Most landlords understand that they’re responsible for handling property repairs and maintenance. While the vast majority of requests your tenants make will be relatively easy and inexpensive to handle, some of them will be both expensive and urgent. These requests are considered to be an emergency, meaning you need to respond as quickly and efficiently as possible.
But how can you tell what constitutes an emergency tenant repair request? And how should you handle one?
What Is an Emergency Request?
Some repairs are both routine and non-emergencies. For example, it’s a good idea to change the furnace filter regularly – but even if the filter is very dirty, it can probably wait a few days.
So how can you tell if a repair request is a true emergency?
In most areas, landlords are legally obligated to provide a safe and habitable environment for their tenants. If the environment is no longer suitable for safe and healthy living, you’ll need to make an emergency repair.
If a situation leaves a tenant without access to any of the following, you can consider it an emergency:
- Running water. Everyone needs access to running water at all times, with special exceptions for temporary and controlled shutoffs. If your tenant loses access to running water, it’s your responsibility to restore that access as quickly as possible.
- Hot water. Tenants are also entitled to hot water. If the hot water tank isn’t working, you can’t wait a week to replace it; you should work on replacing it as soon as possible.
- Heat. Access to heat is also considered a necessity, and for obvious reasons. This is usually a problem only in winter, but if your tenants lose access to heat when they need it most, it’s your responsibility to repair the furnace immediately.
- Electricity. The same is true of electricity. Passing storms and natural disasters may knock out electricity for the entire area; if this is the case, the electric company is responsible for making the repair. But if the electrical outage is your responsibility, consider it an emergency.
- Bathroom facilities. Your tenants require access to a bathroom with a working toilet and shower/bath for daily living. Issues that prevent this access need to be corrected with haste.
- Basic services/facilities. Other basic services and facilities that your tenants should expect may also require emergency repairs from time to time. Malfunctioning stoves and ovens, missing or broken windows, and doors or locks that don’t work all require immediate attention.
Additionally, if there’s a defect, flaw, or bit of damage to the property that puts your tenant’s health or safety in jeopardy, you can also treat it as an emergency repair request.
How to Handle Emergency Requests
How should you handle emergency requests from your tenants?
- Provide emergency contact information. Repairs can happen at any time – and without warning – so it’s important to provide your tenants with emergency contact information proactively. Long before an emergency ever takes place, you should provide specific contact information and instructions for your tenants. How should they get in touch with you? How should they file this request? A phone number is preferred.
- Respond immediately. When your tenant reaches out to you with an emergency request, you should respond immediately. This lets the tenant know that you’re aware of the issue and that you’re working on it. If you can’t make the repair immediately, let them know why and set their expectations.
- Visit the property (if possible). If you’re in the area, consider visiting the property to gather more information about the necessary repairs. Otherwise, request photos or videos from your tenant so you can get a better grasp on what’s going on.
- Coordinate a plan for repair. Once you have the information in front of you, you can coordinate a plan for repair. Depending on your skill set, you may be able to do this yourself, or you may need to hire a maintenance person or contractor.
- Provide updates to the tenant. Whatever your plan is, continue providing updates to the tenant. Let them know if they need to find a hotel to stay in temporarily and set their expectations for when the repair is going to be complete.
How to Handle Non-Emergency Requests
What if your tenant reaches out to you with an emergency request, despite not being in an emergency situation?
- Respond immediately. You should still respond immediately. If your tenant genuinely believes this is an emergency, they may not be willing to wait for your response; they may take action on their own. It’s important to get ahead of this and provide reassurance to your tenant.
- Explain the nature of emergency repairs. Once you address this specific instance, make sure to explain to your tenant what qualifies as an emergency repair.
- Politely guide the tenant to a more appropriate channel. Establish a secondary channel for communicating about non-emergency repair requests and politely direct your tenant to use that channel. For example, can they create a ticket in the back end of your property management software?
- Coordinate a plan for repair (if necessary). Even if this repair is not a genuine emergency, it may be a practical requirement. That means you’ll still need to coordinate a plan for repair.
Dealing with emergency repair requests is one of the worst parts of being a landlord. Your tenant will interrupt you with a stressful message. You’ll be responsible for making the repair as quickly as possible. The repair may be expensive. And on top of all of that, your tenant may still end up unhappy with the resolution.
That’s why it pays to have a property management company on your side. Your property managers are your full-service property team, fielding requests, issuing repairs, and managing other property issues on your behalf in exchange for a fixed percentage of your monthly gross rent. Are you tired of handling emergency repair requests in your Katy, Texas home? Or do you want to avoid this difficult part of the business altogether? Contact Green Residential for a free consultation today!