Maintenance issues are not fun; they are expensive, time-consuming and tedious. But maintenance (or more specifically a lack thereof) is one of the top reasons that vacating tenants cite as their cause for moving, which has several implications. First, many property managers are failing to handle maintenance issues quickly and effectively, and you may be one of them. Second, this represents is a market opportunity for property managers to differentiate themselves from weak competition.
Attentive maintenance is a form of customer service, which ultimately serves two purposes: protection of the property against further damage (for the landlord/owner), and increasing satisfaction levels for the tenant (which in turn reduces vacancy rates for the landlord). The speed of the property manager’s response is crucial – both the landlord and the tenant will appreciate a swift, decisive and effective response to maintenance problems in the rental unit.
Below are six tips to improve your effectiveness in handling maintenance issues, which will in turn improve retention of both owner contracts and tenants.
1. Find a top-notch maintenance supervisor (or for managers of single family rentals, a contractor or handyman). This person will be your first phone call when issues arise, and will help coordinate and prioritize the work that needs to be done.
2. Organize and coordinate all maintenance tickets with the contractor/repairman through a simple online system (e.g. Google Drive) that is accessible through smartphones. They can then be updated and viewed at any time or place by either party, and ranked for priority.
3. Remain in communication with your tenants. You may be exchanging frantic phone calls and text messages with the contractor, trying to coordinate the repairs, but the tenants will not be aware of your efforts on their behalf unless you stay in constant contact with them.
4. Accommodate the tenants as best you can until the contractor or repairman arrives. Tenants are often reassured by speaking with the contractor directly – when you reach the contractor and are scheduling the repairs, conference the tenant into the call so they can coordinate with the repairman as well. Similarly, many tenants like to be present when a stranger is in their home, so consulting them on scheduling will appease them. Try to keep them comfortable until the repairs can be made; if there is a leak and their carpet is wet, perhaps you can provide them with towels and a fan to dry it out until the repairs can be made.
5. Remain in communication with the landlord or owner throughout the process if the repair is substantial (unless they specifically asked not to be bothered). They are paying you to alleviate their headaches, so subtle reminders of the headaches you are enduring on their behalf is a good way to retain their business.
6. Meet the tenant at the rental unit after the repairs are reported as finished. When the contractor or repairman alerts you that the repairs are finished, contact the tenant and arrange to meet them at the rental unit. You can confirm that the work was performed professionally by viewing and testing it yourself, and be sure to ask the tenant if they are happy with the work. They may have noticed something that you did not, and it is good customer service.
Always remember that property management is, in fact, customer service, and you have two customers: the landlord and the tenant. By remaining in communication with all parties and doing all you can to make their lives easier, you send a strong message to them that you are part of the solution, and an invaluable part at that.