As a commercial property owner, you have a duty of care to those who are on your premises. According to the risk assessment firm Verisk, jury awards in premises liability case awards skyrocketed nearly 1000% over the past decade resulting in approximately $22 million in claim payouts. This should be a sobering wake-up call for landlords everywhere that property maintenance is essential as part of their risk management strategy.
Whether you manage a small four-unit apartment building or are fifteen-story tower in a busy downtown area, it’s important to stay on top of maintenance issues that could pose a danger to the well-being of those using your facilities.
The following six property maintenance tips can help you do just that so your work orders don’t sidetrack your day-to-day operations.
1. Don’t Overlook Exterior Maintenance Issues
The biggest draw to your commercial property is the impression it makes when visitors first arrive. Your entranceway has beautiful landscaping, your signage is visible, and the many amenities offered in your building help customers and tenants value your property. But, aside from regularly picking up litter and watering your shrubbery, what other care does your building’s exterior and surrounding grounds require?
For example, have you noticed that some of your curbs seem to be missing concrete or that tree roots have begun warping one of your walkways? Leaving these issues on the back burner is a recipe for some getting hurt and suing your company for the damages. Instead, you should work with a reputable commercial paving company immediately to repair your parking lot, curbs, sidewalks, and other paved structures.
The exterior of your building is just as important as the interior, so take time to regularly walk the property and take note of any damage or overly outdated features that need attention.
One of the biggest appeals of your commercial property is the many features it offers. Whether you house a state-of-the-art data center, standalone clothing store, or daycare, it’s important to recognize that curb appeal is a driving factor of business. If your building’s exterior is starting to look run down, has damage, or appears outdated, you may need to pay attention to important maintenance duties. This not only improves safety but adds a much-needed boost to your building’s curb appeal.
2. Take Daily Walks Around Your Commercial Property
If you’re always surprised when a tenant requests a repair, you may need to be more aware of your property’s condition than you are. Unfortunately, this is a frequent problem for landlords simply because they spend a significant part of their day focused on other issues, like accounting for rent, conducting lease audits, and touring prospective renters through a rental model.
The best way to stay connected with maintenance needs is to make walking the grounds daily a part of your normal work routine. For example, you may discover on your stroll that an external faucet has been steadily leaking and eroding a flower bed located by a stairwell or that a tenant’s bathtub has been slowly leaking and weakening a lower floor’s ceiling.
You’ll enjoy getting away from your desk for a little bit and having the chance to recognize what property features you offer and the care required to maintain them.
3. Stop Pests Before Infestation
Being an experienced landlord, you already know where you see one, and there are probably a hundred more. Pest infestation is a serious problem which is why you need to immediately reach out to an extermination crew when creatures like cockroaches, spiders, mice, and cockroaches are spotted, or evidence of their presence is found.
You should also understand that controlling control the pest population in and around your rental properties requires ongoing maintenance. For instance, by having your handyman figure out how bats are getting into a tenant’s garage, they can seal off this entrance and prevent any more from getting inside and doing further damage.
4. Pay Close Attention to Water Leaks
Nobody likes the smell or look of mold and mildew, so your maintenance crew must deal with leaky faucets and waterlines ASAP when they’re spotted. This will go a long way in preventing a pervasive mold issue and taking appropriate remediation measures to deal with it once and for all.
Consider conducting semi-annual inspections to check on the health of water heaters, too. When one of these units fails, flooding water can cause serious damage on multiple floors. The same routine should be scheduled for inspecting roof shingles and any exterior siding. When severe weather passes through, it’s not uncommon for these surfaces to be compromised and need repair.
5. Have a Plan When Mother Nature Strikes
Being a landlord requires managing major events like fire, flooding, and severe storms that can leave your property in shambles. Even extreme heat waves can cause roof damage as sealant shrinks, warps, and cracks, exposing your roof’s understructure to damaging moisture. The damage caused by these events is often beyond your control, but how you conduct the recovery process is.
Disaster planning isn’t just for government buildings and families. As a landlord, you will be the primary point of contact for tenants and local emergency services if a fire destroys your building or a tornado removes your roof. Therefore, you need to have answers available about how your commercial management company will conduct repairs, submit insurance claims and which contractors to call to begin the clean-up and rebuilding processes.
Keep this document in a safe place, such as a fireproof safe or an online drive, so that you can access it anywhere. You should also take time to review it once a year to update any contact information, tenant lists, and asset inventories to make the claims process easier.
6. Develop Relationships with Local Contractors
When a pipe bursts in a third-floor rental unit, who will you call? Think again if your answer is the first company that can immediately dispatch a plumber. Making contracting decisions on the fly is a gamble because you will need more time to thoroughly view any work warranties, bonding, or reviews of the service you’re hiring.
Be sure to become familiar with a general contractor or plumber before disaster strikes. Do your research now, make some phone calls, and locate repair professionals that you can put on a preferred contact list for specific maintenance issues that require expert knowledge. For instance, if you live in a region that experiences significant snowfall each year, make sure to book clearing services before the year’s first snow. Then, book their services earlier in the year. This will ensure you get prompt service because you’re already established.
Without a doubt, landlords have a plateful of responsibilities to keep track of, and maintenance can quickly overwhelm an already full workday. However, by incorporating the preventative maintenance tips mentioned above, you can easily manage risks on your property and minimize their impact on your tenants and overall operations.