Property maintenance services are a big part of what you do as a property management firm. Done right, regular property maintenance does more than just keep up the place. It provides value and safety for both your residents and your owners.
Providing top-notch property maintenance services goes beyond answering calls and making repairs quickly. It’s a proactive, holistic approach to property management that encompasses individual units, amenities, common spaces, and grounds. It addresses everything from regular inspections and repairs to preparing for the unexpected, such as a coming storm or, as is the case these days—a pandemic.
In this guide, we’ll address everything you need to know to provide the absolute best property maintenance services and how to keep it all organized.
Table of Contents
- Property Maintenance Services Today
- Pricing Structures
- How COVID-19 Is Changing Property Maintenance
- Maintenance Checklists by Season
- Property Maintenance for Safety
- Property Maintenance for Resident Retention
- Outsourcing to Vendors
- Scheduling and Performing Regular Maintenance
Property Management Maintenance Services Today
First of all, let’s talk about what the typical maintenance services involve today for property managers.
Generally speaking, property managers provide regular and emergency repair services, cleaning and renovation of properties during tenant turnover, groundskeeping, and regular maintenance of heating, electrical, and common areas.
What falls under those higher-level tasks depends on the type, number, and size of the property, as well as the needs of the residents and owners.
To keep properties from falling into disrepair, for instance, property managers will inspect interior and exterior components, such as roofing, siding, plumbing, HVAC, and foundations. They’ll make repairs or even upgrade systems when they’re needed.
A property manager, for example, may choose to upgrade to a smart thermostat for properties to increase energy efficiency.
Groundskeeping may be as simple as mowing the lawn, or it may include planting seasonal or flood-resistant flower beds, irrigation, pest control, and trimming to prevent fire or roof damage.
Maintenance of common areas can include a wide range of tasks, as well. It can be as simple as keeping halls, entryways, mailboxes, and laundry maintained, or as complicated as managing a host of amenities.
As 2020 nears its end, property managers have put into practice maintenance procedures to keep all common areas safe for residents during the pandemic, as well.
Property Maintenance Pricing Structure
Your pricing structure will, of course, depend on the size and number of properties you handle for each owner. There three ways you can handle pricing.
A Percentage of the Rent
Many property managers charge a percentage on rent as a base. It usually covers agreed-upon maintenance work, such as renovations of vacant units, groundskeeping, regular and emergency repairs, and maintenance of common areas.
If your owner is looking for services that are a little more bespoke, you can consider charging extra fees.
A Fixed Rate
Some property managers set a fixed rate for their services. While that can make bookkeeping a lot easier, you have to be careful not to perform services that overreach what you’re charging.
Some property management firms start with a base rate for basic maintenance services. Then, they offer tiers, or packages, of services for higher rates. Some even offer some a la carte services that they can tack on to the base rate.
How COVID-19 Is Changing Property Maintenance
Like every other aspect of the property management business, COVID-19 has changed the property maintenance game. Property managers must now include sanitizing procedures, social distancing requirements and HVAC upgrades in their maintenance MO.
They have to assess their amenity spaces to determine which are safe to open and plausible to maintain—and which must stay closed (perhaps permanently) to protect residents.
Some property managers are even thinking about upgrades, such as keyless entry, Amazon package rooms, and grab-and-go meals, to adapt their properties to what residents want today.
Revising your maintenance plan to be mindful of the needs of residents and owners during pandemic not only keeps your community safe, it can also help with retention.
In the spring of this year, resident retention was at a 20-year high, according to a study done by Buildium. But, owners and property managers saw many more short-term lease renewals as they tried to accommodate residents who were fearful of losing their jobs, if they hadn’t already.
And while turnover rates are expected to remain low in 2020, that could change if the economy takes what some expect to be a fairly significant downturn in the fall.
Properties that are well-maintained, however, and those that have taken residents’ safety, as well as their need to adapt to online learning, working from home, and social distancing, could keep their occupancy rates high.
Property Repairs and Maintenance by Season
Property maintenance is not something that happens sporadically, or whenever you get around to it. It should be a regular practice, much of it coinciding with the changing of the seasons.
Every season brings its own set of tasks, and so, should have its own property maintenance checklist. For each season, we’ve created a quick checklist of the top property maintenance services you should be providing.
Spring Maintenance Checklist
Spring maintenance is all about cleaning up after the winter and preparing for summer. Here is a step-by-step guide for getting your properties in great shape, making regular maintenance a little easier to handle for the rest of the year.
- Check roofs for damage. If you were hit with a lot of winter storms, there may be loose shingles or other damage. If you experienced warm days followed by temperature drops, thawing and freezing may have caused cracks and leaks.
- Check gutters for damage and clean out debris left by storms.
- Check foundations for cracks, leaks, or moisture seepage.
- Check stucco and brick facing for damage and have spots that are crumbling and pointing repaired.
- Clean the exterior sides of windows and/or switch storm windows out for screens.
- Clean out laundry and other foundation vents.
- For complexes and multifamily units, deep-clean carpeting, tile, and wood in halls and common spaces, particularly in front entryways, where moisture, mud, and snow are tracked in.
