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A Beginners Guide to Maintenance Requests

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For most landlords, maintenance is one of the most dreaded tasks. In fact, according to one recent survey, maintenance was ranked as the main stressor for landlords -cited by 62% as their biggest pain point.

But while dealing with maintenance can be a hassle, it's not exactly something that can be overlooked. Maintenance is the landlord's responsibility, and of course, a key part of keeping your rental property in good shape. It's also necessary for helping to stave off other, more serious problems down the road.

One of the biggest issues that landlords face is dealing with maintenance requests. We've all been there; it's late at night, or perhaps you're out of town and suddenly there's a crisis at the rental, involving the dishwasher, fridge, or garbage disposal. Now you're faced with the difficult task of trying to arrange for repairs from afar -or after hours!

If you find yourself growing tired of maintenance requests, or are running yourself ragged trying to keep up with maintenance at your rental, the good news is that there are ways to simplify and streamline the maintenance process.

Here's a look at how you stay on top of maintenance, without any additional and unnecessary stress!

Have a Plan

If you're going through a property management company, they'll be able to address maintenance issues as they arise, but if you're managing your properties on your own, you'll want to have a plan for maintenance requests. Having a plan allows you to respond quickly and efficiently when requests come through. Outline how the tenant should notify you, and the timeframe in which you will respond. It's also a good idea to keep a list of local contractors; electricians, plumbers, and general contractors for smaller jobs. That way, when something goes wrong, you won't have to scramble to find their number.

Budget It In

In addition to a plan, it's also important to budget for unexpected repairs and maintenance issues. It's a good idea to maintain some funds in an account in case the hot water heater or refrigerator goes out. As a general rule, you can expect to spend at least one percent of the property's value on maintenance every year.

Know the Law

Landlords are also legally obligated to maintain their rental properties, and that includes performing necessary repairs. Most states have clear stipulations regarding how soon you're required to respond to issues, as well as guidelines on keeping the property structurally safe and habitable.

The landlord is usually responsible for:

    • Clean running water

    • Electricity

    • Heating

    • Adequate weatherproofing

    • Sanitary conditions

    • Keeping the property free from pests

At the very least, the above conditions need to be met. So if there's a maintenance request that comes through concerning one of these areas, it's important to create an action plan for repairs as soon as possible.

Establish a Method for Tenants to Contact You

Most landlords prefer to be contacted via text or email for non-emergencies. You should also have a special number for emergencies. Just make sure the tenant is clear on which issues constitute an emergency. Heating, electric issues, leaky roofs, serious plumbing problems, or anything that smells like burning electrical, or like gas are usually classified as emergencies. Issues like minor faucet leaks, interior doors that won't shut, and clogs in the kitchen sink should be classified as non-emergency issues. It's a good idea to document what does and doesn't constitute an emergency in the tenant's lease agreement.

Once You Receive a Request, Determine the Severity of the Issue

Once you receive a request for maintenance, you'll want to determine whether it's low-priority, medium-priority, or high-priority. Emergencies are high-priority while broken appliances and lights should be classified as moderate. Minor issues include things like cabinet doors not shutting properly, faucet drips or small leaks, or a crack in an upper floor window.

Emergencies should be addressed and repaired the same day if possible while moderate issues should still be repaired within 48 hours. Low urgency complaints should be fixed within one week.

The Repairs Process

Next, you'll want to determine whether you will complete the repair yourself or call in a professional. Be sure to take into consideration the level of skill that's required for the task, as well as the amount of time that's required to complete the work. Also, keep in mind expenses for tools and materials. If patching the hole in the wall will cost $50 in materials alone, and the contractor can complete it for $40, it may be better to let the experts do the job.

If you decide to call in the professionals, you'll want to contact them to obtain a time estimate for repairs. You'll then want to contact the tenant and update them on how long it should take for the problem to be corrected. You'll also want to give them a date that they can expect the technician to arrive. Once the repair is completed, it's important to get the tenant's signature that the work was completed satisfactorily along with the date and time. This is a good idea whether you or a professional do the job.

Make a Plan for Preventative Maintenance

Finally, the best way you can reduce maintenance requests? By staying on top of regular maintenance. It's a good idea to get your rental on a twice-yearly maintenance schedule, by compiling a list of everything that should be done both in the spring and fall. Not sure where to start? Here's a look at some recommendations for both Fall Maintenance and Spring Cleaning.

Of course, there's another way to reduce the frustration and inconvenience of unexpected maintenance requests. Many landlords opt to enlist the services of a property manager, who will be able to take on all of the work that's involved with managing a rental property. If you find that you're short on time, or would like to expand your rental property portfolio by investing in out-of-town markets, a property manager could be an ideal solution. With a reputable property manager, you'll be able to outsource all of the day-to-day work -including maintenance, fielding tenant phone calls, handling repairs requests, and more -freeing you up to spend your time on other, more high-level tasks.

At Renters Warehouse, we offer property management services for busy landlords. Be sure to visit our website today, or get in touch to learn more about what we offer.

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