It’s a misconception that landlords get to sit back collecting rent checks from their tenants, without putting in much work. In addition to ongoing property maintenance, finding new tenants to replace vacancies, and regularly updating their knowledge on laws and property management, landlords sometimes need to respond to emergency repair requests.
For example, after a violent wind storm, the roof of your home may be damaged to the point where water is leaking through. You may encounter an electrical issue that poses a safety hazard to your tenant. There could also be an insect infestation that jeopardizes your tenant’s way of life. Either way, you’ll get a text or phone call from your tenant, and you’ll be responsible for resolving the issue as quickly as possible.
So what’s the best approach to resolving these issues as quickly and cost-effectively as possible?
Understanding the Nature of Emergency Repairs
First, you should understand what truly qualifies as an emergency repair, as well as what some of the most common repairs you might face are. Some repair requests from tenants are superficial, or are annoying at best—like a loose doorknob—while others deserve your immediate attention. How can you tell the difference?
Emergency repairs usually fall into one or more of these categories:
- Health and safety risks. Any repair that jeopardizes your tenant’s health and/or safety needs to be fixed right away. This will prevent any lasting harm to your tenant (and any legal issues you might face in the wake of that harm), and show your tenant that you care about their wellbeing.
- Further damage risks. Some repairs get worse or lead to further damage if they aren’t addressed For example, a leaking roof could cause serious damage to your building, as well as damage to the tenant’s property in your unit.
- Some emergencies could also prevent tenants from going about their daily life, such as a fallen tree blocking the driveway. These also deserve your immediate attention.
These types of repairs tend to get more expensive and riskier with each passing moment.
Inspections and Ongoing Maintenance
The ideal way to handle emergency repairs is to prevent them from being a necessity in the first place. While you can’t prevent all emergencies, you can minimize the risks of serious damage to your property by conducting thorough inspections whenever you have a tenant vacancy. Conducting regular maintenance on the property and responding to smaller repair issues quickly and efficiently can also reduce the chances that some bigger problem arises down the line. For example, inspecting the roof for minor areas of damage on an annual or semi-annual basis can allow you to make small fixes and upgrades that provide extra resistance against incoming storms.
Preparing an Emergency Budget
No matter how well you prepare, you should be prepared for at least some emergency expenses. The cost of repairs and damages can range from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars, so there’s no easy way to prepare for everything. Property insurance will protect you for some of the bigger-ticket items, but it still pays to have a bank of funds ready to disperse when you need it. Set aside a few thousand dollars for emergency repairs, or build to that level of readiness by stashing a few hundred extra dollars a month.
One of the biggest factors for success when dealing with a tenant’s request or acknowledgment of an emergency repair is responding immediately. The faster you respond, the sooner you can mitigate damage from the incident, and the better you’ll look in the tenant’s eyes.
For starters, it’s a good idea to have some kind of communication protocol in place. If a tenant has a typical issue, they might send you an email or log the issue on some kind of online platform. But if they have an emergency repair to deal with, they need a more direct, urgent way to contact you; in some cases, this may be texting or calling your cell phone directly.
You’ll also need to have arrangements in place to enable you to respond quickly. For example, if you have a flexible job that allows you to leave for such emergencies, you’ll need to keep your phone on you at all times—just in case you need to respond to an emergency. If you don’t have that flexibility, you may want to establish a partner or point person who can field such requests in your stead, until you have a moment to step in.
If you can’t get to the property and start fixing things immediately, you can at least quell your tenant’s concerns by acknowledging the issue and pledging to get there as quickly as possible. Be transparent, and let them know exactly when they can expect you to arrive.
Building a Trustworthy Team
Though you may be able to handle some emergency repairs yourself, it’s more likely that you’ll need to rely on the help of a professional. The conventional approach to repairs is getting multiple quotes from different contractors to make sure you’re getting the best deal, but you won’t have the luxury of time on your side when dealing with an emergency.
Accordingly, it’s better to build up a team of reliable, trustworthy professionals you can count on to handle the job as cost-efficiently as possible—long before an emergency actually unfolds. Spend some time networking with other landlords and with contractors in your area to gain more connections and referrals. Better yet, work with a property management company so you don’t have to worry about handling the repairs yourself at all.
If you’re interested in being a landlord with as little stress as possible, you should hire a property management firm. Property managers will be on call to field tenant requests and handle certain repairs, so you don’t have to worry yourself about being constantly available or responding to repairs immediately. Contact Green Residential today to learn more about our services, and how we can make your life as a landlord easier.