Maintenance Do’s & Don’ts!
Very often maintenance problems or damage to your fixtures can easily be prevented with a little knowledge and common sense. We encourage you to read this section BEFORE a problem can occur. Residents may be held liable for certain maintenance problems which can be directly attributed to negligent usage.
If you experience an electrical outage of any sort the first place to check is your breaker box. Chances are a circuit has been overloaded and the breaker needs to be reset. Try flipping each switch on the box off and back on again to reset the breakers. Make sure you only do this once as problems can result from activating and suddenly cutting off the power surge. If the electricity does not come back on, check all of your outlets to be sure they are not being overloaded.
If the electricity has gone out in your entire home and resetting the breaker does not restore it, it is likely that there has been a power failure. A good indicator of a power failure would be to check if you notice outside lights on your neighbor’s house are off as well. The gas and electric company should be notified. You should then call your emergency service number to report the problem.
If the electricity is off in only part of your home and resetting the breakers does not restore it, it is possible that you have experienced an electrical short. Lack of electricity in the majority of your home may qualify as an emergency after hours if it affects your refrigerator or other vital areas of your home.
**IF AT ANY TIME YOU NOTICE SPARKS COMING FROM A SWITCH OR ELECTRICAL FIXTURE TURN OFF THE SWITCH AND UNPLUG THE APPLIANCE IMMEDIATELY. Call the problem in and leave the switch off until maintenance professionals or contractors can respond.
Before calling for service on any appliance be sure the cord is securely plugged in and the breaker is not tripped.
The refrigerator will operate most efficiently if the temperature is set between 3 and 8. To determine the best setting, test the temperature of the items inside and adjust accordingly. The freezer setting may be too high if freezer items form ice coating shortly after placing them inside. If you do not have a frost-free refrigerator, the freezer should be defrosted when the ice that forms on the side is no more than 1/4 inch thick. A heavy build-up of frost can severely limit the effectiveness of your unit and increase the electric cost on the utility bill. To defrost the freezer, we recommend placing all items in a cooler and turning the control knob to off or defrost. Allow the ice to melt by placing a pan of hot water inside the freezer. NEVER USE KNIVES OR ANY OTHER OBJECT TO REMOVE ICE! This can cause irreparable damage for which you may be held liable. If your refrigerator fails to operate properly, please call for service.
Keeping your oven clean is very important to the efficient operation of the appliance. In addition, a buildup of grease or food particles left inside or on the stove can facilitate fires. It is best to wipe off the top and inside after each use. A moist towel and mild soap can be used to clean food or grease which has not baked onto the surface. Always place food on a baking sheet or aluminum foil inside the oven. To keep grease from building up on drip pans we suggest wrapping foil tightly around the pan itself, being sure to cover the center hole. When the foil becomes stained, in can simply be removed and replaced with fresh foil. Drip pans and the outside aluminum rings are chargeable to the resident upon moving out when they must be replaced due to negligence.
Be sure to scrape food particles from dishes into the garbage before placing them in the dishwasher. Use only detergents which are specified for use in dishwasher. Before running the dishwasher, make sure that the bottom of the washer bas been cleared of any items which may have fallen there. Make sure all dishes are secure onto the rack, putting bowls and pots on the top rack to keep from blocking water circulating to other areas. Dishwashers should never be left to run in your absence. An undetected leak can cause major damage to floors or carpeting if left unattended. If you notice any water escaping from the dishwasher or the unit fails to operate properly, please turn the machine off and call for service.
- GARBAGE DISPOSAL:
Disposals operate virtually trouble-free when used properly. Please read and carefully follow the procedures outlined below to prevent jammed disposals and clogged drains:
- Turn cold water on to maximum flow position.
- Flip the switch to the on position.
- Push refuse through the splash guard keeping hands away from the inside chamber.
- Continue to run the disposal until the grinding sound stops. Then flip switch to the off position.
- Continue to run cold water for two to three minutes to be sure all of the waste particles have been flushed away.
