What is Considered a Maintenance Emergency?
Whether you are a tenant or landlord, no one wants to deal with the inconvenience of emergency rental maintenance. For landlords, maintenance of any kind requires time, money, and coordinating efforts. That said, effective repair policies rely on a clear understanding of what is and is not an emergency, along with a process to handle both. Continue reading as break down what constitutes an emergency, how to avoid costly repairs, and how to handle after-hours calls.
Identify What an Emergency Really Is
When a light bulb burns out, that’s not exactly an emergency. The first thing you need to do is establish some boundaries and expectations about what constitutes an emergency and what doesn’t.
Every repair issue is unpleasant. A toilet that doesn’t flush in one bathroom is a huge inconvenience, but if there’s another working toilet in the house, it’s not an emergency.
Make sure you and your residents are on the same page about emergencies. You don’t need your residents calling and texting at all hours for things that you simply won’t be able to respond to right away.
Understanding the difference between emergency rental maintenance and everyday repairs that can wait is essential to creating an efficient system for handling requests. Typically, an emergency is anything that could cause potential injury, threaten the health or safety of tenants, or result in significant property damage. Some of the most common examples of things that constitute emergency rental maintenance include –
Broken Water Lines
Broken Door or Window (creating the inability to secure the premises)
Gas Leak or Broken Gas Line
Sewer Back-up and Flood
No Heat in Winter or No Air Conditioning in Extreme Heat Conditions
Carbon Monoxide Detection
Extended Power Outage
Maintenance Repairs That Are Not an Emergency
Every repair request requires prompt attention. However, not every repair is a true emergency, and minor issues that arise after hours can wait to be handled the next business day. Check out these examples of non-emergency rental maintenance below –
Burnt Out Lightbulbs or Fixture
No Hot Water (temporarily)
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)
How to Handle Emergency Rental Maintenance Requests
Landlords have many responsibilities, but few are as important as the timely response to maintenance needs. How owners respond and handle emergency rental maintenance situations can directly affect the landlord-tenant relationship. So, to maintain both tenant satisfaction and preserve the integrity of the property, check out our tips for handling rental maintenance below.
Establish Office Hours and After-hours Processes
Create a Tenant Welcome Packet
Know Your Responsibilities
Have Emergency Vendors on Speed Dial
Maintain Open Communication and Answer Vital Questions
Document Interactions and Repairs
Step 1: Establish Office Hours and After-hours Processes
Reachability is key to maintaining a positive landlord-tenant relationship. Whether owners choose to handle this themselves or hire a professional management firm, tenants need to know who to call. As a landlord, setting up boundaries is critical to maintaining your sanity. So, establish set office hours and, ideally, an online system for tenants to submit non-emergency maintenance requests.
That said, handling after-hours emergencies requires 24/7 availability which some landlords cannot accommodate alone. So, hiring an answering service may provide the extra coverage needed to take after-hours emergency rental maintenance calls. Once set up, the answering service can –
Receive Calls After-Hours
Evaluate the Situation
Determine Next Steps
Dispatch Proper Vendors
If by chance the after-hours call does not constitute an emergency, operators can explain to the tenant that the issues will be addressed the following business day. While it can take time to find the right service and get everything set up initially, the savings, in the long run, is significant.
Step 2: Create a Tenant Welcome Packet
Incoming tenants have a lot going on between moving and setting up their new homes. It may be difficult for tenants to remember everything they need to know despite explaining things in person. So, creating a Tenant Welcome Packet is a great way to distribute vital information and ensure this information is handy should an emergency arise. Typically, a welcome packet to your tenants should include –
Contact Information (including the landlord, after-hours contact, and emergency services)
Copy of the Signed Lease
Rent Payment Procedures
Maintenance and Repair Request Procedures
Helpful Tips for Common Maintenance (including how to change the HVAC filter, where to turn off the main water valve, or unclog a toilet)
Move-in Inspection Checklist
Additional restrictions you would like to emphasize, such as decorating rules or pet policies.
