Investment Property - On Call Emergency Maintenance
Having been in the real estate investing world since 2008, sometimes you just take some things as law. For management, "Fire, Flood, Blood" has always been our saying for a maintenance emergency. Never questioned it. Never even thought about it. When asked by our maintenance guys, or a new guy "what qualifies as an emergency?" I am always quick with it, "Fire, Flood, Blood."
Just the other day , my assistant and I were creating flow charts for maintenance calls. If it is a toilet that is clogged, call this company. If it is an electrical issue, ask these questions and based on the answer call this company first and this company second if the first doesn't answer. We then got into emergency on calls and how to handle them. First, we had to decide what qualifies as an emergency?
Fire, Flood, Blood.... Right?
What the heck does that even mean?!
So, we dug in and started to nail down what a maintenance emergency really is. Here is what we discovered:
We'll hit our Fire, Flood, Blood First
****ALL OF WHAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT IS SPECIFIC TO AFTER HOURS CALLS - If you get any of these calls during the day, best to fix them that day if possible.***
If there is any overflowing water from a toilet or sink that can't be shut off, or if there is a pressurized water line that has a crack, leak in it, these absolutely qualify as an emergency and need to be addressed right away.
What if your toilet is clogged though? Well, if you have multiple toilets in the house and it is not overflowing, this bad boy is just annoying, but no emergency. It can wait til tomorrow. If there is only one toilet in the house, welp, emergency it is. Get the rooter company out.
As far as "flooding" goes at the property, your water heater could give way. Hopefully, your tenant can shut off the water to the building or the valve to the unit. Otherwise you have 50 gallons of water PLUS a continuous supply of water feeding the failed water heater. This could quite possibly be one of the most urgent, highest priority maintenance emergencies. I hope this doesn't happen to you.
Other "flooding" emergencies could be a massive downpour of rain and flooding the crawl space or the roof is leaking. These I'm sure are not the only other flooding opportunities, but only ones that I have seen. That being said, there isn't much you can do for a leaky crawl space or roof until AFTER it stops leaking and dries up enough for a contractor to get out and make the needed repairs.
Get the heck out the building, why are you calling us, call 911.
This also applies to Carbon Monoxide, but is not as urgent as a blazing fire. Get out of the house and call the fire department and they'll come and check the CO levels.
Okay, here is where we had a good laugh. Not that blood or people getting hurt is anything to laugh about, BUT, why has "Fire, Flood, BLOOD" been such a common saying for us? I was trying to talk through the "blood" emergency.
"Well, if someone....... Or if the........ When there is....." Huh... what the heck could be a "blood" emergency.
If someone is hurt, injured or bleeding, please do not call us. Call an ambulance, or some medical professional who can actually help....
So that gets us through the "Fire, Flood, Blood" - Maintenance emergencies. What other maintenance emergencies could there be that actually qualify as an emergency?
There are different ways of handling this. Is the tenant okay with not showering that day?
Are they willing to shower at the gym? Will they be okay for a night? It is okay, if the tenant is not okay with these requests, but it is also okay for you, the landlord to ask. If they are, but give some push back, maybe offer them credit on next month's rent. It is less expensive than the only other option. Put them up in a hotel. This is expensive so, but if your tenant refuses to stay at a property without water (completely okay), this is your option. And it will be your expense.
No Hot Water
Well, NOT emergency... but URGENT. Tenants are NOT going to be happy about this. Things happen, though at properties. This could be one of them. You as the landlord have 24-48 hours to get them hot water again. I WOULD check your local and state laws on this, though on the rules of no hot water. It is a warranty of habitability issue and needs to be handled with the correct amount of attention. A lot.
if this occurs in the summer, or when overnight temperatures will stay above 50 degrees, this is not an emergency, but does need to be addressed.
Otherwise, if we are talking winter weather, this is absolutely an emergency and get calling your vendors. If you cannot get a hold of your vendors you'll need to bring the tenants a plethora of space heaters.
IF THE TEMPS ARE IN THE SINGLE DIGITS or BELOW - Need to suggest they go stay at friends or a hotel. Hopefully the tenant has a friend and can save you some money that you'd have to spend on a hotel.
No power, check first to see if the tenant has paid their utility bill. From there, have them check the breaker box, maybe they overloaded an outlet which tripped the breaker. If both are fine, call the city utility and see if they are doing any work and have temporarily set off any power?
What if there is electrical arcing/sparking and the outlet is shooting electrical sparks and flames (I've seen it). Have the tenant turn off the breaker. But you need to go out and make sure the breaker is off. At that point, the issue can wait til the next day.
Tenant Locked Out
If the tenants key is not working, well, yes this is an emergency. But, if the tenant locks themselves out, not your problem, they can call a locksmith. That being said, if temperatures are below 32 Degrees, it IS an emergency and you need to let them in. It is important though, that you let the tenant know “my time and labor will be billed back to you, the tenant, but we will be out shortly to let you in.”
If the fridge goes out this is an emergency because people's food will not last long and is a waste of their money. If the tenant suggests the fridge is still cool, SEE if they would be willing to wait for a tech to come out the following day. No appliance store is 24/7 so the replacement or fix has to wait until the next day if after hours anyway. So, the only solution is 2 options:
Credit them some dollar figure and they can go and buy coolers and ice for their food.
Bring them coolers and ice.
The following day, get the fridge issue handled. Provide a loaner or get the unit fixed.
Get out of the house and call the energy company or 911.
NOT emergency but very high priority. Get a vendor out within 5 days to inspect and hopefully treatment, if not soon after.
If a window breaks, this is an emergency. Dwellings need to be secured. The best you can do is to send someone out to board up the window for the evening/long term until it can be replaced.
So that is the list that my assistant and I came up with for after hours, on call emergencies. I am not suggesting that there are not many, many more out there. There are issues specific to regions. Arizona, if your A/C goes out... an emergency, but if it goes out in Fort Collins, CO, not an emergency.
We built a policy around our on-call emergencies so that we can handle them a certain way every time. We can also provide them to our employees to help them navigate on call emergencies.
"Fire, Flood, Blood" Has now become. Flood, Fire, Heat, Electric, Keys, Bugs, Breaks, Appliances... well it can be anything really and it is just best to have some sort of an idea what qualifies as an emergency and how to handle it.