Rental property can be one of the biggest and most valuable assets in a property owner’s portfolio. For that reason, it is not only important to preserve the property’s value but also find ways to increase it. Property management companies should have a process for property upkeep and repair. A rental property owner should understand where their money is being spent, and tenants should feel confident that their requests will be addressed quickly.
To find a property team equipped with a maintenance and repair policy you can trust, make sure to cover these topics in the interview:
Does the property management company have their own, in-house maintenance team, or do they use a list of trusted, affordable vendors?
If they have an in-house crew, make sure you understand how that team is paid and insured. Also ask about the team’s availability – from on-call and emergency services to daily work schedules, it is important that someone is always available for your tenants.
If the property management company contracts outside professionals for maintenance and repair services, ask for a list of the company’s trusted vendors. Create an understanding of how contractors are insured, as well as how the property team plans to oversee their work for quality and cost. If you want to go the extra mile, research the list of vendors yourself to ensure their quality, cost, and customer reviews match up to your expectations. It is also a good idea to review all receipts and transactions once a repair is complete (you can also ask to approve all services prior to completion, but keep in mind – that is what a property team is for!).
Conflicts of Interest
Many property teams choose to hire a list of trusted contractors on an as-needed basis vs. employing an in-house team. In addition to understanding the quality and price of their work, it is also important to make sure there is no conflict of interest between the property management company and each individual contractor.
Does the property management company hire a certain plumber due to his or her quality and price, or was this plumber hired because he or she is the property manager’s sibling? Some vendors will also reward management companies with bonuses and profits for contracted work. It is okay for a vendor to offer discounted rates to a property team due to the amount of work, but outside bonuses and profits going directly to the property manager can drive unethical business practices.
Once you understand who the property management company uses for maintenance and repair services, it is now time to think about providing the best experience to your tenants and overall property. A successful property management team will have software in place to receive, track, and resolve maintenance requests. Ideally, tenants would be able to submit requests online that would then filter to the software for handling. Regardless of the software solution, it is important that the property management company has a proven method of receiving and handling maintenance and repair requests in a timely and effective fashion.
Like with any property, maintenance services should not happen only when there is a major issue. Preventative maintenance policies allow a property management team to be proactive in maintaining the value of your property. From regular inspections to routine maintenance like fresh paint, successful real estate investors are willing to pay for activities to maintain and maximize a property’s value. It is better to find a small leak during a regular inspection than to receive a 1AM phone call 9 months down the road that the entire pipe has burst. Time and effort in the short-term can pay off long-term.
When fulfilling a tenant maintenance request, what is the policy for entering a tenant-occupied unit? A property management company should have a policy (that tenants are aware of) for any time contractors or maintenance personnel plan to enter an occupied property. Without an established policy, these situations are asking for trouble.
Tenant Maintenance and Repairs
When it comes to regular maintenance activities – such as mowing the lawn and taking out the trash – there is little liability involved. However, it is crucial that tenants understand what is expected of them to upkeep the property outside of services the property management company provides. As a rule of thumb, it is helpful for property teams to leave basic services, like mowing, to the responsibility of tenants. This allows tenants to feel more ownership in maintaining the value of the property.
It is also important to have a policy around tenant repairs. It may seem easier in the short-term to allow tenants to perform simple maintenance and repair work, but there is a lot of risk involved. Tenants are not trained to perform quality work, and they are not insured to perform repair services. Unfortunately, you and your property team could be held liable if a tenant was injured while performing this work. The risks typically outweigh the benefits in this situation. Whether you choose to allow tenants to perform simple repairs or are strictly against it, make sure this policy is written clearly in the rental agreement.
In the event that a unit or property is vacant, what does the property management company do to prepare the unit for showing? The property should receive a new paint job, professional cleaning services, and a fresh set of keys. In addition to basic prep needs, this is also a great time to enhance a property or unit to increase its value. For example, updating bathroom and kitchen fixtures could be an easy and inexpensive way to add a modern touch to the property for future tenants. Make sure the property team has a clear list of activities to prepare each property for its next tenant in a timely manner.
As we all know in life, little problems can easily spiral into becoming much bigger problems – and property maintenance and repair is no different. The right property management company will have a clearly defined maintenance and repair process. In addition to that process, they will also come with a trusted and affordable maintenance crew or list of contractors.
This not only gives peace of mind to the rental property owner but also creates trust and satisfaction among tenants.