw to a close. Winters in Texas are mild, and spring comes early, but don’t be fooled! Texas winters bring their own challenges to owning and maintaining a commercial or residential rental property. A thorough property inspection and seasonal maintenance is a vital element of your spring regimen. Spring is also the time to do any repairs before the hot weather arrives. Are you getting started as a landlord? Use these spring maintenance tips.
Exterior – The Big Job
Let’s start with the exterior. Whether from winter storms or the expansion and contraction of freezing and thawing ice, winter can wreak havoc on exterior property. A thorough inspection will detect any problems which could affect habitability and give you things to list that you can work on over time or negotiate with tenants to fix.
Note: leases should spell out who is responsible for maintaining each area of the property. If you’re considering giving a break on rent to a tenant in exchange for doing maintenance or yard work, keep the potential for liability in mind if they should fall off a ladder.
- The Roof: If the roof is relatively new, a visual inspection with a pair of binoculars should suffice. If older, it might be a good idea to get out a ladder and take a careful look. Feel if the decking sags under your weight. Insurance doesn’t cover decking or other wear and tear unless the roof is not up to code, so don’t wait for a hail storm. Do check for missing or damaged shingles, abrasions from branches rubbing on shingles, and any gaps where nails may have pushed up the tabs on shingles allowing water to seep in. Circular abrasions are from hail strikes and should be reported to your insurance company immediately.
- Chimneys: While looking the roof over, check brick or masonry chimneys for missing or damaged bricks or stones. Also, see if anything is growing from the side or top. If so, you have cracks that require repair before the plant roots spread the break wider. Check the condition of the mortar and look for efflorescence.
- Windows: check for loose or missing caulk or weatherstripping, and any air getting through. These should be fast and straightforward repairs, best done before the hot weather arrives.
- Screens: remove and clean with a brush and soapy water or even a soapy push broom. Pressure washing can damage the mesh.
- The Foundation: Walk all the way around and examine for cracks or signs of other damage. The clay soil here in Texas is very slippery, and foundations take a hammering as badly as roofs do from hail and ice. Cracks should be fixed by a professional using an injected two-part epoxy, just caulking it yourself won’t do at all.
- Walls: Check for cracks or bowing, as they are an indicator of foundation trouble. Don’t let foundation and wall repairs wait. While inspecting, note any places with chipped or peeling paint on walls or trim. Also, check for any access points (holes or gnawed spots) for rodents or insects. If you see tiny holes near window sills or soffits, that’s a place for ants to get in. Spring rains can flood their underground nests, and they’ll be heading for higher ground and looking for ways in. Caulk with pure silicone to close their access point. If you see a trail of ants going in, dust borax powder on them.
- Exterior faucets: turn them on if they’ve been off for the winter. Test that they work and don’t leak.
- Walkways, driveways, patios, and decks: inspect for damage or cracks. Repair them before the damage gets worse.
- Gutters and downspouts: clean and make sure water flows away from the building foundation.
- Landscaping: Look for storm and cold damage to foliage on exterior plants. Your landscape company can prune foliage away from power lines, as well as aerating and fertilizing unless you’re planning on doing it all yourself.
- Sprinkler system: now that the exterior water is on, you’ll want to make sure there are no leaks, and that the settings are such that spring rains don’t make running the sprinkler pointless.
- Exterior security fixtures: check that exterior lights and motion detectors are working, replace any bad bulbs, and if there are cameras make sure they’re working the way they’re supposed to. Check locks and hinges for damage or significant wear.
The Interior – An Inside Job
Head inside now to the interior of the property. This is a lot less work and expense, but damage can be more subtle. Tenants will typically let you know if there is leakage or other damage in their space if they know. Ask them to do a quick spring check.
Things tenants can look for:
- Stains in ceilings. Have them use the flashlight on a smartphone (it’s very bright and will make stains show) to examine corners of closets and dimly lit rooms. Any stains mean you should check the roof and attic for leaks.
- Look in closed cupboards. Any rodent droppings or dead insects should be checked into right away.
- Have them unscrew the aerators on sinks and wash out any sandy grainy buildup to keep their water flowing smoothly.
- Vacuuming/cleaning refrigerator coils. Many modern refrigerators don’t have exposed coils but if the ones in your building do, make sure the lease spells out that the tenant is required to do this once a year.
Common areas of the building (laundry rooms, hallways, entrances, storage areas, elevators, stairway, and carpets therein) and anything the building has for its maintenance (janitor closets, furnace/boiler rooms) are the purviews of the landlord. A spring check and maintenance of these areas will include:
- Look for mold or staining to indicate moisture, and soggy drywall or sagging paint. Any moisture or mold in the walls or ceilings needs to be dealt with immediately, or it can make a building uninhabitable. Mold remediation is expensive if left for long or discovered late.
- Turn on the air conditioning system. Here in Texas, there’s only a week between winter and ninety-five degrees temperatures.
- Change air conditioner and furnace filters.
- Check the attic for evidence of water damage, rodent infestation or insects. Droppings or urine on top of vent pipes are a sure sign, and rodents will leave walking trails or tunnels through loose insulation. If insulation is wet or matted down, check the roof above for leaks.
- Clean dryer vents, vacuum or blow out any lint buildup. This buildup can be very flammable.
- Inspect hardwood floors and carpets for damage from tracked in mud or snow from the winter.
- Check batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Don’t wait for the device to start chirping to indicate low battery. Replace in spring or use a battery tester to see how drained batteries are.
Real estate investments are sure to grow in value over time, but to maximize return on this Dallas investment and protect from loss, a good maintenance regimen is essential. If this exhaustive checklist is too much, consider contacting a professional. At Uptown Dallas Properties, we bring our expertise and knowledge to keep property professionally maintained and attractive to current and potential tenants. Click here to contact us today! You can also download our free “Guide to Finding the Best Dallas Property Management Company” for helpful information you can use to interview property managers in your area.