While collecting rent can be done through online payments, there is no getting around some elements of in-person property management. Our weather in Charleston certainly doesn't practice social distancing—and rental property maintenance doesn't just stop just because of the novel Coronavirus.
When you are working through any kind of crisis (a pandemic is just one example), you want to have a clear plan for how maintenance can continue—in this case, with public health guidelines in mind. Your plan will help your tenants feel confident that their homes are safe, even if you must change your expected maintenance and repair schedule and style of approach.
Here are some smart choices you can make during social distancing to move forward with maintenance requests and routine maintenance.
A quick note: While this blog post is designed to give you some tips to safeguard your rental property, this post is not intended as legal advice! When in doubt, work through such situations with trusted property management, Charleston, SC, landlords!
Outline and Share Your Policy
Looking at your typical maintenance and repair needs for this time of year, given the past few months and years, consider what might need to change in response to social distancing. For instance:
- Are there surfaces that need to be sanitized before and after a repair contractor stops by a rental property?
- Would it be helpful for contractors to wear masks and PPE during the repair to prevent virus spread?
- Are the typical wait times for repairs going to increase, or will you be prioritizing certain requests?
- Do you want repairs to be requested using a different system than what you currently use?
Your answers to each of these questions form the core of your temporary maintenance plan. Make sure that, once you put it together, you distribute it broadly to all of your tenants, giving them as much time as possible to review it before they need to have it understood.
Explain That Non-Emergency Repairs Are on Hold
One section of your plan should discuss repairs and maintenance requests that are not urgent.
- If the home's functionality is otherwise intact, some cosmetic or other non-emergency repairs can be put off.
- To keep tenants completely clear on the situation, it would be helpful to look at your most common repairs and maintenance activities.
- Outline which items are considered emergency repairs and which can be put on hold or delayed.
- You can mention which repairs will be scheduled more slowly, in line with recommendations from health officials in Charleston.
Coordinate Repairs During Times When Tenants Are Out
One way to accomplish both emergency and routine maintenance is to request that tenants work with you on the scheduling to find a time to be out of the home. While this may present an inconvenience, doing so keeps both the tenants and your vendors safer, since surfaces can be sanitized before each party leaves the space, reducing significantly the chance that they'd share any virus spread.
While many tenants may not be leaving home for work, you can make some suggestions for when these tenants might be able to schedule a repair appointment. One tactic that we use as Charleston property managers is to work around when tenants go to the grocery store, out for a walk, or are running other errands. This is often enough time for your maintenance professional to complete small repairs or do an evaluation of what major repair is needed.
For extended repairs, encourage your renters to practice safe distancing and stay six feet or more apart when communicating with your vendors. Wearing masks for the duration of the visit is also recommended.
Make Sure Tenants Have a Way to Clarify Questions About the Policy
While tenants may skim the policy, your best bet is to share it in multiple places, such as using both an email and a physical flyer. Allowing them to ask questions—possibly through a video call—may cut down on unnecessary surprises.
Clarify that the policy is in place to keep both repair workers and tenants safe—not to unduly inconvenience either party. If a tenant has an idea that maintains social distancing and solves a problem, being flexible may be in your best interest. In fact, their solution may be a helpful one that you can implement across multiple properties with an update to the policy.
Property Management Makes It Easier!
As Charleston property managers, we know you have a lot on your plate. One way to keep your workload manageable is to work with a property manager! Property managers have experience adapting their repair and maintenance policies to any scenario. They may have suggestions for how to structure your policy, or you can let them handle all questions—saving you time.
Property managers are also in touch with a network of highly reputable vendors to get continued, reliable service across the properties they manage. This can keep your maintenance and repair schedules prompt even if—for instance—a single repair or maintenance vendor has chosen not to visit properties for a period of time. However, maintenance is not the only arena where expert property management becomes valuable: rent collection is another area where landlords struggle during any crisis.