Industry Insights

Here at RedRabbit, we know exactly how time-consuming and tedious maintenance management can be. That’s why we provide you with the tools to easily organise and track each maintenance ticket from logged to completed.

Dealing with maintenance requires a lot of communication to keep all stakeholders informed. With our maintenance dashboards, you can easily track what has been done on any ticket and have all your communication and documentation in one place.

 

Residential Property Maintenance can originate from the following sources:

  • Inspections
  • Issue reported by the Tenant
  • Preventive maintenance initiated by the Landlord

 

Each of the above maintenance events will require:

  • Consultation with the Landlord
  • Quotes for work to be done
  • Tasking of Contractors to do the agreed to Maintenance
  • Keeping all parties informed
  • Quality control to ensure that the job has been done properly
  • Managing of the workflow from start to finish ensuring closure on every issue

 

In most cases the Agent will act on behalf of the Landlord with the Landlord only being involved at certain stages of the process. Since this might differ from Landlord to Landlord, it is extremely important to calibrate and agree with the landlord on how the process will work and where the Landlord would want to be involved. Specifically the following needs to be agreed to:

  • Basic process workflow when a new issue needs to be managed
  • The types of maintenance that will require a quote vs just permission to attend on a call out basis.
  • The number of quotes that the Landlord would require.
  • The discretionary amount that the agent can spend to deal with emergency situations where he cannot get hold of the Landlord within a reasonable amount of time.
  • How quality control will be handled
  • How payment for work will be done (direct by the landlord or paid from the rent)

 

Dealing with Maintenance requires lots of communication to keep all stakeholders informed and it is extremely important to have a system in place that will make it easy to communicate via Email and / or SMS. Typical communication that might be required include the following:

  • Letting Landlords and Tenants know that a new issue has been logged
  • Letting Contractors know that a job card has been issued for their attention
  • Letting Tenants know when a Contractor has been tasked to attend to an Issue
  • Asking for quality feedback after receipt of confirmation from a Contractor that a job has been completed.
  • Keeping Landlords and Tenants updated on progress for larger jobs or where there are delays.

 

A good system will allow you to use templates to avoid having to retype the same messages over and over again. In addition Email threads related to the same job should preferably be saved in an email repository that will make it easy to see all related email with the click of a button. From time to time, certain difficult maintenance situations will require special attention and it is always a good idea to discuss these upfront with the Landlord and how you intend dealing with them.

 

Typical Maintenance Issues And How To Handle Them

 

Water Leaks

Slow leaks might not be detected above ground until the Landlord is confronted by a huge water account. This would then probably require leak detection to determine the exact location of the leak before it can be repaired. If the leak are on the municipal side of the water connection to the property, it might require a call to the municipality to deal with the issue. High water readings might also be caused by faulty water meters. This will require meter testing by the municipality. They would normally require you to pay upfront for the testing and will refund you if it turns out that the water meter is faulty. Dealing with these kinds of leaks is very frustrating and the cost involved when having to do leak detection or meter testing.

 

Process Tips when you receive a high water account and suspect a water leak:

  1. Close all water outlets on the property.
  2. Take a water meter reading.
  3. Wait an hour and take another meter reading. If there has been any usage even with all outlets closed, you have a water leak or defective water meter.
  4. Inspect your property above ground looking specifically for obvious signs of a water leak. If any of these are present, a concealed water pipe could be the source of the problem and you will need to get a plumber involved to locate and fix the leak.
    1. Wet areas above ground
    2. Damp and Paint peeling on walls
    3. Damp and stains on ceilings
  5. If after following the above process, there is still no obvious sign of where the problem is, you might have to get a Leak Detection company involved. They have specialised equipment that allows them to do a pressure test to locate the specific location of the leak.
  6. If there are still no obvious leaks, you might be dealing with a defective water meter and you will then have to log a call with the municipality to test the meter.

 

Blocked Drains

Traditionally blocked drains are the Tenant’s responsibility with the following two exceptions:

  • If it can be proven within an agreed to grace period from taking occupation that the drain has been blocked when the tenant moved in
  • If it can be proven that the blocked drain is caused by a structural problem such as a pipe collapse or tree roots penetrating a pipe.

In order to reduce the emotional response when encountering the effects of a blocked drain, it will serve you well to implement the following countermeasures pro-actively:

  • Ensure that your Lease includes a clause stating what the grace period is for reporting blocked drains after which it should be the Tenant’s responsibility.
  • Include as part of the in-going inspection that all toilets should be flushed, baths, basins and showers tested to see if the water runs away freely.
  • Specifically check for large damp areas outside that might point to outside drain problems.

 

Break-ins

Any break-in is an emotional issue and since it involves blatant intrusion into a tenant’s private space, you can expect that questions will be asked about the general safety of the property. If the tenant does not have short term insurance, it will be an even bigger issue since it will now involve money.