- Check for leaks or seepage that come with heavy rains or melting snow and ice.
- Check HVAC systems and replace filters.
- Clean up debris and fallen branches in yards and common spaces.
- Check for damage to irrigation systems that could have been caused by thawing and freezing.
- Check for damage to fencing, playground equipment, outdoor fitness equipment, and other outdoor amenities.
- Check outdoor lighting and set timers for summer hours.
- If you haven’t already, line up lawn care or grounds maintenance vendors for the summer season.
- For HOAs, complexes, and multifamily properties, plan your pool, community garden, and other outdoor reopening timelines and share them with your residents. (Make sure your plan takes into account local regulations on social distancing.)
- Inspect pools, particularly above-ground ones, for damage.
- Set thermostats in common areas to accommodate warmer temperatures.
Summer Maintenance Checklist
Summer months are an ideal time to make repairs and improvements while the weather is warm and relatively dry (depending on where your properties are).
- If properties are in need of painting, summer is the time to line up a vendor and have it done.
- Inspect walkways and stairs, and make repairs as needed.
- Monitor and maintain HVAC systems to keep properties cool and energy-efficient.
- In late summer, contact residents to schedule fall inspections and maintenance services inside the properties.
- Cut back dry and dead trees and plants that could cause a safety hazard now or in coming months.
- Cut lawns and prune bushes regularly. Use a sprinkler or irrigation system to keep grass and flowers watered and make adjustments for wet and dry spells.
- Inspect lawns, shrubs, and trees for pests that could damage landscaping. Apply preventative treatments to keep pests away.
- Schedule fall cleanups with your landscaping vendors ahead of time.
Check out our Sustainable Landscaping Guide for Property Managers.
- In early summer, start your pool maintenance by opening your pools and scheduling regular cleaning and chemical level checks.
- Inspect playground and outdoor exercise equipment regularly for safety issues.
Fall Maintenance Checklist
Fall is the time to start looking ahead to winter to make sure your properties are ready for the rainy or snowy season.
- Clean out gutters to prevent ice dams in the winter.
- Check roofs for loose shingles, as well as gaps around vents and chimneys that could let snowmelt seep in.
- Winterize decks and patios by power-washing, repairing loose boards and stones, and adding a water seal, as needed.
- Close up access points that would allow pests looking for shelter into your properties. For complexes and HOAs, don’t forget to check club houses and other structures that may be closed for the winter.
- Winterize and close off outdoor plumbing.
- Insulate plumbing on outside-facing walls to prevent pipes from bursting.
- Inspect all carbon monoxide and smoke detectors and replace batteries as needed.
- Remind residents of winter fire hazards, such as curtains near radiators and space heaters. Post your rules on space heaters for residents online to review in your Resident Center.
- Check seals around windows and doors and swap out screens for storm windows.
- Have the HVAC systems and furnaces inspected and cleaned and the filters replaced.
- Cover or remove window AC units.
- Have chimneys and fireplaces inspected and cleaned.
- For multifamily and apartment buildings, lay down protective mats in entryways to catch mud, water, and snow that’s tracked in.
- Check outdoor lighting and set timers for shorter daylight hours.
- Line up a snow-removal crew for driveways and parking lots.
- When you’ve finished watering lawns, inspect and drain irrigation systems to prevent freezing and cracking.
- Winterize flower beds by cleaning up debris and weeds and adding mulch.
- Winterize and close pools.
- Remove grills and outdoor furniture.
- Close up pool houses and club houses for the winter.
- Set thermostats in common areas for cooler weather.
- Since more people will be inside, make sure indoor amenity spaces are set up for proper social distancing and that sanitizing products are available. Set up a regular cleaning schedule for all spaces.
Winter Maintenance Checklist
Winter weather can be brutal. It’s important to keep a close eye on building exteriors that could cause problems inside your properties.
- Remove snow buildup on roofs, especially flat ones, and on decks. Accumulated snow can cause an unexpected collapse.
- Inspect gutters for blockages and ice dams regularly. If melted water can’t drain, it will find its way under roofs and into walls.
- Check foundations for cracks and make sure runoff is directed away from foundations in anticipation of spring melting.
- Keep an eye on plumbing in little-used buildings and vacant properties to make sure nothing is freezing or leaking.
- Check for pest infestations regularly, especially in vacant units or buildings that are closed for the winter.
- Ensure residents know the minimum temperature they need to maintain to keep pipes from freezing.
- Flush and inspect water heaters.
- Reverse ceiling fans. Doing so pushes warm air down from the ceiling.
- Keep walkways clear and salted to reduce ice buildup.
- Ensure fire hydrants on your properties are always clear of snow.
- Arrange indoor amenity spaces, such as gyms, meditation rooms, and coworking spaces to promote social distancing, and post signage to remind residents. Keep sanitizing stations stocked and create and communicate a sanitizing and scheduling plan.
Property Maintenance for Safety
In addition to seasonal maintenance tasks there are regular actions to keep residents and properties safe, as well.
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For each season, review your emergency plans. Make sure staff is trained and equipment is ready to handle weather-related emergencies common in your area.
