The interesting thing about real estate is that there’s always something that needs to be done. Nothing ever stays pristine, because there’s always weather, dust, and the wear and tear that come from people living in a space.
I find it important to prioritize repairs, because I have only 24 hours in each day and 7 days in each week. There’s an upper limit to the amount of time I have to clean and repair things, and since the money I allocate to tenant-related and tenant-requested repairs is limited by the rent I receive from renting out the room, I have to pick and choose in terms of what gets done first.
There’s an entire category of repairs that are urgent. Anything that presents a health or safety hazard has to be fixed immediately, followed by anything that disrupts key services such as water, sewer, heat, or electricity. One plugged toilet is a nuisance; when the entire sewer line is blocked until nothing can drain, it’s an emergency. Indeed, most states provide means for abatement or rent reduction if a dwelling is uninhabitable.
Some kinds of pest infestation are an emergency. If there’s a colony of black widow spiders or brown recluse spiders creeping out of your attic, it is physically dangerous for occupants or animals to be inside until the infestation has been dealt with. One of my nieces just had to deal with a scorpion infestation, which was particularly odd since she lived on the second floor. However since the scorpions in question weren’t lethally venomous the landlord got away with spraying next time the bug guy came around. I gave my niece a container of the nastiest Raid product I could find so that she could hose down every window, doorway, switch plate, and vent to deter any more creepy-crawlies from wiggling through.
Slightly less urgent are emergencies that involve waste or a deteriorating condition. A running toilet or a leaky tap will waste water and increase your operating expenses, but it won’t affect the value of your home in the long term. A roof leak, however, will gradually deteriorate and become more serious over time. Depending on your climate, various molds and mildews may start to compromise your drywall and flooring to the point where they will be destroyed. Stachybotrys, or “black mold”, is one of the most toxic molds that has been implicated in many cases of asthma, allergies, and sicknesses. Mold remediation is a very expensive process due to the need to not disturb the mold and cause spores to be released into the air. Yet most cases of mold are completely preventable, if people simply find and fix leaks.
Other examples of potentially deteriorating conditions include broken door stoppers that lead to accidental wall damage, or loose screws on cabinet doors that are in danger of becoming stripped. These have a level of urgency proportionate to the cost of the repair, but the repairs should be made if only to continue to allow you enjoyment of your building.
The least important kind of repair is the purely cosmetic repair: the cracked tile, the chipped mirror, or the chipped paint. Much of these repairs are normal wear and tear, and the best time to address them is between tenants when you are doing a lot of painting and touch-up work anyway.after a tenant has moved out.