Landlords in the industry know that property management is not a standard 9 to 5 job. Maintenance is a task that requires a significant amount of time and coordination. But, how do landlords handle rental property emergency maintenance after hours? No one wants to get that call; however, it is essential to quickly and efficiently address these issues. Continue reading as we look at what constitutes an emergency, how to handle after-hours calls, and what you can do to avoid potential issues.
What Is Considered Rental Property Emergency Maintenance?
Part of knowing what to do when maintenance issues arise is understanding what constitutes an emergency. Some things that may create discomfort or inconvenience are not considered emergencies. Especially when a problem occurs after-hours, many maintenance concerns can wait until the morning. Ultimately, tenants and landlords must use their best judgment. However, to get you started, check out the list below.
What is an Emergency?
A good rule of thumb is to remember that any maintenance issue that could potentially cause injury, serious property damage, or a threat to health and safety is considered an emergency. Some examples of these maintenance concerns include:
Broken Water Lines or Frozen Pipes
Broken Door or Lock You Cannot Secure
Gas Leak or Broken Gas Line
Sewer Back-up and Flood
No Heat in Winter
No Air Conditioning in Extreme Heat Conditions
Carbon Monoxide Detection
Extended Power Outage
What is Not Considered a Maintenance Emergency?
When an issue does not pose an immediate threat to health, safety, or property, it is not an emergency. That said, these items below should still be reported as a maintenance request during normal business hours. Here are some examples below:
Burnt Out Lightbulbs or Fixture
No Hot Water
Ice Maker is Broken
No Air Conditioning (if the outside temperature is below 90 degrees)
No Heat (if the outside temperature is below 50 degrees)
Tips for Handling Rental Property Emergency Maintenance
How a landlord handles requests from tenants is important. It ensures a healthy landlord-tenant relationship and the protection of your property. Follow along below as we examine some key factors to handling rental property emergency maintenance.
Answer the Vital Questions
A Mindset of Understanding
Not every after-hours emergency requires you to hop out of bed and rush over. That said, a landlord must be reachable in the event of an emergency. Ensure your tenants know the best way to reach you so you can answer any questions, provide critical instructions, or just be kept in the loop.
In addition to police, fire, and utility services the tenant can contact on their own, landlords need to have emergency services as well. Rental property emergency maintenance does not always happen during regular business hours. When a tenant calls for a burst and flooding pipe, for example, do you have a vendor to call 24/7? Gathering a shortlist of trusted vendors to rely on in an emergency is critical.
Once an emergency is reported to proper authorities, landlords must remain in consistent communication with the tenants. Let’s say you provide the tenant with instructions and call an emergency plumber going back to a burst pipe scenario. Well, communication does not end there. Therefore, continue speaking with the tenant to let them know the vendor’s estimated arrival time and any additional instructions for protecting the property in the meantime.
Navigating repairs and emergencies involve many layers. So, landlords must differentiate between their immediate responsibility, what can wait, and what the tenant needs to handle. Emergency repairs threaten the tenants’ health or safety or can potentially cause extensive damage to the property. Therefore, landlords must address these repairs immediately.
Repairs not deemed an emergency can follow the standard practice of providing notice of intent to enter the home and sending vendors during normal business hours. For example, when a pipe bursts, a landlord is responsible for making the necessary repairs to the property to prevent further damage and returning it to a habitable condition. However, if any personal property of the tenant was damaged, it is up to them to fix or replace this with their renter’s insurance.
Answer the Vital Questions
No one can predict when an emergency will happen, which is why quick and decisive action is critical. For example, if there is a fire, once you are on the scene, try to get a handle on what is transpiring. Locate an emergency response professional in charge to determine what has happened and gauge the extent of the damage. Will the tenant require temporary housing? Who is liable for the event? Does the tenant’s insurance provide emergency assistance? The answers to these questions are vital to deciding the next steps. Regardless, remain in consistent and honest communication with your tenants.
A Mindset of Understanding
No one wants to handle an emergency, not the landlord or the tenant. A tenant calling you in the middle of the night may be frustrated, scared, distraught, or any combination of emotions. While you may also be startled and upset at the potential damage to your property, always maintain a professional tone and handle the emergency as needed.
If they disturb you with an event that does not constitute an emergency, calmly explain why and instruct them on further steps to submitting a maintenance request. Even when you provide rental property emergency maintenance guidelines to your tenants, some calls outside those guidelines are likely. Especially with individuals new to rental property, they may just be nervous and unsure of what needs immediate attention. Your reassurance as a landlord can go a long way.