Below are some Do’s and Don’ts for disposal usage:
*Grind a citrus peel or put baking soda down the drain periodically to keep the disposal odor free.
*Run plenty of cold water during and after operation.
*Grind coffee grounds and eggshells.
*Put your hand down a disposal when it is running – NEVER!
*Use hot water when operating a disposal.
*Try to put too much through the disposal at once.
DO NOT PUT ANY OF THE FOLLOWING ITEMS INTO A DISPOSAL:
Fibrous materials (cornhusks, artichokes, etc) Clam, oyster or nut shells
- Bones Drain cleaner
- Tea Bags Potato or Banana Peels
- Celery Tomatoes
- Grease Wooden objects
- Glass, China or Plastic Dishrags
Metal objects (bottle caps, aluminum foil, Tin cans, or utensils)
If the motor has stopped due to overloading, turn the disposal off. Wait three to five minutes, then push the reset button (often located under the sink on the unit itself). Then follow normal operating procedures.
If the disposal hs jammed, turn the power switch to off before attempting to remove any object. With tongs, remove any object that might be inserted into the mouth of the disposal and turn in a circular pattern to free the blades. Once the movement has been restored to the blades, push the reset button on the disposal unit. Then follow normal operating procedure.
In the event that a toilet or drain stops up, a plunger is often all that is needed to clear the blockage. The following will help determine what to do if you experience a plumbing problem. If it cannot be corrected please call the office for service.
If your toilet should overflow, you can turn off the water supply by turning the shut-off valve in a clockwise direction. The shut-off valve is located under the toilet tank. The water flow can also be stopped by pushing the flap firmly over the hole in the bottom of the tank.
If the toilet is stopped up, try using a plunger to clear the blockage. If this does not clear the blockage and you must call for service you may be charged for the visit if it is determined to be due to over stuffing or foreign objects. If you have only one bathroom a non-usable toilet will be treated as an emergency after hours. Otherwise, the other toilet(s) can be used until maintenance can correct the problem.
There are several items that should never be put into a toilet. These include, but are not limited to, paper towels, feminine products, grease, disposable diapers, bottle caps(or any small metal or plastic items), newspapers, or drain cleaner.
- CLOGGED DRAINS:
Never put grease or hair down a drain.
Always attempt to clear the blockage with a plunger. If that is unsuccessful, use draino or another similar product and let it set for the recommended time on the back of the bottle.
If you are unable to clear the drain, please call for service.
We wanted to write this article for any homeowners with existing home warranties or are thinking about getting one. Our team is having an increasingly hard time working with home warranty companies, please read this article in full.
As we are writing this, Lindsay, one of our property managers, is on the phone with American Home Shield and listening to a recording that says “your wait time is in excess of one hour. Please continue to hold and a representative will be with you.” She is merely trying to follow up on a work order that was recently placed.
While we understand that using a home warranty for repairs can be beneficial for you, we have experienced that home warranty companies make it difficult to provide quality service to your tenants. We have gathered input from our staff and other industry experts on the pros and cons of having a home warranty. Here is some of our findings.
What is a home warranty?
A home warranty is a pre-paid, 1-year service contract with a warranty provider that agrees to repair or replace certain items in your property during the contract term. It is not the same as insurance for your home, but it can provide some piece of mind to homeowners on a budget in case major components in your home need to be repaired or replaced. The main areas that home warranties cover include electrical, plumbing, heating and air, and appliances. It does not include coverage for major items like your roof or foundation.
How does it work?
While prices for home warranties vary by provider and packages, we see the average home warranty at a cost of $550 per year or $46 per month. Keep in mind, an additional service trade fee is still due at the time of service which is between $50 and $100 for each request. If your tenant calls in an issue with the front light and the dishwasher on the same day, the warranty company will send two different vendors and charge two trade fees.
Pros of home warranties for landlords:
- Can help manage the cost of repairs on what the warranty covers
- We tried really hard to think of more pros, but honestly we’re falling short!
