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How to Handle After-Hours Calls from Your Tenant

handle-after-hours-emergency-maintenance-calls

 

Being a landlord is not a 9 to 5, Monday through Friday job. That said, being a rental owner comes with both pros and cons. Plus, there are times when working in a non-traditional industry such as real estate can wreak havoc on your schedule. For example, one of the common disruptions for landlords is after-hour emergency calls from tenants. While preventative maintenance is key, there is bound to be a time when your tenant will need to call for an after-hours emergency. Whether it is for a broken pipe, fire, break-in, or other catastrophic event – property owners must take immediate action. Luckily, we have some tried and true property management tips to offer you for handling after-hours calls from your tenant below.

How to Minimize After-Hours Calls from Your Tenants

As a property owner, your legal responsibility is to maintain a safe and habitable home for your tenants. In addition, providing efficient and timely repairs is one of the best ways to keep your tenants satisfied and turnover rates low. Check out our advice for minimizing after-hour calls you could receive by setting clear guidelines for your tenants and keeping up with critical maintenance.

Establish Emergency Guidelines

Before any tenants moving in, it is important to establish processes for reporting and handling an emergency. Part of that policy is defining what constitutes a true emergency warranting an after-hours call. In addition, as a rental owner, you are obligated to promptly handle all property maintenance and repair issues.

However, unless something is broken within your rental property that is immediately affecting the health and safety of your tenants or compromises the safety of the building your tenants are residing in, there is no real reason a tenant should be calling you after-hours. So, below are examples of true after-hours emergencies that require immediate action on the part of the landlord –

  • Gas leaks
  • Electrical issues
  • Water emergencies
  • Backed up sewer lines
  • Leaking roofs
  • Fires
  • Carbon monoxide detection
  • Non-working locks or other circumstances that mean the property cannot be properly secured

Some things that your tenants may feel are considered emergencies, but in fact are not, include:

  • No hot water for a short period of time
  • Clogged or backed-up toilets or drains
  • Noise complaints or security issues (call 911 if appropriate)
  • Parking issues
  • Minor leaks that can be handled in the morning

Therefore, to avoid unnecessary after-hours calls, landlords must clearly define and communicate expectations to their tenants.

Keep Up with Repairs and Preventative Maintenance

Part of being a lawful and successful landlord is providing a safe and habitable home for your tenants. That said, keeping up with repairs is important to protecting your valuable investment property but also avoiding after-hours calls for emergency maintenance.

While preventative maintenance will not automatically avoid every repair emergency, it can help keep major systems running at their best. The goal here is to catch little problems before they become major repairs and the large bills that accompany them. For example, a small drip over time can get worse, leading to damage and even mold growth if left untreated.

So, consider setting up a regular maintenance contract with an HVAC vendor, plumber, or pest control expert to monitor your property and handle any issues that arise. The steps owners take to make repairs or prevent problems from occurring creates a standard of care tenants will appreciate. Some of the essential preventative maintenance tasks for tenant sand owners include the following –

  1. Replace HVAC Filters Quarterly
  2. Shut Off Water to Outside Spigots Every Fall
  3. Clean and Remove Debris from Gutters Every Fall
  4. Remove Leaves and Debris from the Yard Each Fall
  5. Periodically Re-Stain or Power Wash the Deck and Fence
  6. Power Wash Your Porch and Siding Every Few Years
  7. Test Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
  8. Check for Any Activity that Violates the Lease Agreement
  9. Drain the Water Heater
  10. Re-caulk Showers and Bathtubs

How to Handle After-Hours Calls from Your Tenant

Since after-hour calls are a part of being a property owner, it is important to have a plan for handling them. After all, the simple steps you set up from the beginning will allow for a much more efficient response time when disaster strikes. Let’s take an in-depth look at these processes below.

