Tools of the Trade – Gardener / Handyman
This article is Part 5 in a multi-part series revolving around the Tools of the Trade that any landlord needs to be aware of and probably use. In this series, I will cover the following topics and probably throw in a few others along the way:
To provide a gardener or not to provide a gardener, that is the question
You may be wondering why I think that deciding on a gardener would fall under ‘Tools of the Trade’. There are two main reasons for this.
1. Providing gardening services as part of the rental agreement ensures that the property is well maintained from an outward appearance. If your rental is within a Home Owners Association (HOA), there are typically strict requirements on how a property is maintained. Regardless of the fact that your lease agreement states that the tenant must follow the rules of the HOA, it is still your responsibility that it is taken care of. If the HOA imposes a fine, the fine must be paid by you whether your tenant pays you or now. A HOA typically has rules and regulations that are far reaching and they can easily place a lien on your property if the fines are not paid.
If your rental is not part of an HOA, there can still be many city ordinances that require a certain level of manicuring to be performed on the property or the city can start imposing fines and citations for not abiding by the law. Having your own gardener, whether you perform the service, and employee, or you hire a local gardener, it helps to ensure that the property is always being properly maintained.
2. You always have someone on your side that will perform a quick visual inspection of the property on a regular basis. You can perform a periodic drive-by of the property to ensure the front is being well maintained, but you will have no idea if the tenant is stacking up trash on the side of the house, creating a haven for rodents or a huge fire hazard! Your gardener has no true relationship with your tenant as you are the one paying the bills, so there would be no reason for them to hide anything from you when asked.
Remember, your rental property can be a HUGE investment and you do not want to see your investment go to hell because of the way your tenants are treating the outside of your property!
Finding a qualified gardener
Do you really need someone who went to school for horticulture? Does it really matter if the gardener is a licences contractor? If you are hiring someone to install a retaining wall, build a deck, or some other structural element of the yard, then yes, I would hire a licensed contractor. A licensed contractor will be insured and bonded which will help protect you if there are any issues while the contractor is doing the work and long after the work has been completed. If you simply need someone to mow the lawn and prune some shrubs, either ask your neighbors (someone is bound to use a service) or look in your local Craigslist
A handyman is a must have!
Now I typically perform all of my own repairs, but there have been several instances now that I have had to call someone else in to cover for me. I have hired out large painting projects, had to call my father when a tenant had a major leak and I was 60 miles away at work, and hired a handyman friend to take the lead of a drywall cracking issue because I didn’t have time to focus on that large of a project.
Remember the gardener that you hired above? Believe it or not, these guys usually know someone who is capable of doing almost anything! If you need a painter, ask your gardener who they would recommend. I am sure they have a brother, cousin, or some family member that works for a painting contractor that also does “side work”. Your gardener can be a great resource for this!
Learn to do it yourself! Most issues that you will encounter in your rental do not require paying someone else to do it and most jobs do not require too many specialized tools! Get a book such as The Home Depot – Plumbing 1-2-3 and The Home Depot – Wiring 1-2-3 and subscribe to a handyman magazine such as Family Handyman.
The majority of issues that you will encounter are going to be very minor, such as a stuck garbage disposal, bad light switch or ceiling fan, or plugged toilet or sink. None of which you cannot at least first attempt to tackle yourself.
Now you also need to find someone who you can rely on in, especially in situations where you are not available. Your tenant typically just needs to be assured that someone is working on the situation as best as possible. Having a face show up at their door as quickly as possible is usually the best way to calm your tenant while you figure out how to solve the issue. Remember when I called my father? I had full confidence that he could solve the problem, but really I just need someone who could quickly go to the property and assess the problem and help put the tenant at ease that everything would be resolved in a timely manner. My father was able to determine that the water had entered through the window because the weeper’s were plugged and the night before we had rain combined with wind that was driving the rain into that side of the house. The water was cleaned up as quickly as possible and we were able to address problem that weekend. Rain gutter was plugged and window weeper’s were plugged due to crud from the previous tenants. Simple fix that didn’t cost me one cent other than a couple of hours of time.Questions? Comments? Contact DIY Property Manager!