General Maintenance & Simple Repairs
The following information has been gathered in response to requests from residents looking for guidelines at move-in and move-out times. If you have questions about the use and care for items not on this list, please call property management. Most of our properties have care manuals for appliances, etc., provided by the owners. Please refer to them first whenever there is a problem. Answers are often found in these guides.
Report unsafe or hazardous situations immediately.
Power, Furnace & Hot Water Heater Outages
If the power goes out in your unit or house, first check to see if the whole area is without power. If it is out in the area, chances are the utilities company already knows about it. You can check online for known outages and updates PECO Outage Info and/or call their emergency line - PECO Emergency Line 1-800-841-4141
If the power is only out in your house/unit, check the circuit breaker box. One or more circuits may be tripped and you may see the switches in the off position. If no switch is off turn each switch off then on to reset the circuits. If this doesn't solve the problem, call the utilities company.
If either your furnace or water heater is not working, call the utilities company first to have them check it out and/or relight the pilot. If there are additional problems, they will inform you as to what needs to be repaired. Call management with the information they provide you.
Furnace and Wall Heater Maintenance
Tenants are responsible for cleaning or replacing the furnace filter at least once a quarter. Problems caused by failure to clean/replace the filter may be the tenant's responsibility. Dust can accumulate at furnace vents as well as at fan vents. A small broom brushed across the vent openings will clear away any dust and help the furnace or fan operate efficiently.
Gas Wall Heaters
If your home has a gas wall heater, it is prudent to turn off the gas at the unit when the heater is not needed. On any gas appliance, if the pilot light goes out you may detect a gas odor, which should dissipate in a few minutes after airing out the room. If the odor persists, call the utilities company immediately.
Plumbing, Garbage Disposals, Drains, Toilets, Sinks, Tubs, Showers & Laundry
Your Lease/Rental Agreement requires Tenant to use due precaution against stoppage of waste pipes. Should water/waste pipes become clogged through neglect of Tenant, the Tenant must bear expense for their repair and the cost of any damage caused.
Be sure to always run water while the disposal is operating to avoid damage to the unit. Let the water run long enough to grind all the material in the disposal. Then let the water run for 10-15 seconds after turning off the disposal. Learn to recognize the sound the machine makes when completely free of garbage.
Disposals are designed to grind up soft organic items only, and in small quantities, while being flushed with large quantities of water. Items that will clog your garbage disposal and should be put straight into trash include:
- Tough or stringy organic materials: banana peels, artichoke leaves, celery stalks, flower stems, potato peels, citrus peels, etc.
- Granular food products: uncooked rice, coffee grounds, bones, etc.
- Grease, oils, dressings: bacon fat, meat drippings, lard, butter, salad oils, etc.
- Paper, plastic, glass, bottle caps, soda can tabs, aluminum foil, etc.
To troubleshoot, clear, and/or reset your garbage disposal yourself - ensure the power switch is off (usually under the sink), use a wooden spoon or other sturdy tool to loosen food in the drain or otherwise clear the drain manually, hit the reset button (usually on or directly beneath the unit).
Problems with the garbage disposal are the Tenant responsibility, and any costs incurred for management reset/repair will be passed on to Tenant.
Leaving large amounts of food, hair and soap sit in drains of sinks, toilets, and dishwasher will easily cause problematic clogs. Some dishwashers will clog from food left on the dishes when put in the machine. An excellent drain cleaning/clearing solution recipe is:
- 1 cup salt
- 1 cup baking soda
- 1 cup vinegar
- Followed by 8 cups boiling water
We recommend performing this treatment monthly to avoid build-up. Hardware stores carry "hair catchers" to place in sink and tub drains that significantly help keep drains free of hair.
The built-in drain system of a toilet is unique in comparison to other drains for purpose of flushing and removal of what is called sewer gas. Toilets are made of porcelain or a porcelain coating, which if augured to clear the system, could break the toilet. Many contemporary toilets also are designed to save water with “low-flow” designs, which do not flush as effectively as older models. A simple clogged toilet can usually be remedied with a plunger that can be purchased at any hardware or grocery store. We strongly recommend you keep a plunger nearby. Tenants must be prepared to plunge the toilet to clear clogs and avoid damage from over-flows. If basic plunging doesn’t work, a plumber is required to remove the toilet from its base and clear the obstruction from below. The minimum cost is approximately $150.00, and is Tenant responsibility. To avoid incurring these costs:
- Do not dispose of feminine hygiene products in toilets.
- Do not dispose of paper products such as Q-tips, wrappers, cigarettes, etc. in toilets.
- Do not use excessive amounts of tissue in toilets.
- Children’s toys, bottle caps, etc. will not pass through a toilet.
Leaks and Running Water
Tenants are responsible for reporting faucet or toilet leaks, such as constantly running water. Failure to report water leaks may result in a surcharge for above normal water bills that can be attributed to unreported leaks coming from the apartment or house.
