As experts in property management in Salt Lake City, we have seen it all. Rize Homesource not only interacts daily with renters in both single and multi-unit properties, but our customer service and maintenance staff members have had the opportunity to truly gauge what matters most to tenants.
By and large, maintenance issues are the most difficult and frustrating issues that tenants deal with while living in rental properties. Because maintenance issues are often immediate—a broken water pipe or a lose balcony railing—and can affect the wellbeing of renters and their families, there’s more urgency involved, and therefore more stress and emotions.
Because renters do not own a property often they feel powerless to either fix the problem themselves or to call a known expert to help them resolve the issue as quickly as possible. Instead, tenants must follow their lease agreements and renting protocol, which usually means calling a maintenance number and hoping that someone qualified calls back quick. It’s that sense of subjection that often leads to conflict.
However conflict can be avoided if you pay attention to a few maintenance “musts.” Here are five key practices that we’ve learned through extensive experience in the property management business.
1| Inspect regularly. If it’s in a rentable house or unit, it should work—unless stated otherwise in the lease. Some people won’t mind a couple of outlets that are non-functional due to age, for example, but you can’t expect tenants to test every outlet prior to move-in. If a fixture exists, it should be inspected regularly and function properly prior to a home or apartment being occupied. This alone will build trust and go a long way toward keeping future communication positive with tenants.
2| Be responsive. Issues are bound to come up, especially if you are renting an older home or building units. Renters know stuff happens, but they also have a right to demand a response when they’ve brought a potential issue to the attention of management. Remember, you don’t always have to fix non-emergency issues immediately, but you do have a responsibility to communicate quickly about a plan to investigate the maintenance matter in a reasonable amount of time.
3| Communicate honestly. We’ve already covered the importance of timeliness when responding to a tenant’s maintenance complaint, but there is another level of communication that can’t be overlooked: transparency. If for some reason you need to change the plan already communicated to a renter, that’s OK. That’s your right as a property owner or manager. However, it’s not okay to do so without informing your paying tenant. Be open, honest and clear about any changes to a plan for repair. That’s the fairest approach for both parties.
4| Demonstrate professionalism. This applies not only to how you handle yourself when communicating with tenants about maintenance issues, but also extends to those you hire to help execute repair work. These people are a reflection of you or your company. Take your time to gather trusted recommendations, interview several people and hire only professionals who have a track record of conducting maintenance work in tenant-occupied properties.
5| Follow up. Have you ever had a medical procedure, legal case or situation with your children that ended fine, but kept you on edge while wondering if and when something might happen again? Now apply that to the feeling renters have when what they just went through a serious maintenance dispute—something that impacted their life. Owners and managers should try to make time for a quick follow-up call to offer reassurance that the issue has been resolved and should not occur again in the future. This is also a great time to survey tenants about their satisfaction with the outcome of the issue. It sends an important message that you are on their side.
Follow these five tips for smart maintenance management, and you’ll be well on your way to developing healthier, long-term relationships in the business of renting.