Renters like the convenience of washing and drying their clothes on site. The problem is, landlords may lack the means to provide these amenities in their rental properties, including the necessary hookups. Even if you have the required connections, there are risks to equipping rental units with washers and/or dryers. As a landlord, you must research the matter carefully and consider:
- The challenges involved in providing washers and dryers
- Strategies and solutions
- The pros and cons of having washers and dryers
- What they cost
- Alternatives to washers and dryers
Not every rental has to include a washer or dryer. But if you can install and maintain these machines properly and ensure that tenants operate them appropriately, they could help attract renters and lead to higher lease renewal rates.
The challenges involved in providing washers and dryers
If you're renting out a single-family home, installing both a conventional washing machine and dryer is fairly easy, as you likely have the needed hookups. These include a gas line running to and a vent coming from the dryer, a cold/hot water inlet line, a wastewater outlet line for the washer, and a 120-volt electric outlet for the washing machine along with a 220- to 240-volt outlet for the dryer.
But in an apartment, condo, or other unit in a multifamily rental building, some or all of these hookups may be lacking. Additionally, adding a dryer or washer to a spatially-challenged unit could reduce its living space, turning off potential renters.
You could install one or more washing machines and dryers in a designated laundry room, but you may lack the space for such a room.
For these and other reasons, some landlords opt to equip their units with special compact washers and dryers that don't require the same hookups.
Strategies and solutions
When it comes to in-unit machines, you can pursue several options:
- A top-load or side-by-side portable washing machine on wheels, roughly two feet wide by three feet high that plugs into a standard 120-volt outlet. "It receives water from your sink faucet through an adapter that screws on, which allows you to control the hot and cold water, and the device drains through your existing sink or tub drain using tubing," explains Chris McDermott, real estate investor/principal with Jax Nurses Buy Houses, a Jacksonville, FL-based home-flipping firm.
- A conventional (non-portable) washing machine that requires a permanent supply line connection (such as a hose and lever attached to the plumbing beneath a sink) and a permanent waste line that expels into a tub, sink, or elsewhere.
- A vented electric dryer, which also plugs into a standard 120-volt outlet. These compact units must be positioned close to a window, as they vent moist, warm air that you don't want circulating around the living space and potentially causing humidity problems. These machines take longer to dry than a conventional dryer.
- A ventless electric dryer, similar to the vented model but which uses a condensation drying method that evaporates moisture from the clothes and collects it into a basin or returns it via a hose to a sink or tub drain.
- A vented combo washer/dryer unit that washes and dries a load in the same machine. These machines use more water than traditional units, however, and typically take several hours to complete the full wash/dry cycle. Again, you'd need to hook it up to a nearby sink/tub and 120-volt wall outlet and vent the dryer air through a window.
- A ventless combo washer/dryer, similar to the vented model above but which requires discharging the wastewater to a nearby tub or sink. "Especially for smaller units, the best and easiest option is a ventless washer/dryer combo unit, which is compact and doesn't require venting," says Eric Hughes, CEO/founder of Rental Income Advisors, a New York City-headquartered coaching and advisory business for new rental-property investors.
The pros and cons of having washers and dryers
Providing a dryer and/or washer, particularly in-unit machines, can be a desirable feature that attracts tenant prospects to your rental. To make up for the purchase, installation, maintenance, and replacement costs, you could charge a higher rental fee.
If comparable rental properties in your area offer in-unit washers and dryers, or at least a laundry room with this equipment, it's smart to keep up with the Joneses and do the same, otherwise your property may not be as desirable.
On the other hand, these devices increase risks to your property, including the chance of a leak and water damage as well as a threat of fire or damage to your electrical system.
Additionally, in-unit models may prove frustrating to you and your tenants. Remember that an in-unit washer's supply line must be manually connected or disconnected by the tenant. And discharge lines for a washer or ventless dryer must flow into a sink or tub.
Not to mention, in-unit washers and dryers may have a shorter lifespan than conventional models. They could also spike your water and electric bills, the washing and drying cycles could take a lot longer or require smaller loads than normal, and tenants may only be able to tap into cold water for washing, depending on the plumbing or faucet connection.
What they cost
In-unit washers and dryers cost less than conventional models but can still set you back more than you perhaps bargained for.
"Expect to spend around $500 to $600 collectively for a washer and dryer of these types. A combination unit can range from $200 to $500," notes McDermott. "These portable options are certainly affordable and provide convenience for the tenant. But I believe this option exposes great liability to the landlord."
Shea Adair, owner of Sell Raleigh Home Fast, LLC, a home-flipping company in Apex, NC, says you don't have to buy new-in-the-box appliances.
"To equip my units, I looked for scratched-and-dented models, which lessened the cost while allowing me to still purchase new," Adair says.
Alternatively, "you could buy refurbished. Or you could rent the units from an appliance rental store and pass on the expense to your tenants," adds Adair.
Because tenants can make mistakes and cause leaks and water damage with these units, it's best to have them properly installed by an expert.
"Unless you're very handy, have a professional install these. It likely won't cost more than $100 for installation and is commonly offered by most major retailers who sell these units," says Hughes.
Alternatives to washers and dryers
Instead of having dryers and/or washers in your units or building, you could avoid them altogether and encourage renters to:
- Drip dry wet clothes on an indoor or outdoor line or rack. Be sure any indoor drying rack or line is above a tile floor, tub, or other waterproof surface.
- Use a laundromat nearby. If your property is located within walking distance of a laundromat, that could be a good selling point that lets you off the hook entirely.
- Use a nearby laundry service, either a drop-off service where you bring your dirty clothes to a facility and retrieve them clean, possibly on the same day, or choose a convenient door-to-door service in which your laundry is picked up from and dropped off at your door.
Whatever option you choose, be sure to clearly indicate in your leasing agreement what tenants can expect and what they are responsible for.
Lastly, take time to personally instruct each tenant on how to operate and maintain in-unit appliances and how to avoid liabilities.