Home warranties can be advantageous for new homeowners especially in providing peace of mind. The older your home and its components, the more likely you are to find value in a home warranty. We don’t find that homeowners get the same value in newer properties where repair costs are low. The good news is that the warranty company should take care of the item with no additional charge above the warranty and trade fee call for a normal service repair (i.e. appliance repair, hot water heater repair, etc.)
The only positive feedback we received is that a home warranty can bring a large return on big ticket items, such as water heaters and new HVAC units. Costs for the owners are fractions of the full price that you have to pay if you do not have a warranty.
Cons of home warranties for landlords:
- Delayed time for service
- Does not include preventative maintenance or turnover expenses
- Home warranties will try to repair over and over again to delay replacement, if at all possible
- Each policy comes with a long list of exclusions as well as it does not cover anything they consider to be “pre-existing” or with “too much wear and tear”
- Not set up to handle emergency situations
- Certain costs are not included in the warranty
- Can just be a "waste of money" if not used or big repairs do not happen
Delayed time for service
The most negative impact we have found from home warranties on your tenant and our team is the delayed time for service. Inputting a maintenance request can take in excess of an hour. Most warranty companies anticipate a vendor to make contact with us or your tenant within 72 hours. Warranty companies require parts to be shipped from their warehouse and can even further delay repairs. The vendors home warranties assign rarely follow up and we never receive a copy of the work order notes from the vendor.
Home warranty situations gone terribly wrong
We’ve had some terrible experiences this summer with American Home Shield, First American Home Warranty and Old Republic Home Warranty with regards to extended delay times for service. We had two different set of tenants without air conditioner for over four weeks this summer. We had another resident with no hot water for a month! Air conditioners going out is something we try to prepared for, so our company owns three portable a/c units for instances like these. We do not charge the tenants, or you, the owner, for this service, but we cannot loan out our a/c unit for a month, nor does the unit adequately cool an entire home during summer.
Even with persistent follow up, calls to supervisors and our local reps, the home warranty company was unable to get these repairs made in a realistic time frame. To say these tenants were just upset is a great understatement and does not describe the situation well. The property owners had to offer rent credits in all three scenarios. And No, the warranty company does not agree to reimburse or care about their inadequate response. Our management team sent apology notes and gift cards to our tenants. Your tenants do not love your warranty company; Therefore, they do not likely love you (or us).
Another example of a bad experience with home warranty companies comes from one of our homeowners with Choice Home Warranty that was refused a new outside unit even though their vendor stated the unit needs to be replaced. We’ve paid three service trade fees this year and despite the cost of the home warranty, the homeowner is getting estimates to replace the unit outside of the warranty. This is unfortunately more common than the warranty companies would like to admit. They are a business and are here to make money. They will delay replacement as long as possible and then can find a reason not to replace.
After-Hours Emergencies and your home warranty
Another grave concern regarding the warranty companies and your rental property is that the warranty companies are not set up to manage after hours and emergency services. If you have a home warranty and there is an emergency on the weekend, we will need to work outside of your home warranty. The best example of this is a plumbing emergency. Your home can suffer extensive water damage if a plumber is not dispatched immediately. If we have to shut the water off to the home for an extended period of time in order to mitigate damages to your home, you may be liable to pay for hotel reimbursement for your tenant while you wait on the home warranty. In these instances, you are losing money using the home warranty and it makes more sense to pay outside of the home warranty. Our company has a great relationships with our vendors. Most can provide same day service and will go the extra step to take care of emergencies. You won't have that with home warranties.
To sum it up, time is money
Tenants who wait extended periods of time for normal service are unhappy and an unhappy tenant will cost you. It is our goal to ensure all owners and tenants are happy with service and response times are critical in this satisfaction rating.
If you choose to have a warranty - We need your help
We are willing to work with your home warranty; However, we will need the following assistance from you in order to make it work.
