So, you’re going to be a landlord…

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The rental market in Chicago is booming.  While there are plenty of professional property managers taking care of large unit buildings and condo conversions, there are even more regular folks jumping in DIY style – and renting out your place can be a great option. Hanging onto a condo or two can provide steady rental income, especially while property values continue to increase.

As a landlord, what can I handle myself?

Depending on the amount of time and attention you have available, there are lots of ways to save money and handle the logistics yourself. The interwebs are full of great resources for putting together lease agreements, finding the right property insurance, and screening potential tenants

And sure, you could spend time putting a fresh coat of paint on the walls or dealing with other maintenance items. But, maintenance and repair could be one area you may not want to – and in some cases should not – do yourself. 

What is the best way to handle repairs when dealing with clogged toilet on a Sunday night or a door lock that gets stuck while you are away or at work? Who should be responsible for assessing the damage? Who pays and how? These are the real questions that most often arise during the tenant-landlord relationship and it’s often the source of great anxiety.  

Luckily, we’ve got a few tips to clarify these issues, which will help you set up a solid plan (because let’s be clear - these issues WILL come up).

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Pre-move-in inspection checklist 

Just like you hire a home inspector to review any issues with a property you are buying, you should do the same with your own property.  Go through a checklist of the interior and exterior structure and systems, things like:

Smoke and CO2 detectors should have fresh batteries and be tested to ensure they’re working properly. Your HVAC should have received annual cleaning/maintenance, and your sump pump (if applicable) should have been tested or serviced (if over 4 years old). All appliances should have a once over to be sure they are in good condition and running properly.  If there are structural or mechanical elements that you know are aging and will need replacement soon, you will need a proactive plan for upcoming repair or replacement. 

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Review that plan with your tenant prior to move in.  

The landlord-tenant lease is a legal agreement, but more so it’s about building trust with your tenant outside of that document.  This tenant will be your eyes and ears in the case of an emergency. Start from a place of mutual respect. Be up front with the condition of the property at move in - just as you expect the tenant to respect the property, show the tenant some respect as well by presenting a property that has been well maintained to begin with.

What’s the communication plan?

Establish a clear communication plan for when there is an issue BEFORE the issue occurs. Who should the tenant call when there is an emergency vs. regular maintenance? Is the tenant authorized to find their own repair person if you aren’t available? What if there is a burst pipe, fire, or other “needs immediate attention” type of issue? Having this set in place can save time, money, and potential damage.

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Enlist a maintenance partner

Consider a strong maintenance partner that can be called in to handle emergencies across a number of disciplines (such as plumbing, electrical, locks, doors, and flooring, among others).  This is especially important if you’re a landlord who can’t provide maintenance on your own (if you live in one state and rent out in another, for example). Furthermore, you want to make sure that whomever you enlist to help is reliable and can get the job done (there’s nothing worse than a professional who doesn’t show up on time or at all!). 


Fixer offers concierge-style service for tenants and landlords to help remedy issues quickly. We can coordinate service appointments directly with your tenants while keeping you informed. We can handle coordination of work approvals, take photos of damage, and can handle emergencies. Unlike traditional property management, there is no monthly fee. We will always be transparent around billing, which means you are only charged for the actual repair and service coordination. You can rest easy knowing your tenants’ maintenance issues are solved promptly and courteously by a skilled handyperson.