How to avoid the most expensive plumbing repairs in your rental

No one owns a rental property as a fun weekend hobby. It’s an investment. Successful rental property ownership and management is earning more in rental income than you spend on the mortgage, fees, and overhead. Nearly every long-time property owner or manager has a horror story to share about “that year,” where a single disastrous event in the property wiped out their entire return on investment. If you were to collect these stories, you’d be surprised at the number that involve pipes and plumbing.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the best ways to avoid major plumbing problems in your rental property, as well as what you should do if you encounter a serious issue.

Be proactive

When it comes to your rental property, it’s far better to be proactive than reactive. With the former, you’re in charge of the situation and actively working to prevent issues. This means less expensive surprises. A property owner who doesn’t put any work or forethought into maintaining their rental is in for a world of hurt.

Consider your property’s sewer line. This vital artery carries wastewater away from the property to the municipal sewer. For the most part, the sewer line works as intended without issues. However, sewer line clogs and leaks can be expensive and disastrous. To protect your property, you need to protect your sewer line.

There are several ways to do this. First, have a conversation with your renter at move-in about the importance of disposing of grease and certain types of food waste separately, instead of putting it all down the kitchen sink drain. Thirsty tree roots can also threaten sewer lines. If you have trees within 10 feet of the buried line, you may want to talk to a local arborist about having them safely moved.

You may never end up seeing the benefits of this preventative approach to plumbing. After all, a successful strategy here results in nothing happening. But, over the long haul of many years of property ownership, this mindset can help you avoid countless problems.

Talk to your renters

It’s hard enough to care for your own home. Preventing problems in a rental property is even harder: you’re not there to see what’s going on, and you’re reliant on your tenant to quickly notify you of problems. It’s in your best interest to communicate effectively and be clear about when and why your renter should contact you. After all, it’s in your renter’s best interest to avoid major plumbing problems, too.

At move in, talk to your renter about communication. If you have a work cell phone, give them your number so that they can call or text you—many renters feel far more comfortable texting than calling, especially when what they’re dealing with is serious, but not quite an emergency. Tell your renter what they should look out for: if you know the water heater is old, ask them to call you if they notice anything wrong with it.

When it comes to avoiding major plumbing repairs and catastrophes, your renter can be a part of the solution. They’re your eyes and ears inside the property: set up clear rules for communication, and you’ll quickly see the dividends in a crisis.

Act quickly

Of course, if you want to keep the trust of your renters, you need to take fast action when they clue you in on a problem. Procrastination is the enemy of all property owners. You need to fight through the temptation to put your rental property’s problems on the proverbial back burner.

This is especially true when the problem is seemingly small and not yet quite an emergency. For example, if you renter calls you to report that water is pooling around the bottom of the water heater, you may not feel as if you have to act that very second. However, given that a tank leak could be an early warning sign of a tank burst and flooding, you’ve been given a gift in the form of a timely alert.

Calling in a plumber at this stage could save you and your renter a lot of trouble and expense.

Start taking steps to protect your rental property

Here’s the bad news: you won’t be able to prevent 100% of plumbing problems in your rental property. Some things just happen, and you don’t have control over everything. However, by following the recommendations above, you can prevent a large number of potentially expensive problems. It’s a battle worth fighting.

For even more information on how to best prevent sewer line, pipe, water heater, and slab leak issues, be sure to check out this infographic: