Troubleshooting maintenance issues is similar to triage in an ER.

By Oretta Croushore, Property Manager for Home Rental Services

Any homeowner will tell you that maintaining a house is a full time job. Maintaining a lot of houses IS our full time job here at Home Rental Services.

I will admit, the reality of handling renter maintenance requests is not what I pictured in my head before I started this job six years ago. I thought, okay, they have a leaky faucet, you call the plumber. The house is cold when it shouldn’t be, call the furnace people. I had this image of easy answers for straightforward questions. That girl naively floated through her fantasy world in blissful ignorance. I’ve learned a few things because of all the situations I’ve handled over the years. 

Triage is a major component of handling maintenance issues.

Unfortunately, it’s not always first come, first served when it comes to handling maintenance issues. The house that has no heat is going to get higher priority than the one who has a dripping kitchen faucet.

Any property manager who has been at this for a year, knows the first hot day is going to bring a barrage of air conditioning calls. When I first started with HRS, a colleague told me he used to love rainy days until he started this job. Now, when it rains, he knows he’s going to get all the wet basement calls.

The week of Christmas in 2022, the Kansas City area had extremely low temperatures along with nasty wind. We were inundated with reports of frozen pipes. Some of those burst which created flooding and all the issues that come with water in a house. No running water, no heat, flooding… Not things anyone wants to deal with, especially over a holiday weekend. It’s also a guarantee that vendors are going to be spread thinly.

Using your resources wisely.

I’m a Girl Scout and one part of the Girl Scout law is to use your resources wisely. Our vendors are one of our greatest resources. We want to keep them doing the most effective work possible. Our maintenance team works with renters to troubleshoot issues of all kinds. They ask renters to try various things with the hope that the issue can be resolved at the renter level. When it is, that’s a win for everyone. The owner doesn’t have to pay for a maintenance call, the renter doesn’t have to live with a non-working item, and the vendor can focus their efforts where they are most needed. 

In the case of the Christmas freeze, this troubleshooting was especially effective. Certain types of pipes cannot be thawed by the heavy duty pipe heating equipment because it will actually melt the pipes! There’s not much a plumber can do until the pipes thaw. We ask renters to open the cabinet doors and set up space heaters to help move the process along.

When a renter reports an HVAC issue, we ask when the filter was last changed. If the system isn’t coming on at all, we have them check the batteries in the thermostat and check the breakers for any that might be tripped. 

Maintenance Tips on our website.

Common sense troubleshooting is so important and helpful that we’ve collected quite a few tips on our website. You can see our list of troubleshooting tips here.

Now that I’m older and wiser, I know there is a lot more to handling renter maintenance than just sending out a work order. Saving renters time and frustration makes for happy renters; happy renters take care of their homes and renew their leases. Keeping good renters in houses and keeping expenses low makes for satisfied clients.

Do you have any maintenance tips we might have missed in our list? If so, please let us know!

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