- If you receive a phone call or email from the home warranty company, you must pass along that information to us as soon as possible.
- If you make payments directly to the home warranty company, please send us a copy of that documentation once received and paid.
- First American Home Warranty is now requiring the service trade fee to be paid by a credit card before the vendor will visit the property! We will need you to make this payment as not to delay service. For tax purposes, it’s best that we not place your service fees on our company credit card and bill your account.
- As we do not receive notifications for your plan expiration and renewal, you must be responsible for renewing your home warranty. Please check with us before you renew your home warranty so we can advise on different options and companies.
- Before you purchase a home warrant, do your research and be an educated consumer. Customers expect more from their warranty than it will deliver. Analyze the numbers. If you pay $550, and then have an average of four work orders per year with an additional trade fee, are you likely to make money, lose money, or break even? It may make more sense to set aside money each month in a savings account. You’ll be able to access these funds for any number of reasons including preventative maintenance, turnovers, vacancy, and repairs.
Home Warranty Company Ratings on the Better Business Bureau
We investigated the ratings on the BBB website to size up all the major home warranty providers in our area. If you have a few minutes, read some of the reviews of your home warranty company below. It does not seem we are the only ones struggling with getting satisfactory service. The rating scores are as follows:
- Old Republic Home Warranty - 3.8 out of 5 Read reviews here
- Home Warranty of America- 2.9 out of 5 Read reviews here
- First American Home Warranty- 2.8 out of 5 Read reviews here
- American Home Shield- 2.8 out of 5 (also noted for the longest wait times!) Read reviews here
- Select Home Warranty & Choice Home Warranty 2.5 out of 5 (we do not recommend using these home warranty companies as they don’t have adequate service or coverage in our area)
Nicole St. Aubin
Realty Masters of FL~ (850) 473-3983
4400 Bayou Blvd. #58B, Pensacola, FL 32503
Plumbing issues can be one of a landlord's most troublesome problems!
Whether you have a septic tank or city sewer system, homeowners and landlords alike should respond to repetitive plumbing issues as soon as possible. If you are having issues with water and sewage backing up in your property, there's likely an issue with the main sewer or septic lines on your property.
Just like other items in and around your property, these major plumbing items in your home may eventually need to be replaced.
Replacing your sewer lines, septic tank, or drainfield lines are costly repairs! Why? Sewer and septic lines are buried underneath the ground and hard to access. Heavy machinery must be brought in. We recently had an up close look at drain field lines being replaced at a rental in Pensacola.
Our friends at Ensley Septic Company in Pensacola helped our property owner to install new drainfield lines in their septic system and a complex of townhomes in Northeast Pensacola. The properties were built in 1984 and had a failing drainfield system that was affecting several of the units in the building.
The residents in this building were having sewage back up into their tubs resulting from failing drain field lines connecting to the septic tank. If you have city sewer and are having these issues, it could be a sign of a clog, growth, or break in your sewer lines.
Common signs of drain septic tank or drain field issues:
- Slow draining water at toilets, showers, and sinks
- Bubbling noises
- Sewage back up
Ways to extend the life of your drainfield lines and septic tanks:
- Limit water usage
- Decrease the amount of cleaners and bleach you are using
- Do not use the dishwasher and washing machine at the same time
- Take breaks between loads of laundry
- Be cautious not to use too much water after it rains when your lines are still wet
- Have your tank pumped every couple of years
- It is best not to have a garbage disposal when you have a septic tank
Do not ever flush or introduce the following items into your septic system:
- Coffee grounds
- Paper towels, handi-wipes
- Kitchen greases
- Sanitary napikins, tampons, or condoms
- Small animals or dead fish
- Rangs, strings, or floss
- Disposable diapers
Often, these issues are exasperated by excessive water usage. If you are experiencing sewer or septic issues, limit excess water usage as much as possible to prolong the life of your sewer or septic system.