Sinks, Tubs, Showers
Waste from these fixtures will, through normal use, collect in their respective drain line traps. Soap residue, body oils, and hair need to be cleared from time to time either by use of chemical drain cleaners, or manual augers. Neglecting regular clearing of these line traps will lead to a need for the drains to be professionally augured, which costs a minimum of $120.00 to $200.00. This is a tenant liability. To avoid incurring these costs:
- Do not drop foreign items down these drains such as shampoo caps, children’s toys, etc.
- Do not clean your hairbrush, combs, etc. into a sink drain.
Depending on your individual apartment setup, you may have shared common laundry or personal laundry in-unit. If you have dedicated laundry in-unit, be aware that clothing lint will commonly be found in washing machine wastewater and can clog whatever drain it is routed into. (Note the lint collected in your dryer filter from circulated air.) To avoid any clogs from washer wastewater:
- Place a lint trap on the washing machine drain hose if it discharges into a laundry tub. This can be as simple as a nylon stocking secured by a rubber band. Change out on a regular basis.
Tenants must take care to avoid water damage caused by allowing water to sit on counters and floors. Care must be taken to ensure that shower curtains are inside the tub, and that shower doors are completely closed when taking a shower. Water on tile floors can seep through the grout and cause dry rot on the floorboards below. Water can also seep around the edges of linoleum and damage the flooring below. We recommend putting a mat, towel or rug on the floor to step on when exiting the tub or shower. Water can easily be splashed into the space behind the faucet in the kitchen or bath and damage the counter surface. Please be sure to keep these areas dry to prevent damage.
Bleach is the best product for removing mold that forms around the edges of showers, tubs, on tile walls, around metal windows, and anywhere there is moisture. The easiest way to remove mold is to cut paper towels in half and fold them into one-inch strips. Dip each strip into the bleach bottle and hold your finger against it as you draw it out. Lay the bleach-soaked strips directly on the mold and leave them there for several hours. Remember to use rubber gloves and air out affected rooms.
The liability of your Property Manager is to clear drains:
- Clogged within the first ten (10) days of occupancy where no tenant negligence is found.
- Clogged or stopped by tree roots or other external factors.
- Clogged or stopped by mechanical failure of the plumbing system such as a broken pipe.
- Where multiple tenant (apartent) drain systems are clogged beyond a fixture trap and in a common drain to more than one apartment. Failure to maintain best practices for keeping drains clear can result in the main sewer line becoming backed up or clogged. Cost for clearing the drain will be passed on to tenants if the sources is determined to be within tenant unit(s).
Cleaning & Regular Maintenance
Refrigerator Coils / Drip Pans
Keep coils on refrigerators free of dust. Coils need free air flowing around them to operate efficiently. Failure to keep coils clean may cause the appliance motor to burn out. The replacement of a burned-out motor due to dirty coils may be the tenant's responsibility. Some refrigerators have drip pans under them. If not kept clean, the pans can start to develop a strong odor. Please take the time to get acquainted with the appliances in your unit.
To avoid costly damage from nicks and cuts in counter tops, please use a cutting board at all times. Tenants will be responsible for any damages to kitchen counters. Be careful that water run-off from plants is not left standing on surfaces, as this will cause permanent stain and damage. Never use any acidic or abrasive cleaning products including vinegar. It is best to use warm water and a sponge with a small amount of dishwashing liquid such as Dawn or Joy.
Ceramic Tile - Molded Tub and Shower Walls
To clean ceramic tiles and molded fixtures tiles follow these instructions:
- Dilute 1-part white vinegar in 5-parts water
- Never use scrubbing cleansers like Comet or AJAX on molded fixtures- these will permanently scratch the surfaces
- Use a soft sponge and apply the solution to the molded areas
Never use abrasives on plumbing fixtures. It is best to wipe fixtures clean after each use. If brass needs to be polished, please use a product specifically designed for use on brass.
Sliding Glass Doors, Screen Doors and Shower Tracks
It is imperative that dirt and debris regularly be cleaned out of sliding door tracks. Rolling over dirt, leaves and pine needles that frequently accumulate in the tracks can damage the wheels on sliding doors, especially heavy glass sliders. Please make it part of your cleaning routine to clear the tracks. Please do not use oil or WD40 to lubricate slider doors or screens. These products only attract dirt and gum up the wheel mechanisms. In order to retard the growth of mold in the tracks and at the bottom of shower doors, keep the tracks clean. Use an old toothbrush and do a regular monthly cleaning, it's much easier than doing one major cleaning at move-out time!
Burn only hardwoods in fireplaces and wood stoves to minimize to buildup of creosote, etc. in the chimney. Creosote build-up is a fire hazard. Be sure a fireplace screen is in place when a fire is burning to prevent hot ashes from burning the floor or floor coverings.
