As part of our ongoing Sarasota property management blog series on disaster readiness and crisis response for property owners, we’ve covered a wide variety of topics. Our last few blogs centered on:
- Developing your crisis plan as a landlord
- Managing your rentals in an eviction-free climate
- The importance of thoroughly screening your renters.
With your crisis-plan readiness in mind, there's a topic we want to tackle today that has probably been on your plate at least once during the COVID-19 pandemic: maintaining your rental property.
While our original blog post on developing a readiness plan in the event of a disaster covered everything from rent collection to savings, it neglected to shine a spotlight on the importance of how to approach property maintenance in a way that protects you and your renters. We intend to remedy that today with tips we've used ourselves as an expert in Sarasota property management.
Before the novel Coronavirus was a blip on our radar, routine maintenance was probably the number one reason why your renters did or did not renew their lease. New concerns may have replaced the priorities of your renters and changed the way you can tackle maintenance in the short term, but addressing the maintenance needs of your residents will never lose importance.
While the COVID-19 crisis is far from over across the nation, hopes are high that the economy in the Gulf Coast will recover quickly as our community begins to unveil its plans for reopening businesses in the wake of the pandemic. We know that it's only a matter of time before this crisis loosens its grip on Florida.
However, this is not the only disaster you can expect to see in your life as a property owner. Adding a maintenance component to the crisis plan you began developing in our earlier blogs will help round out your stock of available solutions if we see a fresh wave of illnesses in the fall.
A quick note: The following article is not a substitute for legal counsel. If you need immediate help with a pressing issue concerning your tenants, turn to a competent attorney or Gulf Coast Property Management for real-time assistance!
Create a Clear Policy
The first step to approaching your 'new normal' in handling maintenance is to clearly define your maintenance policies somewhere your renters can access easily. A great example of how to do this can actually be found on our COVID-19 response page here at Gulf Coast Property Management.
- List the new availabilities of you or your vendors for maintenance needs.
- Define whether you are addressing all requests, or emergency repair needs only right now.
- Provide your renters with a time-frame for when such requests are responded to by you or your staff.
- Clearly mention any new policies you have concerning maintenance, such as PPE you intend to use or requirements you may have for your renters to follow if they have symptoms of COVID-19.
It's important to emphasize that any new policies you develop to handle maintenance during this time ensure the safety of you, your renters, and your maintenance vendors. COVID-19 restrictions may be relaxing in the Florida area, but by taking the right precautions regardless, you show your renters that you are a professional that cares.
Keep in mind that such precautions can easily be modified to fit any type of disaster quickly if you already have some form of protocol in place. We have our fair share of hurricanes to deal with in Florida, so this won't be the last time you may need to implement some quick changes to how you approach 'business as usual.'
Once you've developed your new approach to maintenance, you need to communicate these changes effectively with your renters to ensure that they're aware that things are going to be handled a little differently around your properties for the time being. This prevents unpleasant surprises and also creates a sense of structure that your residents will appreciate.
Communicate Your Changes
We've covered in a past blog how communication with your renters during a crisis is one of the most important steps you can take as a landlord. This is no less true when it comes to your interim maintenance policies during a disaster. Not only is staying silent not the tack you want to take when your renters might be experiencing a maintenance emergency, but it can cost you a reliable renter down the line.
When going over these changes with your renters, be sure to define them somewhere in writing. Email is a great vehicle for this as it allows you to professionally reach your renters across multiple properties when done correctly, and ensures you have some form of documented 'receipt' that your message was sent.
- A phone call might not effectively reach every resident.
- Communicating changes by phone can make it difficult for your renters to recall the details about how you plan to operate moving forward.
- A professional email gives residents a reference point they can use for what to expect from your new standard of maintenance, as well as how they should prepare for your vendors to enter their home.
Of course, if these new guidelines become overwhelming across your properties or you can't find vendors able to meet your standards, a Sarasota property management partner can quickly remove these roadblocks.
How a Property Manager Can Help
If you looked at our COVID-19 emergency response page, you'd quickly see how the professional level of services that the right property manager can provide outclasses what most hobbyists can manage on their own.
We've heard from a lot of DIY property owners lately that it has been especially challenging finding vendors willing to enter their renter's homes during this time. When you work with a Sarasota property management professional, they already have reliable, licensed, and insured vendors in place to handle maintenance requests—even during a crisis. The best companies also offer in-house maintenance services that allow them to respond to a wider variety of issues at any given time.
Your property manager also behaves as a buffer between you and your residents: we know that during a disaster, tempers are likely to flare and emotions are at an all-time high. Even the most reliable renters can experience strain under the pressure of social distancing policies. The last thing any property owner should have to deal with right now is the complexity of renter relationships in a crisis.
At Gulf Coast Property Management, we're here to help! It's exactly why we're offering our resources for free to DIY property owners during this time. Take advantage of our insight by downloading our Collecting Rent in a Crisis Handbook at no cost to you. Then, if you need more assistance to navigate your recovery as a property owner in the wake of COVID-19, reach out to us. We're happy to put our experience to work for you!