If you own rental property, maintenance requests from tenants are inevitable, even if you’re diligent about regular upkeep. Things wear out over time, and you may have to replace or make repairs to a variety of items. Whether you have one rental property or several, staying on top of maintenance requests demands organizational skills. Fortunately, these skills are easy to learn (and there are tools to help you out along the way).
The need for documentation at every step of the maintenance request process cannot be understated. Time-stamped records from the moment a tenant notifies you of an issue through its complete resolution ensure that facts can be backed up in case of a dispute down the line. If tenants call you with an issue, ask them to put it in writing so the paper trail can begin.
Keep all communications regarding the issue. Memories get fuzzy, and tenants might not remember breaking something when it was clearly their fault. You might even forget how much a repair costs when it comes time deduct it from the security deposit. Easily accessible records, including receipts for materials and vendor invoices, will provide the information you need.
Tenants want to know that you’re handling their request in a timely manner. If they don’t hear from you after submitting a request, they may become anxious or frustrated. Don’t go radio silent. For example, if you’re waiting for a part to come in, let them know. If the part doesn’t show up when you’re expecting it, let them know. If you can’t get an appointment with a repairman until two weeks from Sunday, let them know. Keeping your tenants in the loop won’t leave them wondering whether you’re blowing them off and will go a long way in curbing any frustrations they have.
Again, whatever the update, do it in writing. Proof of your good-faith communications could come in handy if there are any problems later on.
Be ready to outsource when difficult maintenance problems come up. You may not be able to handle every maintenance request yourself. Even if you’re handy, you simply may not have the time.
Be proactive and put together a list of service people you can call before you even need to call them. Researching professionals in the area, reading reviews, and checking credentials can take considerable time. The last thing you want to be is scrambling to find a plumber when a pipe has burst. You’re probably going to want that guy on speed dial.
Simplifying the Process With Digital Maintenance Requests
If you really want to make things easy on yourself, you can use an online tool that not only keeps your records safe and in one place but also allows your tenants to submit repair requests. Tenants may also upload pictures so you can determine the magnitude of a given issue.
You’ll receive the notifications in real time and be able to track the progress of each request. You just upload your documentation (receipts, invoices, emails, etc.) so there’s a digital paper trail—every piece of it time-stamped and easy to retrieve.
- Be sure to give your tenants proper written notice whenever you or a service person will be entering the property. The required notice varies by state.
- Make it clear to any vendors you use that they should perform only the specific maintenance requested by you. This avoids added expense in the event that your tenants ask them to do something else while they’re on the property.
- Follow up with your tenants after the fact. You don’t want to pay a repairman and find out months later he never showed up or did a poor job. Knowing the issue has been resolved can prevent future disputes, as well as the additional expense of fixing an unsolved issue that has grown bigger over time. And yes, just like everything else, do this in writing.