This is a frequent question asked of themselves by many rental property owners/landlords in the greater Orlando area. So it goes a little like this….

You’re away for the weekend. You are having a great time and then your phone buzzes. It’s a text message from your tenant saying the hot water heater broke. You immediately think, crap, here comes an expensive repair that I did not plan on…..unless I can do the maintenance myself?

Some landlords may feel comfortable or even obligated to do a repair themselves so that they can save money. On the other hand, what if you get in over your head and potentially make things worse. Now you have wasted your time, have an angry tenant, may have potentially exposed yourself to a costly liability and you could still be needing the water heater fixed PROPERLY. It all starts to get real expensive, real quick !

Here are some important points to help you determine whether or not you would want to do the repair yourself or need the expertise of an outside (licensed) contractor or qualified repair service

1. Time is Money

Depending on the nature of the repair, time is a critical component. Some landlords are part-time landlords and full -time professionals elsewhere. Others are full-time landlords with dozens of units. So unless you are retired or have time on your hands, it is difficult for most landlords to break away for their already busy lives to take care of repairs. Now you have to take the time from your already hectic life to run out to the property to assess what the tenant is complaining about, determine what you need to do in order to fix it, run to your local hardware store, and go back hoping you got the right part.

Landlord Tip: Determine for yourself how much is 1 hour of your time worth in $$. Then keep a time clock of how much of your time in $ terms the repair begins to cost you from the moment you answer the phone

2. Do I need a license?

There are many repairs that a landlord should not even attempt to make on their own unless they have the necessary training, qualifications and/or experience. Not to mention there are also legal requirements that will require certified and insured worker to perform certain maintenance repairs. If you have a tenant who has been complaining about constantly changing the bulb to a specific light fixture or the circuit breakers are continuously shutting off, then a qualified electrician should be called.

Before you start any work it is a good idea to find out whether or not a license is needed. Certain repairs will need formal permitting thru the City or County. If not done correctly then fines can be assessed to the Owner. The most common issues that require licenses are plumbing, air conditioning, roofing, environmental hazards and electrical work. If you find that you don’t need a license, you should still use precaution depending on how risky the project is.

Here is a big warning; there have been numerous cases where landlords have filed insurance claims to recover the costs of repairs and accidents and the property insurance companies have refused to pay out due to owners/landlords, doing the work themselves or using unlicensed contractors in an attempt to save money.

3. Asking the tenant do to the repairs

There are minor repairs the tenant can handle themselves such as, tightening a door knob, changing out broken outlet covers, changing light bulbs and so on, however for bigger repairs such as AC not cooling, water leaking from the bathroom ceiling vent you should call a qualified professional. Indeed the small repairs should be a part of the lease to ensure the tenant addresses them rather than immediately picking the phone up and calling you.

You do not want the tenant handling any significant repairs in the home as there are many things that can happen and needless to say LIABILITY. The tenant may want a discount in rent for services performed unless you have it in the lease that they are responsible for maintenance costs under a certain value. Also consider that the tenant may not do it properly or to your expectations. Not to mention, they may not have the time and it just won’t get done! Failure to correct repairs can be far more costly in the long run.

Just like marketing, screening and moving in processes, need a system, so do your repairs and maintenance. You will want to have a reliable system in place when repair requests come in. Build relationships with vendors and handymen that live near your investment so that you they may access your property quicker, especially if you do not live near your rental property. It also takes the liability away when you use a professional since they guarantee their work. You may pay a little more to start with but the true cost over time is almost always lower.

So after all these considerations you should now turn back to the point raised in #1 above. How much is it worth in YOUR TIME in DOLLAR terms to NOT have to do this and to have a system in place and the appropriate repair people to solve the problems

We are sure you will find there is a significant cost saving to you in the “invisible” form of your own time .