Rental Property Maintenance Checklist, Part One: Plumbing

rental property maintenance plumbing and water heater secured with straps in earthquake prone areas of the country

Rental property maintenance checklist part one is plumbing, the first in a three-part series provided by Landlord Gurus.

By Eli Secor

It is easy for rental property maintenance expenses to get out of control, which can quickly impact the profitability of your investment.

Tracking and staying on top of routine upkeep, as well as practicing preventative care, is essential to maximizing the returns of your rental business.  Furthermore, it helps keep things running efficiently and smoothly, which has the added benefit of reducing the stresses of surprise repairs.

This article is the first in a 3-part series on maintenance, which focuses primarily on plumbing issues.

Key Plumbing Issues & How to Tackle Them

Plumbing issues are both common and potentially costly in rental properties.  While drain cleaning is an inevitable reality, there are plenty of other plumbing issues that can arise.  Here are some of the top plumbing issues every landlord faces, and suggestions on how to address them.

Water Heaters

Modern water heaters truly have a limited life-span, and can cause very costly damage if they fail and dump water into your building. Always record the installation date of all water heaters and schedule replacement based on the manufacturer’s estimate of lifespan.

Main Drain

Blockage in the main drain line can flood your building with sewage and filthy water. To head off this risk it is good practice to have those lines thoroughly cleaned every few years. One approach that is highly effective and gentle on pipes is to have them jetted with high-pressure water, as it clears grease and build-up from the whole drain line. You may either jet-clean from the roof or remove a toilet to access the line.

Also, consider using cameras to scope the sewer line, which will help you to monitor the condition. This is especially beneficial if you have an old building. Knowing the drain line’s condition will help you avoid sudden damage and disruption.

Bathroom Sinks

Another trouble area is the bathroom sinks that often clog with hair and soap build-up. It is good practice to remove the trap and sink stopper to clear any blockage at each tenant turnover. This way if that drain clogs during the next tenants’ residency you know it is their doing and can bill them for the cleaning costs.  You may also try using a product like a “FlexiSnake” to unclog drains without disassembling the plumbing.


Leaks are the most common plumbing issue causing water damage in rental property. Many times they are under the kitchen or bathroom sinks, and often go undetected. There are now plenty of affordable leak detectors on the market that sound an alarm or send an alert to your phone.

It is also important to check all fixtures, such as faucets and showerheads, regularly to ensure there are no leaks that waste water. For toilets, we suggest putting a few drops of food coloring in the tank.  If that color starts showing up in the bowl you know the toilet is leaking. If a leak is detected, the best solution is usually to replace the flapper assembly and fill valve.  With the high cost of water, however, it often makes sense to replace old toilets that use a high volume of water at each flush.


The list of potential plumbing issues in rental property is long, however we see these as the most important to address.

The next two articles in this series cover issues related to security, pest control, exterior maintenance, electrical, fire safety, and HVAC.

About the author:

Eli Secor started with long-time friend and fellow landlord Chris Lee.  After many a discussion about how to manage various tricky rental property issues, they decided to share their experiences and expertise with other independent landlords.  Along the way they are finding new answers and new tools, which they also share.

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