Be sure drip pans are kept under all plants. Water run-off will stain or damage most surfaces.
Wood Decks / Patios / Porches
If you have planters or pots, please put raised trays under them so that they are off the deck a few inches. This will to allow air to flow beneath the pot, and to prevent water run-off from rotting the deck.
Never use a mop or oil for cleaning hardwood floors. Use a soft cloth to avoid scratching the surface. It is best to sweep and dust regularly to avoid buildup of dirt. We recommend cleaning your hardwood floors in your home with a small amount of vinegar in water. For deeper cleans, Murphy’s, Method, and Bona wood floor cleaners are all highly rated. We encourage the use of throw rugs in front of the sink and the stove to protect these areas from water and grease.
Tenant Paid Repairs and Maintenance
- HVAC filters. Air filters are tenant responsibility and must be replaced no less than every 3 months, and monthly if you have pets. Tenants will be charged the cost to replace the filter if found dirty at any time and the full cost of repairs if a dirty air filter is determined to be a reason for the unit to be repaired.
- Light bulb and smoke detector battery replacement is tenant responsibility. We can assist with hard to reach lights, but cost will be passed to tenants.
- Pest control. Bugs are common and can be controlled with common-sense measures. Ensure your apartment (especially areas with food or pet products) are kept clean and sanitary. Use repellent around unit or building perimeter and windows to keep pests out.
- Lockout service. Key request or lockbox access has an associated fee per incident during normal business hours. A locksmith may be required during off-hours. Tenant will be charged additionally for any damage or change to locks.
- Garbage and recyclables. Tenant is responsible for maintaining and properly placing trash for pickup. Fees assessed for garbage removal and fines will be passed to Tenant for improper handling or separation. We appreciate reporting any trash not taken out and fines received for trash not placed by Tenant.
Checking and Changing Your HVAC Filter
Failure to do so may result in you paying for AC repairs
As peak summer arrives, we've already had more than one heat wave that has required heavy use of AC systems. In fact, the early heat and furnace filter neglect has already resulted in quite a few tenants experiencing AC problems that were directly related to ignoring the need to change their HVAC filter. Remember, AC repairs and failures that are a result of neglecting to change the filter will be passed on to you! Checking and changing your filter takes less than a minute and should be done at least monthly and changed when dirty, or no less than quarterly. You'll not only get better heating in the winter and air conditioning in summer, but you'll save on your utility bills and extend the life of the HVAC system too.
- Time: Instant!
- Complexity: Super Simple!
- Cost: Under $20 - $20 or more if we have to do it!
- Turn the thermostat to Off or raise the temperature above the current room temperature.
- Locate the return vent or access panel on your furnace where the filter is located (contact our office if you can't locate it).
- Note the size and direction of the air flow arrow on the existing filter, in case you need to remove it to note the size. The arrow should always point from the duct work to the furnace or blower motor.
- You can purchase a new filter from any hardware or box store in the area, or from Amazon. Note the recommended replacement schedule of the filter you decide on.
- Remove the filter cover or access panel and filter wrapping.
- Replace the old filter with the new one. Tip: write the date of when you replaced the filter on the new one.
- Replace the cover or access panel.
- Turn the thermostat back to Cool or lower the temperature below the current room temperature.
- Test the system and ensure the filter has not moved or is otherwise installed incorrectly.
- Check the filter monthly.
When to change your filter
A new filter compared to a dirty filter
Change your filter when you can no longer see light through it.
If you're thinking that you only have to change your filter once a year, you may well be shortening the life of the system or causing repair needs that you will be responsible for. Actually, you should check your filter monthly and often change it monthly, depending on the type of filter you use. To determine if it's too dirty, remove the filter and hold it up to the light. If you can no longer clearly see light, change the filter (see photo).
Many costly repairs can be avoided with regular filter changing. If you don't change the filter, lack of airflow through the furnace will cause it to overheat and shut down. Similarly, a dirty filter can cause an air conditioner to shut down because the coils freeze up when airflow is inadequate. Both events stress the system.
Filters are designed to protect the blower motor from dirt. When buying filters for this task, an inexpensive glass fiber filter will do the job. But if you want to reduce airborne dust in your home, you could start with the best of the inexpensive 1-in. disposable filters—the standard pleated filter—which costs a bit more. Better yet, to remove even more small particles, install an inexpensive, electrostatically charged fiber filter. 3M Filtrete is one common brand.. Just make sure to check the filter monthly and change it when it's dirty (not just every three months as recommended).
Finally, whatever filter you use, make sure you reinstall it correctly, with the arrow on the filter edge pointing toward the blower motor. Putting it in backward decreases the filter's efficiency.
As always, contact our office if you have any questions or need help with this maintenance task.