Capital Improvements vs Maintenance

Capital improvements vs maintenance

Tenants often request that windows or flooring be replaced and expect that this is a routine repair. There is a distinct difference between capital improvements and repairs. Generally speaking, capital improvements can be passed on to tenants, so it is important to communicate with them about the differences before under taking major jobs that may increase their rent.maintenance-cap-x-collage

Maintenance and repairs are the biggest single costs associated with apartment building ownership. Any typical semi modern apartment building has literally hundreds of moving parts and wearing out items that require constant upkeep and attention. Maintenance activities can include everything from lightbulb replacements, door closer adjustments cleaning, painting, patching and sanding surfaces, sticky doors and windows, weeding, irrigation repairs, elevator maintenance, sprinkler testing and other generally minor tasks that are performed on a frequent or ongoing basis by a handyman or owner.

And then there are major repairs, replacements, upgrades, new components or systems, that are not routine and require larger outlays of time, effort and expense and bigger companies or experts to install. These are known as capital expenditures, Cap X or capital improvements, they include carpet or floor replacement, new lighting, fencing, security cameras, new windows and doors, new locks and fixtures, landscape projects, pool deck refurbishment, security system upgrades or replacements, intercom systems, exterior painting, laundry room upgrades, stairways or hallways, roof replacement, fire alarm upgrades and many more.

  1. Know the difference.

Maintenance costs are expenses for routine actions or adjustments to components that keep buildings in their original condition. They are a deductible expenses agains income. Capital expenditures/improvements are larger investments that increase the efficiency, safety, usefulness of a building or replace an old item for a new one or add an all together new component that brings the building up to new standards or codes. Capital improvement expenses are not deductible, they must be added to the cost basis of the property.

  1. Maintenance and Repairs.

Both routine and preventative maintenance are classified as such if they are performed to restore the asset’s physical condition and/or operation to its “useful life,” serve as an immediate but temporary repair. For example repairing old wood windows rather than replacing them, repairing a leaking roof rather than replacing it, restoring an old floor tiles rather than stripping out the old floor and replacing it entirely, rebuilding old wood fences, resurfacing old tubs or sinks, replacing glass in old fixtures.

  1. Capital expenditures/improvements.

A capital improvement is performed to boost an asset’s condition beyond its original or current state. Owners undertake capital improvements when they wish to increase an asset’s useful function or service capacity, perform a required extension of “useful life,” enhance the quality of services, reduce future operating costs, or upgrade essential parts of the asset. Examples can include modernizing sprinkler systems, adding intercom systems, installing low voltage lighting, installing new dual pane windows, installing fencing, roofing, siding, flooring or any other major value-adding improvement.

  1. Maintenance jobs can turn into a capital improvement.

Say, for instance, a roof has a leak, and a roofing company is called to repair it.  After an evaluation, the roofing experts determine that the leaky area is beyond repair and, in fact, the entire roof needs to be replaced. While a roof repair would have been considered a maintenance expense, the necessary roof replacement has just become a capital expenditure.

From IRS website

Capital Repair
Improvements that “put” property in a better operating condition Improvements that “keep” property in efficient operating condition
Restores the property to a “like new” condition Restores the property to its previous condition
Addition of new or replacement components or material sub-components to property Protects the underlying property through routine maintenance
Addition of upgrades or modifications to property Incidental Repair to property
Enhances the value of the property in the nature of a betterment
Extends the useful life of the property
Improves the efficiency of the property
Improves the quality of the property
Increases the strength of the property
Increases the capacity of the property
Ameliorates a material condition or defec
Adapts the property to a new use
Plan of Rehabilitation Doctrine

About BayApartmentBroker

Nick Myerhoff is a Bay Area apartment market specialist and property manager. He owns and operates his own multi-family portfolio and assists clients and prospects with their purchases and exchanges of commercial real estate in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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