According to the City of Fort Collins’ Rental and Occupancy study, about 46% of Northern Colorado families are renters — and the demand for more rental homes is still outweighing the supply. Since so many local residents are renting from a landlord or property management company, it is important to ask: who takes care of the furnace?
For Tenants: What You Need to Know About HVAC Maintenance
First, we’ll look at the tenants’ need-to-know items to maintain their home and living situation while still protecting their financial interests and also those of their home’s owner.
1 – Read Your Lease
The best advice for any tenant maintenance question is to first read your lease agreement. If you do not have an active lease agreement with your landlord or property manager, it is critical that you either get one as soon as possible or search for a new place to live.
Your lease is essentially your protection against the claims the property’s owner could use against you. This protection takes the form of outlined agreements made between yourself as the tenant and the landlord or manager on behalf of the owner.
Basically, if your lease says you need to maintain or worry about the lease, then it is your responsibility to understand what that means and ensure that the maintenance gets done; if your lease isn’t clear or obviously states that isn’t necessary for your property (as is the case with some multi-family homes), then you shouldn’t have to worry about HVAC maintenance.
2 – Understand Your Responsibilities
If your lease does indicate that you’re on the hook for some maintenance responsibilities of the HVAC system, it is very important that you understand exactly what those are.
In many cases, this will be limited to regularly changing out the furnace air filter and reporting anything else to the landlord. However, it is possible that regular AC unit or furnace repairs, annual maintenance, or even replacements could ultimately be your responsibility — especially if your normal outlined responsibilities aren’t met.
Talk with your landlord or property manager about your responsibilities and ask questions sooner than later to fully understand the scope of their expectations. It’s best to do this at the time of lease signing, if at all possible.
3 – Get It In Writing
Another great piece of general advice when dealing with your property manager or landlord is to get things in writing and HVAC maintenance expectations are no different.
If possible, get their expectations clearly written out if the lease doesn’t do a satisfactory job. You can email or text them your questions or, for verbal conversations, send an email recap and then save the correspondence in your records for your future reference and protection.
Once you have the routine down, anytime you change the air filter or perform your end of the agreement, be sure to let the landlord know via text or email so that your good-faith effort is well documented.
For Landlords: How to Protect Your HVAC System
As the owner or manager of a rental property, your goals are often aligned with, but different from, that of the tenant. It is in your best interest to ensure that the property generates solid monthly cash flow, which means keeping capital expenditures — such as an untimely furnace replacement — down. We’ll assume you know all about that and talk about the specifics behind setting up systems to protect your investment property’s HVAC.
1 – Know Your Property
Whether you have one investment property or one-hundred, it is critical that you have records and/or knowledge of each property’s HVAC system.
Here are some ways you can keep track of your property’s HVAC:
- Keep good records – Most experienced property managers will tell you that the secret to keeping track of your investments is through good record keeping. Keep the manuals to all of your furnace and AC units and store them with your files on the property, at the very least.
- Inspect the system regularly – There are multiple ways you can inspect your HVAC systems. You can do routine inspections or visits during tenant occupancy (if your lease allows for this), schedule maintenance inspections with a service expert, and/or look into your units during vacancy periods. We recommend all of the above.
- Understand the maintenance needs of your system – Once you fully understand how to maintain the system as if you lived there, you can then set up your tenant’s for success in maintaining the system with you. Until you know how it should work, it’ll be tough to expect that process to happen smoothly.
2 – Make Expectations Clear & Easy to Achieve
Every property manager should have two basic goals: happy tenants (low vacancy) and well-maintained units (low cap-ex). One of the best ways to ensure this is your path is through clear expectations and communication with your tenants.
When building your lease and meeting with your prospective tenants, make your expectations on home maintenance, including the HVAC, known. Structure your lease to support the type of HVAC care you’re hoping for and deliver that clearly to the tenants from day one.
Many local landlords will take this a step further to make things as easy as possible for the tenants. Some things you could try include:
- Purchasing common maintenance items, such as air filters, in bulk for your tenants to use. Remember, a few air filters is a lot less expensive than a new furnace!
- Sending your tenants a text or email whenever an air filter needs to be changed or when another maintenance item should be taken care of.
- Setting up HVAC maintenance plans in advance with the team at Lion Home Services by setting it up yourself or allowing the tenant to book a time that works best for them.
3 – Follow Through
The relationship between tenant and landlord is one that should be built first and foremost on a foundation of trust and mutual respect for the care of the property. They want to live in a clean, safe place and you want happy tenants with well-maintained units.
At the end of the day, the property is ultimately the responsibility of the owner or manager. It is your job to ensure that your tenants follow through on their end of the bargain and that the system is cared for, easy to maintain, and works well for your tenants. As a health and safety item, heating is not an optional fixture in Northern Colorado units, which absolutely makes it your job to ensure that the system works at all times.
If you’d like to take some of the questioning and guesswork out of the equation, you can entrust regular care and maintenance of your furnace, air conditioning, and ventilation systems to the team at Lion Home Services.
Contact us to learn more or schedule a consultation today!