As a property owner or manager, it’s important to limit your overhead as much as possible to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your investment property. There’s nothing that tips over the proverbial apple cart quite like expensive plumbing repairs. A single water leak, sewer line crack, or slab leak can cost you thousands of dollars, eating into your expected revenue and leading to a lot of headaches and work.
That’s why it’s in your best interest to do whatever you can to avoid major plumbing problems in your property. In this article, we’ll review three approaches to doing just that.
Take proactive steps to protect your property
It’s better to plan than to panic at the moment. While some plumbing issues do pop up out of seemingly nowhere, many others—leaks, sewer line issues, clogs, and faulty water heaters—can be either caught early or prevented altogether with the right preventative maintenance.
Your property’s sewer line, for instance, is potentially vulnerable to damage from overhead tree roots. If you have trees or bushes within 10 feet of the line, talk to an arborist about moving them. Species with slow-growing and less aggressive roots may be able to stay in place, while others with fast, aggressive-growing roots should probably be transferred as a preventative measure to protect the line. While it may seem like a big production, moving a tree elsewhere on your property is far less expensive and stressful than a cracked sewer line.
If you live in a part of the country with cold, below-freezing winter nights—such as here in Nevada—your property may be at risk of frozen pipes under the right conditions. Often, pipes freeze when the property’s furnace stops working. Therefore, scheduling a preventative maintenance appointment with your local HVAC company might be a good idea. You can also have a licensed plumber sheathe your exterior wall pipes in an insulating material—this helps slow down heat loss and buys the property time in the event of the heat going out.
Ultimately, it’s your property. You need to take the steps necessary to protect it. However, that doesn’t mean your tenant can’t be part of the process. Here’s what you should do to engage your tenants in upkeep.
Encourage your tenants to treat the property right
Unlike your own home, you don’t have complete control over what your tenants do in the property on a day-to-day basis. If they’re washing coffee grounds or uncooked rice down the sink, your property is at an increased risk of a sewer line clog. Many renters will deal with clogs with a store-bought drain cleaning product, even though such chemicals can negatively impact pipes over a prolonged period of use.
We recommend you talk to your renters at move-in about these things. For a vast majority of renters, the issue is just ignorance; they’ve never heard about what they can or cannot put down the garbage disposal or the toilet. In other cases, it’s access to cleaning products. Some property owners get around this by furnishing the property with some basic drain cleaning supplies—plungers, snake tools, and more. This encourages the renter to use these already-bought tools instead of independently buying and using drain cleaners.
Finally, let your renter know what to look for when it comes to the property’s plumbing, water heater, and sewer line. Above all, establish good communication with them. If your renter knows what to watch out for and they feel comfortable texting or calling you when there’s an emergency, you’re going to be able to respond to it that much faster, potentially preventing hundreds of dollars in damage to your property.
When something goes wrong, call a professional you can trust
The last thing you want to be doing during a plumbing emergency is trying to find a local plumber. Not only does this slow down your response to the problem, but it also can result in hiring someone unqualified, unlicensed, or untrustworthy. Also, in your rush, you’re less likely to get a competitive quote for the work. This could result in more expensive plumbing repairs than necessary. It’s not the way you want to do things.
Instead, spend time now to put together a list of several plumbers in your area who are the right fit. You can vet out plumbers by asking about their certification, experience, insurance, and whether or not they offer 24/7 emergency service. Take the best plumber out of this group and make them your first call when something goes wrong. But, keep a few others on your list in case your usual plumber is unavailable.
Doing this homework ahead of time can make an emergency a lot less stressful for you and your tenant. It also speeds up the response to the plumbing emergency, which can prevent hundreds or thousands of dollars in damage. After all, when your home has a leaking pipe, every minute counts.
Avoid the most expensive (and stressful) plumbing repairs
As a final tip, you should build an emergency fund set aside specifically for your property. Even when you take precautions and invest in preventative maintenance, some plumbing emergencies are just bound to come up. The best you can do is respond quickly and act decisively.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive overview of the most expensive plumbing projects and how you can take steps to avoid them, be sure to take a look at this infographic. It breaks down the cost of repairs for slab leaks, sewer lines, and pipe leaks.
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