Protecting Your Investment Property When Your Tenant Won’t Speak Up

Posted by Chris Clothier on Thu, Feb 12, 2015
investmentproperty-propertymaintenance

One off the number one reasons people are drawn to renting is the idea of a maintenance-free lifestyle. Yes, not having to deal with broken appliances and property upkeep is an alluring notion for many. For real estate investors, though, when buying investment property, dealing with property maintenance can be a big pain. While particularly big repairs always hurt the wallet, the fact is that any maintenance task takes time and effort to properly address.

The sooner you catch a problem, the sooner you can fix it. So what’s a landlord or property manager to do when tenants keep things to themselves?

Tenants will likely tell you the big things — the broken dishwasher, the drafty window or insect problem. But little things that you would notice and want to fix on your home or property might go unreported, if they’re even noticed at all. Before you know it, you have a big problem on your hands!

So how can you help your tenants help you?

3 Keys to Better Property Maintenance Systems

Keep Communication Open

Is your tenant reluctant to tell your property manager anything? Solid landlord-tenant relationships come into play here. If your property manager begrudges the tenant’s complaints or seems standoffish, the tenant may feel less willing or able to bring up “insignificant” maintenance issues. By the same token, they might simply not perform the basic things they should be doing — keeping the space clean, checking locks and windows and preparing for emergencies.

Either way, open communication will help. Not only will the tenant feel more inclined and enabled to bring up concerns, but if your expectations are clear to the tenant, things are more likely to get done without having to involve a maintenance call.  

This communication starts day one when they sign the lease.  A quality management company and for all our landlords out there that follow the blog, this advice goes to you too, make sure that the proper expectations are set from the beginning.  Take a firm yet welcoming stance.  Remind a tenant that keeping a property in great working condition and free from any quality of life issues is a management companies #1 goal beyond collecting the rent.  So open communication and clear expectations that all issues need to be reported and addressed immediately is a great way to start a relationship.

Put Maintenance at the Forefront

Making maintenance an afterthought is dangerous. Not only should your property management be quick and responsive to formal requests, but good management is also keeping an eye out for trouble when there are no calls.  It is not practical for a management company to perform a thorough inspection of a property on a regular basis without passing on substantial costs to owners.  An owner with a small number of properties can do this and small management companies managing multi-units can do this.  Yet, when you get into scaleable numbers where there are hundreds and in our case thousands of properties under management, then a management company has to be creative to keep a close eye on properties.

Deploying vendors is a great way to keep an eye out for trouble spots.  If a vendor is dispatched to a particular property, they can do a quick inspection to alert a management company if there may be other issues to address.  While in a neighborhood, they can place an eye on other properties under management viewing from the outside to determine if more attention is needed.  A management company can do the same thing with their own team members who work in the field.  An alert eye can always spot problems and then produce a call to a tenant for a closer inspection.

These are some very simple ways that a management company can use their assets and those of their vendors to keep a close eye on properties when scheduled checks are not practical.

One last option is the request and pay for an inspection as an owner.  Many companies, including ours offer an option where an owner can order an inspection.  This allows for inspections to be done on an as ordered basis and is easier to accomplish with so many properties under management.

Make It Easy for the Tenant

If you want your tenant to help you, make it easy for them. Provide basic maintenance supplies for the property — cleaning supplies, spare light bulbs and batteries (for the smoke alarm, for example), garbage bags and so on, at least in the beginning. Giving your tenants a helping hand in the beginning with taking care of the property, in addition to making your expectation clear, will help you save on maintenance.

We give a welcome kit to new tenants when they close their lease with our company and it comes not only with items every new tenant can use and need, it also comes with cleaning supplies and a message that we expect them to keep the property at a proper living standard.  This is an easy message to deliver - hard for some to follow unfortunately - yet, for the most part these gift bags are a huge hit and welcomed warmly from the new tenants.

How do you encourage healthy communication between property managers and tenants? Share with us in the comments.

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image credit: Andrew Magill

Topics: property maintenance