Just about every renter has a story of a time they experienced a maintenance fiasco. The problem with this, is that the consequences of failing to resolve a problem in a timely manner and lack of communication with residents can prove to be more costly for landlords than just making the repairs – your reputation can lose credibility and you may even lose tenants.
I recently interviewed a previous renter about when she and her husband, Chris, moved into their first rental together. They had an experience that required maintenance to repair their home which ultimately drove them to avoid renewing their lease at all costs. The garbage disposal in their townhome backed up, which also prevented the dishwasher from working. Rather than an open dialogue and a prompt resolution, the situation dragged on for weeks.
“It was horrible, the damage went beyond the kitchen. The issue took much longer than expected to be resolved, which resulted in additional problems. We had to eat out for two weeks straight because we couldn’t use the kitchen which was really expensive. It was also during the summer, which made it smell even worse inside,” said previous renter, Marissa Morgan.
While the maintenance team was courteous and respectful, the problem continued to drag on. Coupled with management failing to provide ongoing updates, the experience became overwhelming for the couple, who at the time were expecting a child.
“Chris was working nights, so he was sleeping during the day. There was no communication other than a note left on the front door, which we didn’t know to look for because we typically entered and exited through the garage. At one point, Chris thought they were breaking into the house because we had no knowledge that they would be coming by to work on the repairs.” Morgan added.
While the Morgan’s had the opportunity to provide feedback to the maintenance team and property managers, this negative experience ultimately led to them looking for a new place to call home.
Not only did this experience reflect negatively on the Morgan’s, but they have also shared their story as a warning to others in hopes of helping friends to avoid renting in that community. In order to prevent stories like this from hurting your reputation and your bottom line, here are some tips for empowering your maintenance contractors to keep your renters happy.
Keep organized records. Staying on-top of maintenance requests, project statuses and permissions to enter a residence are essential to keeping your renters happy. Technology makes it easy to track permission to enter, concerns about entering, best times to enter, estimated time and date of completion, as well as the work completed. Consider using project tracking or a management program to help keep your notes in order. Also, a data spreadsheet can be helpful and can work to keep your financial documents in order. Copies of receipts should be safely stored as well as any corresponding bills.
Don’t forget to clearly communicate with residents. Without this, you may be asking for trouble. Using text messages and email, it can be helpful when you need to reach your tenants, rather than leaving a note on the door that they might never receive. Be sure that you log notes and actions that have already been completed to make follow up easier.
Before entering a residence, remember to provide adequate notice of entry (typically 24-hours) and make sure to take into consideration any concerns or special circumstances. Contact information for tenants should be up-to-date to ensure they are receiving the notifications and communications you are sending to them. There should be no unwelcome surprises for your residents.
Some repairs are quick and simple fixes – others are not. Occasionally, you have a request that begins as a small problem and it quickly becomes more complex than originally anticipated. Make sure to clearly relay these issues and expected times of completion to residents. If you are waiting for a specific part to come in and it delays the estimated time of completion, be sure to be upfront to your tenants about the changes. Unexpected delays could prove to be problematic and tenants may become upset – be courteous despite the circumstances.
Bottom line – timing is everything.
When it comes to resolving repairs, timing is one of the biggest factors your residents care about. Have a previously established list of repair specialists (ex. Plumber), contractors and a handyman available who have already been vetted. That way, when a renter’s call comes in, you can quickly take action. It is important to stay organized, communicate clearly and remember to be courteous when unexpected problems arise. Your ultimate goal is to resolve the problem as quickly as possible, with minimal disruption to your tenants. That begins with organization, commitment to your residents and working diligently to resolve the problem. Repairs are unavoidable, use them as an opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition and build the relationship with your renters.