On this week’s episode of Be A Better Landlord, Samantha and Seamus discuss how to find and work with maintenance professionals. The Be A Better Landlord series will cover various aspects of landlording, landlord-tenant law, how to market your rental property, and best practices to help you get the most out of your investment.
Host: I’m Seamus Nalley, CEO of Turbo Tenant, joined today by Samantha, Landlord Experience Specialist at Turbo Tenant, and she’s here to help me be a better landlord. So Samantha, I consider myself pretty handy, but every now and then there is a maintenance request that comes up that I personally just can’t handle, whether it’s an emergency or it’s a job too big. So I’d love for you to give me some tips today as to how to find, evaluate, and keep a great maintenance provider.
Samantha: Sounds great, let’s do it.
Host: Let’s start with where to look. Where do I find an awesome maintenance provider?
Samantha: Most landlords recommend that you start locally. So ask other landlords or real estate investors. You can join local meetup groups and associations, or Facebook groups, and localized apps like Nextdoor can help you find contractors and maintenance workers.
Host: You’re looking for that makes a lot of sense. Now, if I want to find a maintenance provider in a pinch, though, what can I do to make sure that it’s a fair price and it’s going to be good quality work?
Samantha: We definitely recommend that you get at least three quotes so that you can compare them. One landlord actually recommends that you take the lowest quote and you ask them why their quote is so much lower than the higher bids that you received. It may be that they have a smaller crew or some in-house products that they use for repairs and maintenance as opposed to purchasing new items at the store when they’re coming up for repairs.
Host: Interesting, I’ve never heard that before, but I really love that idea. I’ve probably overpaid several times then because I always figured you just take the middle one. That is definitely one way to do things. Alright, now once an individual comes to your property, they actually do the job. How do you assess the quality if it’s a job that you can’t personally do?
Samantha: It’s a great idea to understand what the scope of work is going in, right? So understanding what they’re going to do to do the repair, what sort of materials they’re going to be using, and having all those details bundled up. If you’re checking in with them as they’re doing the repair and as you’re doing the maintenance, then you can kind of follow along with the process they’re using. You can always have another vendor come and check out the work to determine if they would have done something differently, which is a way you can get a quote for another project in the future.
Host: What do you do, though, in terms of limiting the disruption to your tenants when you’re going to have a maintenance provider coming, maybe working around or even inside their property?
Samantha: Communication is key. Letting your renters know first of all that you’ve acknowledged the issue that needs to be repaired, letting them know that you’re working with contractors to determine a fair price or a schedule that’s going to work for everybody. You can even reach out to your tenant and ask what times work best for them. If it is going to be something where the provider will need to enter the home, finding out what’s convenient for the tenant is going to save you a lot of headache in the end as well. Obviously, the tenant is going to be really excited about getting the job done, hopefully.
Host: Yes, that’s the ultimate goal. Alright, you found help here. They’ve come, maybe done a job for you, and you want to kind of add them to your team. What would you suggest in terms of creating a good relationship with a maintenance provider so that when your number shows up in the caller ID, they pick up for you?
Samantha: One of the biggest pieces of advice is paying on time. If you are bidding out jobs, your contractor is likely going to tell you that they have either a same-day pay or a 24-hour pay, or some vendors will do a 30-day pay, so you pay 30 days after the job is done. Making sure that you’re meeting your end of the bargain as well and submitting payment early if you can will also make them happy. If you have other jobs that you can refer this person to if you enjoyed your time with them, they did a nice job of work, they’ve cleaned up after themselves, they’re professional, referring them to other landlords and bringing them additional business is another way to make sure they answer your phone calls.
Host: So, that’s the happy path. Let’s talk red flags now. You have a maintenance provider. Where, how do I know things are not working and what are those signs that I should run?
Samantha: There’s definitely some things that are going to be maybe more important to you than some other landlords. If punctuality is something that’s really important to you and a level of professionalism, obviously being late to an appointment is a red flag. If they show up with their lunch spilled down their shirt, that could also be a red flag, depending on what you’re looking for in your maintenance provider. It’s also a good idea, and one of the recommendations of our landlords, to ask what their preferred tools are. Most contractors should have a preferred set of tools or a brand of tools or type of tools that they like to use, whether that’s battery-operated or pneumatic air compressor devices. Knowing that they have an understanding of the tools they’re going to be using and a preference is a good sign that they are reliable and can actually do their job. It’s also great to ask for references. If there are other landlords or property investors in the area that they can, the contractor can give you their contact information so you can touch base and make sure that everything was above board. Then that’s one way you can do it.
Host: Is there anything in terms of communicating with your tenant? Let’s say that you own multiple units on one property, right? There’s some work to be done. Do you, as a landlord, have any sort of responsibility to communicate that that will be happening to your tenants, or are there any at least best practices?
Samantha: Yeah, so in most lease agreements, you are required to give a 24-hour notice of entry to your tenants. So that would also apply to maintenance requests, of course. If the renter submitted a maintenance request, they should be aware that you’re going to have somebody coming in. But going just that little extra mile and communicating with them what the expectations are, how long the work’s going to take, if they’re going to come back another day, those are all best practices. And if you’re managing multiple rentals on one, and you have a person coming to do maintenance, it might be a good idea to also notify your other tenants in case there are other maintenance issues that you can go ahead and resolve while they’re on site. Multiple birds with one stone, that’s right.
Host: Yeah, these maintenance requests that you mentioned earlier that are generated actually by your tenant, can you tell me a little bit about responding to those and then even the documentation that they may provide to help ensure that I’m keeping all my ducks in a row?
Samantha: Yeah, so in our online maintenance platform in Turbo Tenant, we have work orders built in and maintenance requests. Renters can input the information about the issue they’re experiencing. They can even upload an image or video and can indicate if you can enter any time to fix that issue or if you need to coordinate a time first. In Turbo Tenant, you can actually send that work order directly to the third-party provider that you’ll be using for repairs, which is great. But just acknowledging to the renter that you’ve received it, if you have additional questions on what the issue is, what’s not working, or what needs to be repaired, this is a great opportunity to ask those questions so that you can make sure that you have all the answers before you start reaching out to those third parties on getting pricing and bids and things like that.
Host: Well, Samantha, I feel a lot better about tackling a couple of the bigger and more urgent maintenance requests that may come up in my near future as a landlord. I really appreciate today. Cheers.
Samantha: Thanks for talking with me today and making me a better landlord.
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