Devise a Plan for Maintenance Requests

What to do before an issue occurs

Plumbers working on pipes under sink
••• Paul Bradbury / Getty Images

Tenants will have maintenance requests, it is inevitable. As a landlord, it is in your best interest to devise a plan for handling these requests from the very beginning. Having a system for handling these complaints will help minimize the stress when you are actually dealing with the requests.

What Is Your System for Handling the Complaints?

To make handling complaints easier, you should have a system in place that tenants can follow when they need to alert you to a maintenance request. There are two basic ways you can go:

  1. Formal Request: Some landlords prefer to have tenants submit maintenance requests through a formal process. This process should be clearly spelled out as part of the lease agreement.
    1. This process usually involves some sort of written request. The request will usually include the following information:
      • Tenant’s Name
  2. Address
  3. Unit Number
  4. Phone Number
  5. Date of Complaint
  6. Type of Complaint
  7. Description of Complaint
  8. Special Requests
  9. It could be:
      • An Online Form- If you have a website for your property investments, you may want to consider adding an area for maintenance requests. The tenant would simply have to go to your website, fill out the form and hit send.
      • or
  1. A Paper Form- This would be a hard copy that the tenant would either scan and email to you, fax, hand deliver or place in some sort of mailbox you have dedicated for such requests.
  2. Make sure to also have emergency procedures in place where tenants have the ability to contact you, a property manager or repairman after normal business hours in the event of a maintenance request that needs immediate attention, such as a burst pipe or lack of heat in winter.
  3. Informal Request: Another option for landlords is the informal request. With this type of request, when a tenant has a maintenance issue, they would simply call you or email you, depending on your preferred form of communication, and explain the situation. Phone requests would take place during the normal business hours you have set unless it is an emergency, in which case they will follow the emergency procedures you have in place.

    Who Will Handle the Maintenance Requests?

    You must decide who will be in charge of handling maintenance complaints and requests, so you are not caught off-guard when the complaints come rolling in. Tenants will need to know who they should contact when they have an issue.

    • You: Will you be responsible for handling maintenance requests? Are you comfortable having tenants contact you for such requests? Are you comfortable going into a tenant’s apartments for such requests? Do you have the knowledge base and skill to handle plumbing and electrical repairs or will you need to hire a specialist?
      • If you decide that you will take on these maintenance requests yourself, you need to acknowledge your skill set. While you may know how to fix a doorknob, shut off a main water valve and tile a floor, do you know how to solder a pipe or install hardwired smoke detectors? It is important that you understand your limitations from the beginning so you can plan appropriately for repairs you are not able to handle yourself.
    • A Property Manager: Will you hire a property manager to take care of maintenance requests? If you do not feel comfortable performing maintenance requests or simply do not want to be bothered with them, you can hire a property management company to do so. They will either have a skilled team of handymen on staff or will hire outside contractors to perform these requests. While it is a more expensive option, it does save you the headache of having to deal with constant maintenance requests and saves you the opportunity costs of time you can allocate toward more productive endeavors.
    • Someone Else: In the event that you do not have the skill, knowledge or desire to handle a tenant complaints yourself, and do not want to spend the money to hire a property management company to do so, you cannot let your property fall into disarray, you must have someone to take care of these issues. With this option, you will not be paying someone a monthly salary; rather, you will pay them to take care of each individual issue as it arises.You must do your research and find local repairmen and contractors in your area. You will want to look for:
        • A Handyman- Who will handle basic repairs.
      • An Electrician- Who will take care of electrical problems.
      • A Plumber- Who can deal with pipes and drainage issues.
      • Late Nights and Weekends- Make sure you also know the hours these individuals will be available. If they are not available at odd hours, you need to make sure you have someone who is. You do not want to be frantically searching for a backup repairman when you are on your honeymoon in Hawaii at 2 A.M.
      • Emergency Contact Numbers- Always have on hand the numbers of the local firehouse, police station and poison control center.