Step 3: Know Your Responsibilities
It can sometimes be challenging for landlords to differentiate between immediate needs and what can wait, especially when tenants view any repair as an emergency. Therefore, landlords must thoroughly understand their legal responsibility to maintain the standards of habitability and have the resources in place to dispatch vendors promptly.
Also, when addressing maintenance concerns, landlords must adhere to any applicable right of entry laws. In other words, if the repair is not an emergency, the landlord or vendor must make every effort to coordinate the repairs with tenants and provide a minimum of 24 hours notice before entering the home. That said, if there is a true maintenance emergency that imminently threatens the health and safety of people or the property, landlords can address the concern immediately.
Step 4: Have Emergency Vendors on Speed Dial
Having emergency services such as police, fire, and the gas company on hand is vital. However, landlords also need a trusted group of vendors they can rely on in times of immediate need. While it can be easy to find someone during regular business hours, what happens if a pipe bursts in the middle of the night? So, gather a shortlist of dependable 24/7 vendors to have on hand for emergency rental maintenance needs. If you need help screening potential vendors for your rental, consider the following factors below –
Does the vendor have a good reputation? – Thanks to modern technology, it is easy to check online reviews to see what other customers say about a prospective vendor. Furthermore, owners can evaluate how the company responded to negative reviews, if at all. While no company is ever 100% perfect, whether they respond in a professional manner can tell you a lot. Also, look for vendors that have previously worked in rental properties. It will help to know they are familiar with notice to enter restraints and quick deadlines.
Do they carry insurance? – Having the right insurance protects both owners and the vendor. Therefore, it is essential to ask and confirm that any potential vendor carries adequate liability worker’s compensation insurance. That said, the vendor should easily be able to provide a Certificate of Coverage as proof they are legally responsible for any mishaps that could occur. If not, this should be an immediate deal-breaker.
For more extensive repairs or restoration, consider getting a few estimates before choosing a vendor. This will help ensure you can weigh your options carefully, but remember that you get what you pay for!
Step 5: Maintain Open Communication and Answer Vital Questions
Once a tenant reports an emergency, the landlord must jump into action. However, the need for communication does not end there. It is vital for landlords to keep tenants updated on what steps they are taking and when a vendor is in route. Furthermore, always follow up once the repairs are complete to ensure the tenant is satisfied.
That said, when a severe emergency occurs, such as a fire, try to contact someone at the scene to provide essential information such as –
What is the scope of the damage?
Can the property be secured?
Will the tenant require temporary housing?
Who is liable for the event?
Does the tenant’s insurance provide emergency assistance?
Obtaining the answers to these questions is critical to deciding any additional steps to take to protect both the property and tenant. That said, whether there is a burst pipe, serious fire, or other emergency rental maintenance, always remain in consistent and honest communication with your tenants.
Step 6: Document Interactions and Repairs
Repairs and issues surrounding maintenance can prove to be a point of contention for tenants and landlords. Typically, emergency rental maintenance begins with a telephone report. However, despite the stress and urgency of the situation, landlords must make an effort to document the call and all subsequent interactions.
Making detailed notes regarding the conversations had, repairs made, agreed-upon next steps, and necessary follow-up can go a long way to prevent disputes.
How to Protect Your Rental with Professional Emergency Repair Maintenance
Maintenance, whether emergency or otherwise, is an inevitable part of being a rental property owner. Successful landlords know that hiring a rental management firm is the best way to maximize their investment while addressing many different tenant issues.
Overland Management has the experience and resources to handle a variety of maintenance needs. Our trusted vendor connections and after-hours emergency rental maintenance line offer a 24/7/365 solution for property owners. However, the benefits of professional management go far beyond maintenance. Our team handles all daily operations, including marketing, accounting, leasing, and customer service.
Call us today!