self-managing landlord

The Hidden Costs of Rental Real Estate Ownership in California

Owning rental real estate in California can be a lucrative investment. However, it can come with a range of hidden costs that potential landlords may not initially consider. Beyond the obvious expenses such as mortgage payments and property taxes, several other costs can significantly impact the profitability of rental properties. Read the full article as we shed light on these hidden costs, helping prospective landlords make more informed decisions.


Property Maintenance and Repairs

While regular maintenance is an expected expense, the extent and frequency of repairs can often catch landlords off guard. Routine wear and tear necessitates ongoing upkeep, but unexpected repairs can be particularly costly. Issues such as plumbing problems, roof leaks, HVAC failures, and appliance breakdowns can arise suddenly, requiring immediate attention and significant expenditure. Budgeting for these unexpected repairs is essential to maintain the property's value and tenant satisfaction.

At Rincon Property Management, we utilize Quick Turn Maintenance, a local trusted licensed and insured maintenance company. This ensures that all issues are addressed quickly and thoroughly. Often, landlords may want to hire a handyman or a friend who is capable of completing repairs at the property. It is essential that landlords choose to utilize licensed and insured vendors to maintain their property. While using a friend or uninsured handyman, you can put yourself and your rental property at risk. 


Property Management Fees

For landlords who do not have the time or expertise to manage their properties themselves, hiring a property management company is an affordable solution. Property management fees typically range from 8% to 12% of the monthly rental income but can vary depending on the quality of the management company, and the location in which the rental unit is located. These fees cover services such as tenant screening, rent collection, maintenance coordination, and handling tenant complaints. While these services can relieve much of the burden on the landlord, they also reduce the overall profitability of the rental property.


Legal and Regulatory Compliance

California has stringent tenant protection laws and regulations that landlords must comply with. This includes adherence to rent control ordinances, eviction procedures, habitability standards, and anti-discrimination laws. Ensuring compliance often requires legal guidance, which can be costly. Landlords may need to consult with attorneys to navigate complex legal issues, draft leases, and handle disputes with tenants. Additionally, failing to comply with regulations can result in fines and legal battles, further increasing costs.

You can learn more about legal and regulatory compliance for landlords by visiting the California County’s resources, here



While most landlords understand the need for basic property insurance, the true scope of necessary coverage can be surprising. Landlords should consider liability insurance to protect against potential lawsuits from tenants or visitors who might get injured on the property. Moreover, natural disaster insurance is crucial in a state like California, which is prone to earthquakes, wildfires, and floods. Comprehensive insurance policies can be expensive, but they are essential for safeguarding against significant financial losses.

If you have any questions about receiving rental property insurance in California, reach out to us today! 


Vacancy and Turnover Costs

Vacancies are an inevitable part of rental property ownership. During periods when a property is unoccupied, landlords must cover mortgage payments, utilities, and maintenance costs without rental income. Additionally, tenant turnover can be costly. 

Preparing a unit for new tenants often involves cleaning, painting, and possibly replacing carpets or other fixtures. Marketing the property and conducting tenant screenings also incur costs. These expenses can add up quickly, particularly in markets with high turnover rates.

You can learn about the real cost behind tenant turnover and vacancy, here


Property Taxes

Property taxes in California can be substantial and are subject to periodic reassessment, which can lead to unexpected increases. Proposition 13 limits annual property tax increases to 2%, but if a property changes ownership or undergoes significant improvements, it can be reassessed at its current market value, potentially resulting in a much higher tax bill. Landlords need to stay informed about their property’s assessed value and plan for potential tax increases.


To learn more about rental real estate taxes, listen to our recent podcast episode featuring a tax strategist and CPA, here


Utilities and Common Area Maintenance

In some cases, landlords are responsible for paying utilities such as water, gas, and electricity, particularly in multi-family properties. Additionally, maintaining common areas like hallways, landscaping, parking lots, and recreational facilities can be a significant expense. These costs are often underestimated, yet they are essential for maintaining the property’s appeal and compliance with local regulations.

Home maintenance is more expensive than ever before, especially in California. Learn more about why these costs are skyrocketing by listening to our full podcast episode, here


Depreciation and Property Upgrades

While depreciation is a tax benefit that allows landlords to deduct the cost of property over its useful life, it also means the property will eventually require significant upgrades or replacements. Items such as roofing, plumbing, electrical systems, and major appliances have finite lifespans. Planning and budgeting for these capital expenditures is crucial to maintaining the property's value and appeal.


Pest Control

Regular pest control is necessary to prevent infestations that can cause significant damage to the property and discomfort to tenants. This is particularly important in California, where pests like termites, rodents, and ants can be prevalent. Professional pest control services are an ongoing expense that landlords must account for.

At Rincon Property Management, we utilize a company that helps to offset this cost. Self-managing landlords may benefit from looking into local management companies to see if savings are possible through similar programs. 


Income Tax on Rental Income

Rental income is taxable, and landlords must account for federal and state income taxes on their earnings. Deductions and depreciation can offset some of these taxes, but it’s essential to plan for the tax implications of rental income. Consulting with a tax professional can help optimize tax strategies, but this is another added cost to consider.



Owning rental real estate in California offers the potential for significant financial rewards, but it also comes with a host of hidden costs that can affect profitability. Understanding and budgeting for property maintenance, management fees, legal compliance, insurance, vacancy costs, property taxes, utilities, HOA fees, marketing, depreciation, pest control, legal disputes, and taxes are crucial for successful rental property ownership. By being aware of these often-overlooked expenses, landlords can better prepare for the financial realities of managing rental properties and make more informed investment decisions.

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