Owning a rental property is a learning experience. Every year, you’ll pick up new skills, learn new things, and—over time—become a more effective and capable property owner. Ask any long-time property manager their secret to success on this front, and they’ll likely tell you this: you need to be able to take on the small projects and repairs while also knowing when you’re at your limit and need a professional. In this article, we’ll review a few of those do-it-yourself friendly property repair tricks that can help you out.
Revitalize the garbage disposal
As the years go by, the blades of your rental property’s in-sink garbage disposal can start to dull. This makes it far less effective at cutting up food—an essential part of preventing drain clogs and even sewer line blockages. Tough, fibrous vegetables, such as celery or broccoli, become incredibly difficult for the disposal to cut through. If your renter has noted that the disposal isn’t running right, or there’s an odor coming from it, it’s time to revitalize it.
Not every garbage disposal needs to be thrown away when its blades dull. Try this DIY remedy: run the disposal and drop a cup of cubed ice and some kosher (or sea salt) down the drain. You’ll hear the distinctive sound of the disposal cutting through ice and salt. This grinding against the ice helps sharpen the blades.
Next, it’s time to tackle the foul odors. Instead of using a store-bought cleaning product, start with lemon. Cut the lemon into slices and feed each into the disposal. The acidity of the citrus will help kill off any odor-causing bacteria, with the bonus of leaving the sink smelling naturally fresh.
Replace the locks
Property owners need to change out front door locks more often than typical homeowners. After all, you never know who your prior tenant gave a copied key to, and it’s essential to give your new tenant the peace of mind that comes with knowing that they’re the only ones with access. Yet, it’s easy to see why many property managers and owners balk at doing this with every new tenant: hiring a locksmith is not cheap.
Here’s the thing: you don’t need to bring in a professional to change the locks. It’s far more comfortable than it initially seems. Many hardware stores sell kits that come with the knobs and locks and instructions for how to replace them. With just a screwdriver—or a drill, if you want to save some time—you can quickly and securely remove the old lock and put the new one in place.
To make things even easier for your future self, you could also spend a little extra money to upgrade to a keypad entry lock. When a tenant moves out, changing the “lock” is as easy as reprogramming the code combination.
Clear out the drains
When your tenant calls you to let you know that the shower, sink, or toilet has clogged, you have two options: call a plumber or drive over and try to fix it yourself. We’d recommend giving the latter path a shot: with the right know-how and approach, many household drain clogs can be quickly cleared out. You’ll want to take a few things with you, or pick them up from the hardware store if you don’t already have them: snake tools, slip-lock pliers, and—of course—a plunger. But, also bring some baking soda and vinegar along.
Start by treating the clog with a 50% vinegar, 50% baking soda mixture. These will react the minute they touch each other, so pour one down the sink, immediately followed by the other. As they combine and reach the clog, they should clear it, or at least help “loosen” it. Then, you can use your snake tool and plunger to go to work and try to remove the clog physically. If that isn’t working, you’ll need to take a more drastic approach. Using your tools, get under the sink, and try disassembling the P-trap.
Of course, at this juncture, if you feel like you’re in over your head, it might be the right call to bring in a plumbing professional. The steps described above should help clear out 80-90% of residential clogs, so anything more challenging than that has probably earned you the right to call in an expert.
Repairs and upkeep made easier
Just as is the case with tough drain clogs, it’s essential to know when you’re at your limit. Even the handiest of property owners inevitably get to a point where they don’t know how to proceed or fix the problem. At that point, you’ll have to swallow your pride and call in a professional. We especially recommend doing this when the stakes are the highest: the repair has to be made quickly (a leaking pipe), the repair is complicated (electrical wiring), or both (air conditioning repair).
For even more excellent property repair tricks, check out this new infographic:
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