3 Signs You Need to Replace the Roof on Your Rental Property
Replacing the roof on your rental is an intimidating part of maintenance and ownership, but it's an important landlord responsibility. Insufficient roofs can cause leaks, mold, increased energy costs and significant damage to a rental unit. If the damage is severe enough, you may have to pay for damages to the building and potentially your tenants' property. You may also lose out on rent while making repairs.
Learn the signs to replace the roof on your rental property, and how to manage this process as a landlord and property manager.
How long do roofs last?
If your roof is at least 20 years old, it's a sign that it's time to replace the roof on your rental. While modern shingles may last 25 to 30 years, this depends upon a number of factors.
Significant weather events, such as Midwestern hail and tornado season or southern hurricane seasons may also add premature damage — so anything over 20 years affected by these factors will be at greater risk of replacement.
Signs your roof is failing
It's not always easy to spot the signs of a failing roof. Some problems, like holes or significant leaking, are obvious giveaways that you need a new roof. Don't hesitate to call a professional for emergency cases like these.
But other signs might be less obvious. Here are a few roof warning signs to look for to determine when it's time to replace the roof of your rental property.
1. Cracked or missing shingles
Are there any bald spots, curled shingles or cracked shingles? These are signs of simple patching needed or potentially the need to reshingle a roof.
To achieve a full lifespan, roofers should install shingles correctly and maintain them. Incorrect installation can greatly reduce the lifespan of your roof, as well as incorrect ventilation — a problem that can also lead to significant mold issues.
2. You can see moss and flora
Moss on your roof can, but does not necessarily, indicate the need for a roof replacement. The issue with moss is that it's like a sponge. Moss will hold water, preventing your roof from drying out and encouraging things like rot and mold.
You can remove moss if managed in good time, but you must do it carefully or it will damage your shingles and further reduce the life of your roof. Don't remove moss with a heavy scrubbing or a pressure washer, but instead use a chemical agent, such as vinegar or a professional removal product.
Another problematic plant is ivy, which has tough grabbing and climbing vines that are highly damaging to your roof. If you have an overgrowth of ivy, chances are this might have already pried up a number of shingles and grown through any cracks in your carpentry.
3. Mold and mildew
Mold and mildew can happen due to sitting water, roof leaks or improper ventilation. If you see mold in one place, it's safe to assume there might be a more widespread problem. Mold can cause damage to the roof beams themselves, as well as shingles and insulation. Widespread mold may also create issues with drywall, wall insulation and ceilings or flooring. In addition to structural damage, mold can also cause health issues so this is not a situation you can ignore.
While these are all signs you may need a roof replacement, the final decision will always come down to a professional and personal evaluation. Catching problems early, however, is your best chance to avoid costly repairs.
Managing a roof replacement with tenants
It's difficult to manage a repair like a roof replacement in a rental-occupied unit, but this type of repair is also not one that you can avoid altogether. If you do need to replace a roof in a rental, here are some tips to better manage the process.
- Provide written notice of repairs. Include both parties' names, the date, address and planned work. Always inform tenants in writing of the planned work that will occur regarding their rental. In addition to creating clear and transparent communication, in many areas, it's a legal requirement to provide this notice in writing.
- Arrange alternative accommodations if needed. If your repair requires extensive maintenance, then you may need to make advance arrangements to relocate the tenants to another unit or place them in a temporary hotel.
- Inform adjacent tenants if work will be loud, noisy and occur for an extended period of time. While this repair may not directly affect the other units, the construction noise and traffic may still alter work-from-home schedules or affect the sleep schedule of young children. Allowing tenants to plan ahead will help avoid future issues and complaints.
- Consider a rental discount. If the roof replacement will greatly affect the ability of the affected tenant and other nearby renters, you may wish to discount rent for the days of the work. While not legally required, this gesture of goodwill can go a long way in creating a trusting landlord-tenant relationship.
- Plan ahead if you can schedule a repair for a vacant rental. If your tenant's lease is ending shortly, you can schedule a roof repair while the unit is vacant. In addition, you should check for clauses as you prepare a new lease that can cover any needed roof replacement.
Stay ahead of roof repairs
Review your insurance policy, as well, to see how best to manage these necessary repairs. Conduct regular inspection and maintenance of your roof to try to prevent the need for full and extensive construction and maximize a safe and healthy occupancy of your rental. It's important to stay on top of when it's time to replace the roof of your rental property.