Tips for Property Managers on How to Handle Emergency Maintenance

As a property manager, it’s essential to have a quick response to emergency maintenance. Taking too long to respond to maintenance complaints can be damaging to both your tenant and client relationships. Tenants may become frustrated, while a slow response could end up costing your client thousands of dollars. Missing an emergency could also make you liable for the damages you were responsible for preventing. Incidents that involve water damage, fire, security, or other issues demand prompt attention to prevent further damage to the property.

Developing a process for handling emergency maintenance requests is a sure way to deal with them as soon as they come in. Your emergency plan should have the following stages:

  1. Receive the tenant’s maintenance request.
  2. Diagnose the tenant’s request.
  3. Troubleshoot the potential emergency.
  4. Dispatch the appropriate person/service to handle the emergency request.
  5. Notify the appropriate clients or staff of the emergency.
  6. Confirm that the emergency was successfully resolved.

Receiving Tenant Maintenance Requests

Tenants need to have a reliable, easy way to submit emergency maintenance requests. If these aren’t clearly stated, they may get creative on how to contact you for an emergency. This could lead to delays in response, or to you missing the request altogether. In general, people want to talk to someone right away in an emergency. If tenants don’t have a number to call in an emergency, they may submit the request online – or not at all. The problem with online submissions is that most of them don’t have a way to notify your team when there’s something that needs to be dealt with immediately. Even email alerts aren’t sophisticated enough to flag an emergency from regular maintenance requests.

Tenants should be provided with a line to call into in the event of an emergency. Some property management companies rely on an on-call phone for after hours, while others contract out to 24/7 call centers. You’ll want to give tenants a reliable way to reach someone immediately so the issue can be addressed as soon as possible. It’s important to make sure that whoever is handling the calls can diagnose whether the issue is an emergency and knows the proper response to it. Passing off an on-call phone to a receptionist who doesn’t have the training to diagnose the issue or know how to resolve it will hinder the ability to resolve the emergency quickly.

Diagnose and Troubleshoot the Tenant’s Request

Some tenants may take advantage of the ability to call in a maintenance problem at any hour – even if it’s not an emergency. That’s why it’s necessary that whoever is handling the phone call is able to accurately diagnose whether the issue needs to be dealt with immediately. In some cases, you may be able to troubleshoot the problem and either guide the tenant on how to resolve it or de-escalate it to a routine maintenance request.

So, what qualifies as a maintenance emergency? Any condition that if not repaired promptly could cause injury, threaten health, or cause serious property damage is considered an emergency that shouldn’t wait until normal business hours. Here are some issues that qualify as an emergency:

  • Water leaks that can’t be stopped by turning off the water to the unit
  • Flooding
  • No running water in the unit
  • No AC above 95 degrees or no heat in freezing temperatures
  • Broken windows, doors, or other security-related issues
  • Electrical outages that aren’t caused by or related to the power company
  • Life-threatening emergencies like gas leaks, carbon monoxide leaks, and fires

Handling the Repairs

Once you know what the issue is, you’ll need to determine if it can be handled by you (or your team) or if you’ll need to call in a professional. Consider the skill level needed for the task and the amount of time it will take to complete the work. It may be helpful to have a list of emergency contractors on hand who have 24/7 availability. This will eliminate the need to call around when time is of the essence. 

Notify Others of the Emergency and Confirm Resolution

Once the emergency has been dealt with, you should notify the property owners as soon as is practical. You should also check in with the tenant to make sure the emergency has been completely resolved.

Whether you have an emergency like an overflowing toilet or a structural fire, having a plan in place on the steps to take will make it easier and less stressful to resolve.

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