A landlord scrooge will do whatever it takes to spend as little as possible to maintain their property. The ironic thing is that they often find it difficult to hang onto tenants, resulting in higher vacancy rates and more associated costs.
Melbourne property manager Marcel Dybner says a scrooge landlord won’t pick up the phone when he rings. Sometimes, this can go on for weeks on end. “They’re usually the first one to call the property manager looking for the rent, though,” Dybner, head of property management at Besser & Co, adds.
A good landlord realises that keeping the property to a high standard not only maintains their investment, but also increases the likelihood of the tenant staying on for longer. And a long-term tenant is better for the landlord because it saves them money on leasing fees, advertising and vacancies.
“For some properties, the maintenance seems to never end. It’s when the property needs love that the tenants decide if the owner is a good landlord of a ‘slumlord’,” Dybner says.
“Maintenance is a part of life when you’re a property investor. If your property needs a fresh coat of paint or the garden needs doing, it’s in your best interests to tend to it. There are lots of things you can do to make sure it doesn’t break the bank and overtake any returns you’re making,” he says.
Work with your property manager to get a number of quotes, as their tradesmen have been vetted for quality and price, he says.
“What scrooge landlords don’t realise is that most property managers have had relationships with their tradespeople for a long time, and vetted them to make sure they were charging a reasonable price for their services.”
The benefit of using a tradesman that your property manager has worked with for a long time is that if something needs to be fixed that’s perhaps a little outside the scope of what they do, they’ll just see to it – like tightening a tap, clearing out a gutter or touching up some painting, Dybner adds.
Miriam Sandkuhler, who is an accredited property investment adviser and director of Melbourne’s Property Mavens, sees the consequences of landlords not spending on maintenance and property upgrades all the time. She’s seen situations where a tenant has a stove with just one working hotplate.
“Don’t forget that landlords have legal obligations to maintain their property. If they’re taking the position that you don’t want to spend, remember the consequences, which are that letting things go could detrimentally affect the value of your home, resulting in a loss of capital growth.”
Sandkuhler, author of Property Prosperity: 7 Steps to Investing Like an Expert, says landlords should inspect their properties at least twice a year if possible, and engage a property manager who has enough time and staff to adequately look after a property rather than just be putting out spot fires.
Getting on top of maintenance has other advantages, too.
“Treating tenants with respect and them respecting your property is a two-way street,” Sandkahler says. “They can easily take the position of not letting you know about leaking water because you don’t normally do anything about their maintenance requests, and before you know it you’ve got flooding under the house.”