When a maintenance request comes through the normal channels, there is a written record. However, emergencies take on a more frantic series of events, beginning most often with a verbal phone call. Therefore, to prevent disputes or confusion, landlords should still record the events under the tenant and property file. Make notes regarding the conversations had, repairs made, agreed-upon next steps, and necessary follow-up needed. It is a good idea to speak with the tenant after the repairs are made and follow up in writing, even if just an email. This keeps everyone on the same page and reassures the tenants that you are on top of handling things.
Establishing Positive Emergency Maintenance Vendor Relationships
As we discussed above, emergency and regular maintenance vendor relationships are essential to any landlord’s success. This is your property, but also your investment and repairs are unavoidable. Therefore, having a trusted group of reliable contractors is invaluable to a rental property owner. In fact, for property owners, screening vendors is just as important as screening tenants. Look below for some tips on what to look for when interviewing potential vendors.
Vendor Reputation – Any new vendor must have a solid reputation within the community. Thanks to modern technology, owners can easily access public reviews, evaluate their online presence, and research referrals. However, no company can have a 100% satisfaction rate, so weigh any negative reviews carefully and see how they responded to them. Vendors that have previously worked in rental properties are especially helpful due to their knowledge of notice to enter restraints and quick deadlines.
Insurance Coverages – Not having the proper general liability and worker’s compensation insurance is an immediate deal-breaker. As an owner who is not onsite, you want to be sure the job will be done right or corrected if it is not. A vendor without the proper coverage could mean you take the fall for any legal, medical, or damage costs. Therefore, request a Certificate of Coverage before any vendor is hired or begins work.
Understand Cost and Timeline – “You get what you pay for.” We have all heard the saying, but it is especially true in rental properties. To get the most bang for your buck, request several estimates for larger jobs and weigh your options carefully. Similar to overpaying, a job that takes forever is just as bad. Any reputable vendor will provide an estimated completion date and have the resources to meet that deadline.
Proactively Preparing for After-Hours Rental Property Emergency Maintenance Calls
Although it is impossible to anticipate an emergency, it is not impossible to prepare for one just in case. Therefore, as a landlord, creating an emergency maintenance protocol is key. Continue reading for our tips below.
Tenant Welcome Packet
A tenant welcome packet serves many purposes. Through the course of moving, tenants may not remember every detail you discuss at lease signing. Handing them a welcome packet containing all essential information is very helpful. Include an emergency contact sheet they can post to their refrigerator, or even better, have it in the home already. This should include vital contact information for you and essential services personnel.
Check out this printable emergency maintenance form below:
Landlords with larger portfolios simply cannot be in multiple places at once. Therefore, an answering service might provide the coverage needed to handle multiple after-hours rental property emergency maintenance calls. Once established, the answering service receives calls, evaluates the situation, determines next steps, dispatches proper vendors, or advises tenants the issue will be addressed the following day.
Setting up an answering service takes a lot of effort on the part of the owner. Ensure they are properly greeting tenants, following set guidelines for handling maintenance issues, and that they know which vendors to contact. However, once the initial setup is completed, an answering service relieves a lot of stress for landlords.
Hire Property Management Professionals
Successful landlords know that the best step they can take to maximize their investment potential while addressing many tenant issues is to hire a property management firm. However, choosing the best company for your needs requires some due diligence. The most important tip to follow when choosing a professional is to ask a ton of questions. Any reputable company will understand and alleviate any fears you may have regarding handing over your property’s operations to a third party. So, with that in mind, check out these suggestions below.
What to Look for in a Potential Property Manager
What is their area of expertise? : Various companies may specialize in different versions of residential, multi-family, commercial, or vacation home management. Select the company that best suits your current and future portfolio goals. This ensures they have the knowledge and connections to handle your specific lane of investment property. Experience in the local market and with local laws or compliance requirements is essential.
How many support staff do they employ? : The ratio of employees to total properties matter more than you may realize. Ideally, you are looking for a company with an appropriate amount of property managers to manage their portfolios and support staff. Support staff includes accountants, leasing agents, administrative staff, and maintenance technicians.
What services do they offer? : The goal of a property management firm is to alleviate stress on the individual landlord. So, look at what they offer compared to the fees they charge. Use this information in conjunction with what you have gathered so far to make your decision. Inquire about tenant screening, rent collection, inspection procedures, accounting services, fees, contract conditions, and what they do when something goes wrong with a tenant.
Pro Tip: Always meet in person! Nowadays, so much can be done digitally or through online means. However, this opens ample opportunity for fraud.
Are you looking for a qualified property management firm in your local area? Overland Management can help! We take pride in maximizing profits for our clients while balancing the needs and comfort of tenants. It all starts with a comprehensive property onboarding process followed by targeting marketing and a thorough tenant screening. We are an experienced property management company that handles every aspect of day-to-day operations and offer a 24/7/365 approach to rental property emergency maintenance. Call us today to find out what our professional property management services can do for you.