Weather can also affect the performance of your sewer or septic system. During and after periods of heavy rain, the ground around your septic system becomes too saturated to absorb your waste water.
Septic Tank Companies in Pensacola we recommend:
- Ensley Septic Tank - 850476-9610
- Extreme Pumping and Septic, LLC - 850-999-7800
- Economy Septic Tank - 850-968-5130
#1 in Pensacola Rental Houses
Our friends at Nelson's Appliance helped us with some quick appliance maintenance tips to keep your appliances running efficiently to kick off our new web series "One Minute Maintenance Tips." Take a minute and learn how to keep your appliances running smoother for longer.
The appliance maintenance tips are:
1. Use jet dry in your dishwasher.
2. Always wash your dishes.
3. Run your dishwasher twice a month.
4. Clean refigerator coils.
5. Use garbage disposal twice weekly.
If you have any appliance issues in the Pensacola area, contact Nelson's Appliance at (850) 572-5102 or visit them online at www.nelsonsappliancerepair.com
Nicole St. Aubin, Broker Associate
Here you are staring at the thermostat with the display showing the A/C is set at the lowest setting possible. You expect the house to feel like the inside of your freezer, but the house still feels warm. Some may find this statement all too familiar: "My house won't cool below 68 degrees and I've been running it all day!" In Florida, the days between early May - late August are hot!
The spring and summer seasons provide some of the most enjoyable weather Florida has to offer, but residents would enjoy a reprieve from the heat in their own homes.
The next time you are questioning your A/C - Try out these helpful tips to have a more comfortable, energy efficient Spring and Summer season.
The First Step is to know your Climate
The average humidity in most areas of Florida will be above ~70%. All the constant moisture in the air is going to make the outside temperature feel hotter than it would otherwise be. Your A/C may constantly fight the high outside temperatures to keep the inside of your home cool. Gulf Power recommends keeping your thermostat set on 78 in the spring and summer. One of the reasons for this is that most a/c units simply will not cool below 15-20 degrees of the outside temperature.
Let Gulf Power help with your energy cost
Gulf Power has established a program called Budget Billing to help out cosumers with their higher bills in the spring and summer. With Budget Billing, you will pay approximately the same amount each month based on an average of your previous 12 months' electrical usage. For more information and see if this would work for you; Click here.
Put the Personal Touches on your A/C
Do you have a programmable thermostat? There are low-cost thermostats that allow you to control when your A/C will run. If you are away from home for several hours during the day, it is best practice to set your A/C around your schedule. Gulf Power offers a program called Energy Select that will install a free programmable thermostat in your home. For more information and to see if you qualify; Click Here.
Perform Maintenance Regularly
- Change the A/C filter once a month to allow optimal air flow. Especially if you have pets, the 3 month filters do not last 3 months. We recommend the 1 month filters only for improved a/c efficiency.
- You should plan on flushing the condensation drain line at least once a year. Pour 1 cup of bleach followed by 2 cups of water the next day. There are specific bacterial solutions to clean HVAC condensation lines, but bleach works as well.
Your A/C needs maintenance when:
- It is leaking water outside the unit
- There is frost buidup
- Unit blowing warm air
- Unit is not blowing any air at all
Contact your Property Manager if any of these problems occur and we will gladly send a technician.
If your A/C is set below 72 degrees, your A/C may run all day and not reach the desired temperature due to the heat/humidity of outside; however, that does not mean your unit is not working. Keep in mind, if the technician is sent and no problem is found, you may be billed for a service fee.
Other things you can do to make your home feel cooler
- A good way to beat the heat is to dress for the occasion. Avoid dark color clothes that will absorb heat and try to wear light, natural fabric that will keep you cool.
- Run any ceiling fans around your home that will make it feel cooler than it is. Make sure your ceiling fans are switched for summer.
- Check the doors and windows around your home to ensure hot air is not coming in. Notify us if you find any issues that need to be corrected.
- Make sure all blind/curtains are closed to block sunlight heating up your home.
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