In order to be prepared should this happen to you, you can consider the following:

  1. Identify security related issues and shortcomings upfront when you list the property and advise the Landlord on how to make the Property as secure as possible by adding burglar bars, security gates, fencing, alarm systems, etc.
  2. Ensure that your Lease contains a specific clause stipulating that the Tenant is responsible for his / her own short term insurance.
  3. Have an emergency number and process available that can see the Tenant over in terms of ensuring their safety until the necessary maintenance has been done to fix broken doors and windows.

 

Leaking Roofs

This is one of the most problematic issues since it is so unpredictable. A roof might not leak for many years and then suddenly the wind blows from a unique direction and with enough force to penetrate and expose a weakness. Many tenants can be very unreasonable when it comes to roof leaks and might demand that it be fixed immediately. The problem is that roof leaks can only be fixed reliably when the roof is dry.

You can prepare for this by considering the following:

  1. Make a point to explain the issues associated with roof leaks to the Landlord and specifically ask about potential roof leaks and if possible, get them fixed before the tenant takes occupation.
  2. Ensure that the Tenant has short term insurance and that any such sort term insurance covers resultant water damage from leaking roofs, etc.
  3. When a roof leak is reported, explain to the tenant that it can only be fixed when the roof had time to dry out. Ask the tenant to temporarily move furniture that might be affected in order to avoid unnecessary resultant damage.
  4. Make sure that you have a reliable Contractor who specialises in Leaking Roofs and that you understand the process. There is nothing more frustrating having to deal with the same leak over and over again as a result of an incompetent contractor.

 

Wear and Tear Issues

These issues mostly relate to the upkeep of the basic structure and involves the walls, roof structure and ceilings, window and door frames, etc. If this kind of maintenance is not done, it can lead to huge costs and might even require complete replacement. In addition, if the structure is not good, you might have to be satisfied with a reduction in rent.

Wear and tear is the change or damage to the condition of a property that happens as a result of everyday use. It is not caused by abuse or neglect. Typical examples include:

  • Some scratches on a wooden floor
  • Color of carpet of hardwood fading due to sunlight exposure
  • Dirty Grout
  • Deterioration of paint or varnish condition on walls, windows and doors as a result of exposure to the elements
  • Cracked tiles resulting from structural movement

You should proactively avoid this at all cost. Considering the following:

  • Explain to the Landlord upfront what constitutes wear and tear.
  • Give the Landlord a condition report of times that might require regular preventive maintenance together with a 5 year schedule of when what needs to be done to keep the property (his asset) in tip top condition and worthy of the rental return he expects.
  • Provide the Landlord with a saving option whereby a small amount is taken from the rent every month and put in a savings account for the Landlord in order to provide funding for preventive maintenance.

 

Issues involving a Sectional Title Scheme

Many rental properties form part of a sectional title scheme which means that the Landlord is no longer responsible for all the maintenance issues associated with the Property. Some issues can now become the responsibility of the Management Agent who acts on behalf of the Body Corporate. Since this now involves a third party, it complicates the communication and generally takes longer to resolve. Typical examples of issues encountered are:

  • Blocked drains caused by blockages in other units making use of a communal facility
  • Leaking roof due to water leak in a shower or bath directly above the unit.
  • Structural damage to the roof, windows or doors that might be the responsibility of the Body Corporate.
  • Burst Geyser causing flooding and resultant damage in units below the unit where the geyser is situated.

Sectional Title schemes will normally have their own maintenance process and emergency maintenance numbers. Always ensure that you and your tenant understand this process and have the emergency number available. Also make sure that the tenant understand who to call about what. Some sectional title schemes would prefer that the rental agent or landlord log the call rather than the tenant.

 

Most important aspects of dealing effectively with Maintenance Management

 

The Maintenance Administrators

Maintenance administrators are special people since they constantly have to navigate a tight rope where Landlords, Tenants and Contractors are constantly playing the blaming game and the administrator is in the front line trenches.

This is also the person that will make some lasting impressions or not with the Landlord in terms of how your company is perceived from a delivery perspective. This is due to the fact that chances are that most communication between the Landlord and you company will be between the Maintenance Administrator and the landlord. So what are the key personal traits that you should be looking at when appointing a Maintenance administrator:

  • Someone who is a manager of one and who believe in the concept of Everything is Marketing.
  • Someone that is highly process oriented with excellent attention to detail
  • Someone with excellent communication skills (verbally and written)
  • Someone who can have compassion for things that happen to people
  • Someone who will always be honest and transparent about issues

 

The Team of Contractors

Let’s face it. The quality of maintenance done will leave a lasting impression of your service delivery capability and the quality of maintenance is totally dependent on a reliable team of contractors. Since it takes time to build such a trust relationship, it is also obvious that it will take some time to build such a team. This process and its pitfalls and some guidance is the topic of another article.

 

 

 

 

RedRabbit specialises in delivering innovative and disruptive software solutions to the property industry. Maintenance and Inspections management is a core part of any property management operation and RedRabbit’s trusted platform, tools and professional team makes it easy to demonstrate to your clients just how serious you are about excellent service delivery. Make sure to take your maintenance management to the next level with RedRabbit today!