Guest Blog: Between Residents: 5 Things You Should Check

Although it’s tempting to just give the place a q...

By Mike Wilson, General Manager, Blue Sky Plumbing

Although it’s tempting to just give the place a quick spit-and-polish before turning it over, after residents leave is a great time to get some preventive maintenance done on your rental property. There’ll be no need to work around the residents’ schedules, no need to move their stuff out of the way, and since the property has been all cleaned out, there’s going to be less unpleasantness, especially in the bathroom, which is a great place to start.

Inspect the bathrooms

Check the tile, grout and caulk in the bathroom. Any water leaking from the shower can penetrate behind the wall and lead to major damage over time. Right now, fixing the grout and touching up the caulking is a cheap repair.

Turn the water on and check the fixtures to make sure they are working properly. Leaky faucets can be nuisances, but they’re fairly easy to fix. When the previous residents left, they might have worked hard to squeeze the faucets shut to stop marginal leaks out of fear that they might be charged, so go around and turn all the water faucets on and off. Turn on the tub valve to ensure the showerhead is still performing well and if it’s a tub and shower combo, engage the diverter. If the head is not flowing well or spitting water out of the tub area, it may be time to replace the showerhead due to hard water deposits, or give it a soak in a scale removal solution. This can prevent the new residents from calling you for service later.

Turn the hot water on and make sure it gets reasonably hot fairly quickly.

Flush the toilet and make sure it fills and shuts off in a reasonable amount of time. The flapper on the flush valve needs replacing every two-three years to keep the toilet operating trouble-free. If you suspect the flapper may not be sealing, add a few drops of food coloring to the holding tank and come back to check to see if any of the dye makes its way down into the bowl after 15 minutes—if so, replace it before a new resident arrives.

Inspect the pipes

While you were in the bathroom, you started looking for water leaks. Now it’s time to complete the job. Follow as much of the pipes as you can to look for leaks. Where you can’t see the pipes directly, look for signs of water damage on the drywall. The sooner you find and repair any water leaks, the lower the cost of repairs.

If you have a washer hookup, now is a good time to check those valves too. If you see any water leaking from around the handle stem, use a small adjustable wrench to carefully tighten the packing nut just a bit until the leak stops.

Also, damage claims from rubber washing machine hoses that burst are very real and costly. This might be a great time to upgrade your hoses to stainless steel braided hoses and avoid the mess, flood risk and risk of having to put your tenants up in a hotel.

While you’re in the laundry area, inspect the dryer vent connection for leaks and clean away any dryer lint from the exhaust fan.

Check and drain the water heater

You tested the hot water in the bathroom. Now check the water heater to see where it set. If the water heater is turned up much higher than you would expect based on the temperature of the water, it could be a sign that the unit is failing. There’s never a great time to replace a water heater, but if you do it between residents, it’s not an emergency and you will have greater flexibility on timing to help you get a better rate.

It’s not a bad idea to have a professional inspection and maintenance performed on your water heater at this time. Even if it seems to be functioning well, it may be getting ready to fail, and it’s better and easier to replace the unit when you won’t have tenants screaming at you about the lack of hot water. If you can’t remember the last time you had the water heater safety-checked, then you’re probably due. This simple professional check can bring you real peace of mind now and later on once new residents have moved in.

If your water heater is less than 10 years old, it may be equipped with a lint screen or two, which should be checked and cleaned. Run enough hot water out of the unit so that it starts to fire up. Listen for any grumbling or popping sounds from the unit, which may develop over the course of the tank reheat phase. If you hear any of these noises, this usually means that the sediment buildup on the bottom of the tank is quite thick. If the unit is approaching 10 years, now may be the time to have it replaced.

Check the forced air system

Whether you have forced air heat, an air conditioner, or both in your rental, this is an area you should always check between residents. Make sure all the filters are clean and turn both systems on to make sure they’re running properly. Though this is usually something that residents will complain about right away if it’s not working; if it broke down at the end of the winter or summer, they may have decided it wasn’t worth the trouble. If the forced air system is equipped with a humidifier, replace the media with a new one.

Again, a professional inspection and/or tune-up of these systems is advised at this time. If a unit needs to be replaced, better now when things are more flexible than when residents are freaking out about the lack of heating or cooling.

Inspect the kitchen

Your kitchen is another potential source of water leaks, so make sure you check all the kitchen faucets and drains. Inspect around the dishwasher for leaks, and turn it on to make sure it’s working properly. Check the stove, the oven, and the microwave to make sure they all turn on, and that the microwave can heat up a cup of water reasonably well. If the refrigerator or icemaker water line is equipped with a water filter, now is the time to freshen up with a new one.

Being sure to inspect these five things between each set of residents will make your life a lot easier and will lead to a more profitable rental over the long term.

Mike Wilson acquired an occupational specialty for HVAC systems while in the marines and later obtained a marketing degree. He’s currently the general manager at Blue Sky Plumbing & Heating located in Wheat Ridge, CO.