System for Handling Maintenance at Rental Property

How Tenants Should Submit Complaints and Who Will Address Them

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Maintenance requests are one of the most common issues you will deal with as a landlord. It is best to have a plan in place that both you and your tenants understand to help minimize confusion and conflict. Here are some key tips for developing a system for managing repair requests at your rental property.

Formal Maintenance Request System

You may decide that all tenants must put all maintenance requests in through a formal process. The procedures for submitting repairs should be included in your lease agreement.

Written Request:

The tenant must submit the request in writing, including the following information:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Unit Number
  • Phone Number
  • Date of Complaint
  • Type of Complaint
  • Description of Complaint
  • Special Requests

How to Submit:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Email- The tenant can submit the above information via email and send it to the email address you provide.

Informal Maintenance Request

You may decide that you can handle maintenance requests in a more informal manner. If you only have a few tenants, the tenants may be able to contact you via phone or email during normal business hours when they have a problem.

Emergency Requests

Your tenants must also know how to contact you for emergency situations. Emergencies are situations that need to be addressed immediately. They can include situations such as a burst pipe flooding an apartment or heat that is not working in the winter.

You must provide the tenant with a way to contact you in these emergency situations outside of normal business hours. It could be a dedicated phone number, text message or email.

Who Will Handle the Maintenance Requests?

Next, you must decide who will actually address the repair required.Will you, the landlord, be the primary source of contact or will you hire outside help to deal with these requests?

Landlord:

  • Are you comfortable handling tenant maintenance requests?
  • Are you willing to commit the time and energy to address these issues?
  • Will you be able to handle face to face conflict with the tenant in a professional manner?
  • Do you have knowledge and skill to handle plumbing and electrical repairs or will you need to hire a specialist?
    • 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 have a specialist on call for repairs you are not able to handle yourself.

Property Manager:

  • Would you rather have a property manager be responsible for handling all maintenance issues?
  • Will the tenants contact the property manager directly for all repair requests?

Property managers often 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 spend on more productive tasks.

Another Third Party:

If you you do not have the skill, knowledge or desire to handle tenant complaints yourself, and do not want to spend the money to hire a property management company to do so, you can put together a team of specialists yourself who will each handle specific repair issues. With this option, you will not be paying someone a monthly salary; rather, you will pay them to take care of an 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:

  • Handyman- Who will handle basic repairs.
  • Electrician- Who will take care of electrical problems.
  • 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.