Landlord's Handbook: 3 DIY Fixes for the Most Common Household Problems

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In the fourth part of my Landlord’s Handbook series I’m going to look at easy DIY fixes for three of the most common household problems you’ll encounter. In part two, Know Your Rights, I discuss your legal responsibilities as a landlord. Among them, it’s up to you to keep your unit in good repair for your tenant. 

One question clients new to the landlord game will often ask me is: what if a tenant doesn’t tell me when there’s a maintenance issue in my unit?

That’s why I think it’s absolutely essential that you schedule an inspection, say quarterly, to drop by and make sure everything’s okay. If there is a problem, you can be proactive about it. Often though, tenants are pretty straightforward about maintenance problems. After all, they’re the ones being affected by them on a daily basis.

Last thing, check your condo declaration to see exactly what you’re responsible for maintaining, and what you can offload onto your property manager. For most condominiums, you’ll be responsible for repairs inside your own unit. Your management company will be responsible for common elements, like parks, elevators, hallways, etc.

Without further ado, here are some super-efficient, cost-effective fixes for that Miss or Mister Fixit in your life. But remember, if a problem seems too tricky or you feel like you might be cutting corners, hire a professional! The only thing worse than a bad fix-it job is a recurring issue. Not only will it give you constant headaches, but your tenant too.

How to Patch Drywall

Patching up drywall is an invaluable skill. Plus, it’s actually pretty easy. If you’re between tenants, chances are you’ve noticed that your walls are a little… dinged up. 

  1. Clean your walls. For best results, use warm sudsy water. No chemical cleaners here. Especially ones that contain bleach.
  2. Pick up some joint compound, spackle, or “drywall mud”. There are plenty of brands out there. Some of them even match the colour of your walls. Also, be sure to grab a putty knife, and a drywall sanding brick.
  3. With your putty knife, put joint compound into the various holes, dents or dings. You might need to repeat this step if they’re too big. Finally, run the edge of your putty knife over the joint compound so it’s flush with the wall.
  4. Once the compound has dried, sand it down with the drywall sanding brick. Be careful not to accidentally sand the paint off your wall.
  5. Finally, paint to match.

In some cases, you might have a hole in your wall that’s far too big for compound. If that’s the case, here’s a video that shows you exactly what you need to do:

How to Fix a Leaky Faucet

Tenants might not contact you about this one, but if it’s something you notice during a quarterly inspection you can easily fix it yourself. It can also save your tenants some money.

  1. First thing: make sure you have pliers and a flathead screwdriver (or Allen wrench).
  2. Turn off your water supply beneath the sink.
  3. Turn on your faucet to release any pressure.
  4. Remove the handle. Depending on what it’s screwed in with, you might have to use a screwdriver or an Allen wrench.
  5. With your pliers, carefully remove the cartridge from its housing.
  6. Replace your cartridge. Since cartridges come in different sizes, you might need to bring the old one with you to a hardware store to find a replacement.

For all you visual learners out there, here’s a helpful how-to clip:

How to Fix a Clogged Kitchen Sink

This is an extremely common issue. Often tenants will try to fix it on their own using a household drain cleaner like Drano. When that fails, expect them to contact you.

  1. Use a plunger. Yes, I know—not the most appealing of solutions, but it works. If you have a double sink, be sure to seal up the second drain so that it’s airtight. There are also high pressure drain cleaners that use compressed air to remove clogs, if you’d prefer trying that out first. 
  2. Remove the trap. This one’s a little bit trickier, but it’s sure to work if your trap is clogged. Make sure to put a bucket beneath the trap to catch excess water. Here’s how: 
  3. If your clog is beyond the trap, you might need to snake your pipes. First, if you used a drain cleaner, make sure to wear rubber gloves. Get a snake that fits into the pipe and carefully run it through your system. You can work the clog free by spinning the snake. 

If none of these solutions work or you don’t feel comfortable trying them out for yourself, get a plumber.

These DIY fixes are meant to empower you as an owner and save you a bit of cash. But remember: if a problem seems too big or too complicated, hire a pro. There’s no substitute for a job well done. It’ll save you time, energy, and money in the long run. And your tenant will be grateful.

If you have some useful DIY tips of your own that you’d like to share, feel free to do so in the comments below. I’m always looking for clever solutions to common problems! 


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Irene Lee, Sales Representative

RE/MAX Realtron Realty Inc., Brokerage
183 Willowdale Avenue, Toronto, M2N 4Y9
Direct: 416-888-1404 | Office: 416-222-8600