It’s 11 pm. You’ve just settled into bed for the night, ready to drift off to sweet dreams of low vacancy rates and appreciating rents when the call dreaded by most property managers and real estate investors arrives. It’s a tenant, and they have an issue that just can’t wait.

Landlord/Property Manager Obligations For Maintenance Issues

Sure, you could tell them they’ll need to wait until morning. In some cases, you’re well within your rights to do so. But this isn’t always the case. If there is a serious safety issue that could harm the tenants or the property, you likely have certain legal requirements to promptly address this. These can be found in your local regulations and should be spelled out in your lease.
But even if you aren’t legally required to solve their issue immediately, it’s crucial to remember renting property is a people business. Keeping tenants happy is the key to keeping them for a long time, and longtime tenants mean lower vacancy rates, fewer turnover costs, and more profit for you. But no one wants to be driving across town late at night for a locked-out tenant or stopped-up toilet.

Solving Tenant Maintenance Issues With The Help Of Your Tenants

The key to this dilemma is helping tenants help themselves. You don’t want them turning into their own handymen, but empowering your tenants to resolve their own issues means a quicker resolution for them and less hassle for you. Nearly all of this can be laid out in writing in a welcome or reference document given to tenants on move-in day.

5 Common Tenant Maintenance Issues You Can Help Them Solve Themselves

1 Power Outage Or Outlet Not Working

This is a common tenant maintenance issue with many potential causes but only a few that you or anyone else can do anything about. First, have your tenants check if their neighbors have power. If the whole neighborhood seems dark, it’s a power company issue, and they should report it to them, not you. If the power is only out in a certain room or area, direct your tenants to the electric panel, and have them check to see if any breakers have flipped. Alternately, moisture or dampness may have tripped a GFCI outlet. If the power issues are limited to a kitchen, bathroom, or other room where water is present, check and reset any outlets that have been tripped using the “reset” button. These common electrical fixes can help resolve the majority of calls for power being out.

2 Locked Out Or Lost Keys

Lockouts are one of the easiest problems to solve, with the most versatile set of solutions. If you want to avoid this issue altogether, get a digital lock with a keypad. That way, your tenants will never be locked out because they don’t have any keys to lose. Additionally, you’ll be able to easily change codes between tenants, ensuring safe locks without having to replace any parts. Depending on your smart lock model, you may also be able to monitor usage, or create temporary codes for visitors, Airbnb guests, or contractors and cleaners. For a lower-tech solution that requires more interaction with you, you can place an additional lockbox on the property for tenant emergency use and give them the code when they call. This should be separate from any lockbox you use for management or emergency access, and you should change the code after to make sure your key remains safe between uses.
You should also make it clear in your lease that if you or a manager needs to come out to the property for a lockout or with replacement keys, there will be a financial cost associated with this. It’s important to not only protect your or your team’s time but also encourage tenants to resolve these issues on their own whenever possible. Plus, you’re always free to waive these costs if you feel circumstances warrant.

3 Clogged Toilet Or Slow/Clogged Drain

Clogged drains are among the most unpleasant issues to resolve, especially when they involve toilets. These can also be the most frustrating for investors or property managers, as there’s no magic to plunging a toilet – just the right equipment. Many common plungers (the ones with the reddish rubbery cup at the end) aren’t well suited for this. Buy your new tenants a toilet plunger – it’ll pay for itself in reduced stress and time.
Many clogged or slow shower or sink drains can be resolved with drain cleaners, and many tenants try this with no luck. That’s because many of the common drain cleaners, well…aren’t very good! Toss in a bottle of the good stuff (Instant Power) along with the plunger and consider the $30-40 you’ll spend investment in reduced maintenance along the way.

4 Garbage Disposal Not Working

This is another common complaint that is often a quick and easy fix. You can head off this fix in general by providing sink strainers when turning over rentals to new tenants. These cost just a few dollars, and, when used properly, can prevent large debris from even entering the disposal. Also, remind tenants in your welcome document that you should always use the disposal with cold water, to encourage fats to congeal for easier disposal.
If after all this, the disposal is still not working, most issues can be solved with a simple dishwasher wrench. These are another inexpensive device that saves you and your tenants a lot of headaches. Many times, all a stuck disposal will need is to be manually turned to unstick any clumps. From a safety perspective, you should not tell the tenants to do anything further, or stick their hands inside the sink drain to resolve a clog. This can be very dangerous if done incorrectly – so make sure they leave that to the professionals.

Helping Tenants Help Themselves Means Fewer Maintenance Issues For You

Property management isn’t easy, even with the best of tenants. Things break! But helping tenants solve simple and quick issues means less work for you, quicker resolution for them, and more of your attention and money available for significant issues.