  1. Provide Emergency Contact Information
  2. Ask the Right Questions
  3. Responsiveness is Key
  4. Set up an Answering Service
  5. Hire Professional Property Management

Provide Emergency Contact Information

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Start by providing your tenants with emergency contact information before move-in. This way, when an emergency pops up, they know exactly who to contact right away.

By doing this, not only do you forge a direct line of communication between your tenant and the person or company best equipped to handle the after-hour emergency, but you also reduce the chances of being woken up in the middle of the night. One convenient way to deliver this information is to include it in a tenant welcome package at the time of lease signing. That said, be sure to include contact information for the following –

  • Local police emergency and non-emergency line
  • Gas company
  • A property manager or another representative besides the owner (if applicable)

In addition, show your tenants how to turn off the main water and operate the fuse box themselves, just in case. It is also a good idea to include some simple how-to instructions like how to unclog a toilet. These simple things can help minimize damage or the severity of an after-hours call.

Ask the Right Questions

 When an after-hours call requires immediate action, collecting all of the pertinent information is critical. That said, the first order of business is to ascertain exactly what is happening. From there, talk to the tenant, authoritative figure, or an emergency official to determine the following –

  • Does the tenant need emergency accommodations for the night?
  • Did the emergency require certain major systems to be shut down, such as heat, water, or electricity?
  • Who needs to be contacted to repair the problem?

Once you have the basic information, you can then determine the following –

  • How long are the repairs expected to take?
  • Who is liable for the damages?
  • Do you need to contact your homeowner’s insurance or the tenant’s renter’s policy?

By finding out this information quickly, owners can avoid misinforming tenants. Miscommunication is an already stressful situation that can cause confusion or disputes about how the emergency will be handled going forward.

Responsiveness is Key

In the case of an actual emergency, owners must respond appropriately and promptly. Not only is it a legal responsibility, but it also shows tenants that their safety and wellbeing are a priority.

However, there are times when a physical response to an after-hours call cannot happen immediately. And often, your tenant will know this. That said, reaching out and acknowledging the situation, explaining the next steps, and assuring the tenant you are doing everything in your power to handle the call will help allay their concerns.

Set up an Answering Service

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If you own a large portfolio of properties or do not want the hassle of after-hours calls, consider setting up an answering service for your tenants to contact with emergencies. From there, the answering service will determine the next steps, whether that be to reach out to you, contact a maintenance crew directly, or take a message and leave it until the next business day to handle.

Here are some helpful tips for making sure your after-hours answering services meet the needs of your tenants and come across as professional, personal, and sincere –

  1. Monitor the way the answering service answers the phone to ensure your tenants know they have contacted the right people
  1. Have the call center discuss the urgency of the situation to determine whether an after-hours maintenance visit is necessary
  2. Prep your answering service to field all questions, concerns, and complaints if you enable them to work during regular business hours, as well as after-hours
  3. Consider implementing advanced functionality, such as over-the-phone scheduled showings, payment processing, and general maintenance requests.

In the end, providing a suitable outlet for your tenants to call after-hours is the key to handling their concerns promptly, without having to deal with every call personally.

Hire Professional Property Management

One of the best things you can do when handling after-hours calls is to enlist the help of an experienced property management company in Philadelphia. Furthermore, one that has a 24-hour maintenance crew on hand and access to trusted professional vendors to efficiently handle a variety of after-hour emergencies.

In the end, no property owner looks forward to receiving an after-hours call from a tenant. However, keep in mind, your tenant is likely to be just as upset about having to call you. Thus, it is important to be understanding and help remedy the problem as quickly and painlessly as possible.

So, if you own property in the Philadelphia area and want to hire a reputable property management company to handle all of your tenant’s after-hour calls, emergency repairs, and more, contact Bay Property Management Group. Our team of professional managers, maintenance techs, and reliable contractors we have worked hard to build a solid rapport with are available 24 hours a day to handle all tenant questions, concerns, and emergencies. So give us a call today to find out more.