Dear Maintenance Men

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

By Jerry L’Ecuyer & Frank Alvarez

Dear Apartment Owners:

Remember, the holiday season starts with Halloween and the demand on your properties only gets worse from there.  Check each stove and oven for proper operation, many residents only turn on their ovens at this time of year, and the problem may be as simple as a blown-out pilot light.  This time of year sees a higher than normal use of the plumbing, it may be a good idea to snake out or hydro jet your main plumbing lines.  In addition, sending a note to each tenant on the proper use of the garbage disposal will be useful.  Note what they should and should not put down the disposal unit.  A few items to include on this No No list are banana peals, potato skins, coffee grounds and any stringy food.  Also, make sure they turn on the water before using the disposer and put down small amounts of food at a time. Using the disposer as a trash can and turning it on when full, will lead to a clog.  

Christmas and other holidays also mean more people than usual walking on your property.  Is your property safe?  What are some of the liabilities to worry about?  Check trip and fall hazards.  Do you have sprinkler heads sticking up above the grass or landscape near sidewalks?  Use pop-up heads to solve this problem.  Look for sidewalks that have been pushed up by tree roots.  This can be solved with a concrete grinder or replacement of the section and removal of the tree root.  Cut any low hanging tree branches and look for branches that may break in heavy winter wind or rain.  Check your decking for cracks or damage and inspect the exterior stairways for wear and tear.  Inspect all your garage door springs, winter wind and rain may make them heavy causing the door to close or fall unexpectedly.  As a precaution, always replace both garage springs at the same time and throw away any used springs.  Never install used garage springs.  Check all property lighting and timers.  Remember: Preventive Maintenance is cheaper than Emergency Maintenance!

Dear Maintenance Men:

I have a toilet that runs every ten or twenty minutes.  I have replaced the fill valve; the flapper valve and I have even scrubbed under the rim!  In other words, all the items I can think of that are replaceable in the tank are new.  What else should I be looking at? 


Dear Sam:

You replaced all the easy ones!!  When all else fails on a toilet leak down issue; it is time to put on your rubber gloves and get an adjustable wrench.  Chances are the problem lies with the Flush Valve Seat.  The rubber flapper valve seals against the flush valve seat (the big hole at the bottom of the tank.) to either keep the water in the tank or let the water out of the tank.  The seat may have a burr, crack or calcium deposits that allow a small amount of water to seep past the rubber flush valve.  Sanding the seat to remove the burr or calcium deposit is a short-term solution, but rarely solves the problem for long.  A permanent solution is to replace the flush valve. Start by turning off the water supply, completely empty the tank and remove the water line.  Remove the two or three bolts holding the tank to the toilet bowl.  Turn the tank upside down and remove the large nylon or brass nut that holds the flush valve to the tank. Install the new flush valve.  Be sure the tank bottom is clean, and no debris gets between the new valve’s rubber gasket and the tank. Tighten the large nut on the outside of the tank and you are ready to reassemble the tank and bowl and put the toilet back into action.   When reassembling the tank to the bowl, install new rubber washers and bolts.  

Dear Maintenance Men:

I am organizing a preventative maintenance “Tune Up” list for my summer maintenance work at my rentals.  Most are DIY type repairs, and my goal is to have safer and problem free units in the long term.  Can you help with some tips or ideas I can add to my list?


Dear George:

Good for you! (And good for your residents) Staying on top of your maintenance is a great way to add value to your rental investment and promote timely rent payments etc.  

Items we would include on your “Tune Up” list would be to inspect the property and units for liability and habitability items first.

Address these types of items as they can be cheap to fix and costly not to.

General items to look for are:

  1. Loose toilets bolts & old flapper valves
  2. Leaky faucets and fixtures.
  3. Replace any white plastic water lines with stainless steel flex lines.
  4. Check smoke detectors & consider the addition of carbon monoxide detectors.
  5. Loose door handles or knobs.
  6. Closet door tracks (worn or bent).
  7. Door stops – Installed and in proper placement to avoid wall holes.
  8. Check outside lighting & trip hazards.
  9. When replacing a garbage disposal, use a. ½ hp models (The cheaper 1/3 hp disposers only promote clogs) Show your residents how to use them.
  10. Peeling interior or exterior paint – Using EPA lead safe practices, scrape and cover peeling paint immediately
  11. Check for water stains on the ceilings and find their source. It sometimes less expensive to repair a roof during the dry summer, than during a wet winter.
  12. Check shower & tub caulking.   Remove and replace as needed.

WE NEED Maintenance Questions!!!    If you would like to see your maintenance question in the “Dear Maintenance Men:” column, please send in your questions to: 

If you need maintenance work or consultation for your building or project, please feel free to contact us. We are available throughout Southern California. For an appointment, please call Buffalo Maintenance, Inc. at 714 956-8371  
Frank Alvarez is licensed contractor and the Operations Director and co-owner of Buffalo Maintenance, Inc. He has been involved with apartment maintenance & construction for over 30 years. Frankie is President of the Apartment Association of Orange County and a lecturer, educational instructor and Chair of the Education Committee of the AAOC.  He is also Chairman of the Product Service Counsel.  Frank can be reached at (714) 956-8371 For more info please go to: 
Jerry L’Ecuyer is a real estate broker. He is currently a Director Emeritus and Past President of the Apartment Association of Orange County and past Chairman of the association’s Education Committee.  Jerry has been involved with apartments as a professional since 1988.