Six Steps To (Near)-Perfect Property Maintenance
Typically, when somebody describes a business as being “in the toilet,” it’s bad news. But property management is an industry built on the gritty work of contractors and maintenance technicians, including plumbing repairs. So if you’re a property manager and your company isn’t “in the toilet,” you’re doing something wrong.
The quality of your company depends heavily on the quality of its maintenance effort: If you can’t satisfy a client and their tenants with effective repairs, you’ll lose their business. In other words, a property management company is only as good as its maintenance team. Commit to the following five practices to ensure that your maintenance branch provides your company with the proper foundation for customer satisfaction and future growth.
Before we continue, a disclaimer: I’ve found that a property management company with an in-house maintenance team can do more to benefit its clients than one that hires out all repair work to vendors, so what follows takes that as a given. Companies with in-house maintenance have vetted technicians ready to deploy at any given moment and can guarantee the property owner far more transparency — which we’ll return to later.
Now, let’s jump in.
1. Make Callbacks Nonexistent
This point could be restated as, “Do it right the first time.” A management company’s callback rate tracks how often they have to send their team back to a property to redo a repair they already performed. Making callbacks completely nonexistent is more of an aspiration than a reasonable expectation, because even the best management companies have to send technicians back to properties every once in a while. But in the name of tenant satisfaction and efficient use of your team’s man hours, you should try to keep your callback rate as close to zero as possible.
2. Seek The Harsh Truth
If you’re afraid to hear what tenants have to say about how they think your maintenance team performed a repair, take that as evidence that you need to hear it. Without feedback from the residents you’re serving at a unit level, you can’t know things like how courteous your technicians are when they interact with tenants, or how efficient they are from the time they get to the unit to the time they leave. We send a survey to the tenants of every single unit we make repairs on, no matter how small the fix. We want to know exactly how well they feel we’ve served them. This helps us improve our service, and it also lets them know that they have a voice in our process. The positive feedback you receive on repairs will help you learn who the stars of your team are.
3. Get Licensed As A General Contractor
The laws surrounding general contracting work vary from state to state. For example, you only need a state license in Alabama for work costing over $50,000, but here in California, the law requires a general contractor license for any work costing over $500. Some states, such as Indiana, don’t require a state license at all, but they do have licensing laws at the local level. Research your area’s specific set of ordinances to ensure your maintenance team isn’t performing repairs illegally.
4. Get Certified By Manufacturers
Many management companies offer warranties on maintenance tasks. For example, on a new roof, a client is going to want a warranty on the entire job. It’s even better for the property manager to be specifically licensed by the manufacturer whose product they’re using. For example, we recently got certified by the brand of silicone coating we use to weatherproof flat roofs. Receiving this type of certification shows clients that your maintenance team is so dedicated to thorough work that major manufacturers are willing to vouch for them.
5. Enact Preventative Maintenance
I’ve briefly touched on the importance of preventative maintenance in multiple previous articles, but now that I’m making maintenance the central topic of this one, we can explore the details. As an example, when we sign on a new client and they request preventative maintenance, we work with them and show them exactly where we’ll spend the money. For instance, in one specific home, we plan to spend $27 re-caulking the base of toilet on the second floor every six months. Why? Because if any gaps open up between the toilet and flooring, water can penetrate the subfloor and wind up damaging drywall downstairs on the first floor. The $27 the client spends now will save them hundreds of dollars on the damages that could result from doing nothing (Enough about toilets — I promise, that’s the last time I’ll mention them here.)
6. Document Everything
Specific documentation is another principle I’ve written about before regarding move ins and move-outs, but it applies much more broadly to maintenance. We encourage tenants to file their maintenance requests through our online portal with as much detail as they can include — instead of just reporting a leak, we ask that they report what’s leaking and what they think the source might be. We have them take photos and send those too, so that we’re highly prepared and appropriately equipped for the job well in advance. We also require all of our technicians to take both a wide-shot photo and a zoomed-in one of the issue before and after performing the repair. These measures may seem extreme, but consider implementing them as guidelines. Your clients want to know what they’re paying for, and the more transparency you can offer them with photo documentation, the better.
Streamlined, thorough and effective — if these words describe your maintenance work, they’ll likely also describe your property management company. Take these actions to heighten the quality of your maintenance and lift your company as a whole to the next level.