How can property managers meet residents’ maintenance expectations?

Steven Van Zile
Steven Van Zile | 3 min. read

Published on January 23, 2012

Within the past 24 hours, here are the maintenance issues I’ve experienced at the property where I reside: The maintenance person, loyal to this building for 33 years, responds to a clogged toilet by advising us to pour bleach down the toilet. Concurrently, the intercom buzzer is stuck and won’t shut off. And, of course, the elevator renovation that started out as a one-week project actually turned into a three-week project, providing 6th floor tenants the opportunity to save money by cancelling their gym memberships.

It’s always seemed simple to me: As residents, we pay rent, maintenance fees, or mortgage payments, and the property management staff provide services for the resident. Building and trust owners hire those property managers based on their abilities to keep churn rates low, vacancy at zero, and tenants happy all at or below a budget designed to re-invest in the property. So what happens when we tenants aren’t happy? Well, in today’s age of instant knowledge and access, a lot of renters turn to rating sites like Yelp or apartmentratings.com to spitefully pen scathing reviews in an attempt warn others. These sites might be seen as a threat, but if you’re really good at your job, more transparency can only help you, and reviews will actually help your business grow.

Let’s get back to the problems at hand. In the three examples I highlighted earlier, the correct response would have been to snake the toilet, send the on-call maintenance tech to repair the intercom, and hire a vendor that can deliver what they promise. Hiring a sub-par vendor can hurt your reputation as a problem solver, and at the end of the day, most renters see their property managers as just that.

One of the best things a property manager can do to avoid many of these issues is to do some vendor research before the hire. The property manager’s goal should be to minimize risk and liability when it comes to contracting with vendors. While making these minimizations it is also the property manager’s responsibility to hire a vendor that is legitimate and legally allowed to perform the work. A few ways to ensure that these requirements are met is by signing up for vendor review, screening, and compliance websites (e.g. Service Magic, Vendor Compliance, and Angie’s List). It can take a little extra time to have all potential vendors verified through an extensive search process, but the benefits of providing quality service to the tenants greatly outweigh the negatives.

Still worried about those rating sites? Instead of fearing them, use them to your advantage. Track down some of your happy tenants and ask them to post a positive review. Do you have really happy tenants? Ask them to write a testimonial letter to the building owner and include it in your next monthly report. Anecdotally, the point that I’m making is that as a renter, the most important thing is customer service. If you can take care of that, everything else will follow.

If you list out the responsibilities of a property manager, and prioritize that list, ‘provide customer satisfaction through exceptional service’ should always be at the top. If you can ensure that quality of service, above all else, your services will always be in demand.

Read more on Resident Management
Steven Van Zile

Steven Van Zile works for Guardian Real Estate Services in Portland, Oregon.

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