This article was posted on Friday, Mar 30, 2012

Like it or not, once you and your tenant have signed a rental agreement, addressing any maintenance issues that arise will quickly become one of the most critical aspects of maintaining a good relationship.
You may occasionally need to educate an overly needy tenant on the types of issues they should attempt to address themselves before picking up the phone to dial your number.   However, in general, it pays to respond quickly to maintenance requests.  Not only will this earn you the good will of your tenants, it will allow you to fix small problems before they become much larger issues.
With this in mind, here are some tips for effectively handling maintenance requests:

Establish a Same-Day Response Policy
You likely won’t be able to solve your tenant’s maintenance issue within 24 hours “ and except in the case of true emergencies, they probably won’t expect you to “ but you should aim to respond to maintenance requests as soon as possible and within 24 hours at the latest.  When you do respond, get as much detail about the problem as you need, then let the tenant know what your next steps will be and give an estimated timeline for resolution of the issue.

Consider a Computerized System
Depending on the number and size of your properties, you might want to consider using a computerized system to handle maintenance requests (and other key tasks, including your favorite “ collecting rent).  Letting each tenant log into their own account to submit request and track progress is convenient for everyone and you’ll have an automatic record of all work orders submitted and maintenance projects completed.  Many professional property management companies employ such systems.

Use a Property Management Call-Answering Service
No matter what the size of your business, you can outsource answering your calls.  Many 24/7 answering services are set up to assist property managers specifically.  Maintenance hotlines are often available for you and your tenants’ convenience.

Have Backups for Crucial Members of Your Maintenance Crew
No matter how much you like your first choice 24-hour plumber, you should regularly work with two or three providers of key maintenance services (or more, depending on the size of your business.)  You don’t want to be searching for new plumber options when sewage is backing up into your tenant’s bathtub and your regular plumber is on vacation.

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If you Drop the Ball, Offer Concessions
No matter how diligent you are in responding to tenants’ maintenance requests, occasionally, something will go wrong and your response won’t be quick enough.  If your tenant’s refrigerator dies and they lose $100 worth of groceries, then spend a week waiting for a replacement appliance, give them a generous grocery store gift card as a gesture of good will.  Even if you’re not at fault when a maintenance situation goes wrong, showing your tenants that you care about them will pay off in the end.

Ami Noss is with All Property Property Management.  Reprinted with permission of UPDATE, the official publication of the Rental Housing Association of Puget Sound.

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