Rental properties inevitably withstand a fair amount of wear and tear during their lifetimes. That’s why it’s important to keep up with regular maintenance throughout a lease, says RentCheck co-founder Lydia Winkler.
Winkler and her co-founder Marco Nelson launched the automated property inspection startup in June 2019 to help eliminate disputes between landlords and tenants when it came time for security deposits to be returned at the end of a lease.
Renters conduct their own property inspections using the RentCheck app, which directs renters through the inspection and takes time-stamped photos of all inspection points, eliminating any need for in-person contact. Then both renter and property manager or landlord sign off on the inspection results.
Winkler told Inman that over the years the company has learned a lot about some of the most common problem areas that can result in a security deposit not being returned in full to a tenant. She suggested that property managers be proactive about maintenance with the four following items in order to keep tenants happy with a fully returned deposit and to avoid maintenance headaches for landlords in between leases.
With all the food that flies around them, kitchens can become particularly grimy places in an apartment. Aside from more predictable areas like inside appliances (microwaves, refrigerators, stoves, etc.) kitchens can also quickly accumulate food and grease residue in more easy-to-miss areas like ceilings and walls.
Winkler recommended some friendly reminders for tenants about clean practices, like covering food when using the microwave and using the self-cleaning feature on the oven every few months, in order to avoid confronting a huge kitchen mess at the end of a lease.
Winkler recommended that landlords be sure to change air conditioning filters regularly (or have tenants do so themselves, if they’re competent to do so) so that HVAC units continue to operate smoothly and at full strength.
“That’s one of the most expensive things that landlords have to pay to replace and changing the filter really helps prevent that,” she said. Also keeping an eye on any evidence of HVAC unit leaks is also wise, she said, since the sooner the problem is detected, the easier (and cheaper) it is to fix.
Garbage disposal and kitchen sink
Issues with the garbage disposal and the kitchen sink often go hand in hand. Since these items are also used frequently, they’re pretty prone to wear and tear. Winkler said problems with these two items are among the most frequent inspection issues reported on the RentCheck platform.
In addition to the garbage disposal and the kitchen sink, Winkler added that blinds are also a problem area more commonly seen on the platform. As something that’s often touched multiple times on a daily basis, blinds are prone to issues over time. “That’s a pretty common thing that just happens over time, depending on the quality of the window treatments,” Winkler said.
Regular inspections and maintenance help avoid headaches
Winkler said a lot of the conflicts that result between renters and landlords because of problems with the aforementioned maintenance pain points can be eliminated by routine apartment inspections. Property manager users of RentCheck, for instance, can prompt their residents to complete guided inspections of their apartment through the RentCheck app on a quarterly basis, if they so desire.
“Just by regularly getting visibility or increasing the visibility on rental units, you’re able to address issues before they become bigger issues,” Winkler said. “Most landlords we talk to, it’s not like they’re making money off of the security deposit — they want to give it back to the residents. But what kills them is [unit] vacancy. So if they have so many things that need to be fixed in between tenants, then those months of vacancy is what makes them lose money.”
An interesting byproduct of doing the regular inspections is that residents are often more motivated to clean and keep up the condition of their apartment, knowing that an inspection is coming up, she added.
“Tenants have an [inspection] due date and sometimes they’ll message us saying, ‘Can I have an extension? I want to clean more,’ because it just forces them to clean, because there’s photos of their home and they want to clean before the property manager or landlord sees,” Winkler said.