That may include proper water channeling and sandbags for flooding, branch and brush removal to prevent the spread of fire or damage to roofs from high winds or heavy snow, garage door reinforcement for hurricane-strength winds, or preparing HVAC and plumbing for extreme heat or cold.
Regular Safety Maintenance
We discussed inspecting and repairing certain elements of your properties at certain times of the year. But really, you should schedule regular inspections and maintenance throughout the year for the following issues.
Exterior Safety Maintenance:
- Walkways, stairs and ramps
- Pools, playground and exercise equipment
- Security systems
- Runoff and drainage systems
- Outdoor furniture
Interior Safety Maintenance:
- Smoke detectors and sprinkler systems
- Carbon monoxide and radon detectors
- Fire extinguishers
- Locks and deadbolts
- Peeling paint
- Furnaces and water heaters
Property Maintenance to Retain Residents
Safe, well-maintained properties add value to the resident experience, making them want to stick around for more than one lease cycle. Retaining great residents reduces vacancies and makes owners happy.
You know what else makes owners happy? Few or no surprise repairs. When properties are regularly maintained, fewer emergency repairs pop up. Owners can budget for regular upkeep and don’t have to dip into that emergency reserve fund for a more expensive fix. You can also outfit your units with smart home technology to be more efficient and identify issues, while adding the convenience that your renters will enjoy.
That doesn’t mean emergency repairs won’t pop up from time to time. The way you handle those reflects on your company, as well. Set up a system to handle one-off resident requests and urgent maintenance.
Put a quick-response system in place for all requests. The best way to do that is to use the Resident Center in your property management software. Residents can submit requests that you can see in real time. You can then respond with a timeline and turn the request into a trackable work order for your team.
For emergencies, employ a 24-hour answering service that can route calls to you or to an on-call maintenance team.
Outsourcing Property Maintenance Services to Vendors
If yours is a smaller property management firm, or if you manage a large portfolio of properties, you may find you need to outsource some of your property maintenance services. That may be the case, too, for more specialized maintenance issues, such as furnace or fireplace cleaning, or for occasional issues such as septic tank maintenance and pumping.
Here’s how to find the right one for your properties.
Collect Referrals and Conduct Interviews
The best way to find the right professionals to contract with is through referrals from other property management firms. If a lawn care company is doing a great job for one of your colleagues, no doubt they’d be willing to pass on their information.
Once you have two or three good referrals, sit down with each company and communicate to them the exact type of work you need done. Be clear and detailed about the scope, how you would like the work done, and when you would like it done.
Collect bids from each of the companies you interview and use them to help determine which one you’ll go with.
Pro tip: Remember, the lowest bid is not always the best choice. You still have to weigh the cost of the work with the quality and reputation of the company.
Sign a Contract
Once you choose a vendor that’s right for you, sit down with them to go over their contract. Make sure everyone is clear on their roles and responsibilities, when work will begin, and when it will end (or if it’s ongoing). Determine when payment will be rendered and what benchmarks need to be hit before you release money.
Sign the contract only when both parties are clear on every aspect and all questions have been answered. The contract should then reflect any changes that came about from your conversation.
Scheduling and Performing Regular Maintenance
Whatever property repairs and maintenance you’re performing, it’s important to keep your residents in the loop. Use push notifications or resident discussion boards to keep everyone informed of upcoming maintenance that could affect the availability of amenities, access to certain buildings or common areas, or parking.
Informing Residents of Exterior and Grounds Maintenance
If you’re going to be spreading pesticides, performing deep cleanings, or providing other maintenance services that involve chemicals, it’s important residents with allergies, medical conditions, and children know where and when you will be working.
It’s especially important to keep them informed of maintenance that could affect heat, HVAC, water, or electricity. Give residents ample time to make arrangements if you have to perform those kinds of maintenance services.
Informing Residents of Unit Inspections and Maintenance
For inspections, maintenance, and repairs within properties, inform your resident and schedule a time to be onsite. While not all states require you give notice to residents that you’ll be coming, about half do, according to NOLO.
Even if you’re in a state that doesn’t require notice, agree upon a time with residents, anyway, to maintain a good relationship with them.
When you schedule a walk-through or repairs, inform the resident exactly what you’ll be doing, when you’ll be there, and how the work will be done. Give them guidance on whether they should be there or not. They may want to distance themselves in light of the current pandemic.
Inform them, as well, of what you’ll be doing to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including staff testing, the use of PPE, and cleaning procedures your maintenance staff follows.
Informing Owners of Inspections and Maintenance
Finally, inform owners when inspections and maintenance are complete. Give them a comprehensive list of repairs and costs to keep them in the loop.
Pro Tip: Using the Resident Center and Owner Portal in your property management software makes scheduling, tracking, and informing owners of completed tasks easy.
The job of a property manager is to maximize profitability for an owner while minimizing the time they have to spend thinking about their properties. Property maintenance takes up a big chunk of time, but doing it right can maximize profits by keeping repair costs low, retaining residents, and garnering referrals.
And while it can help your owners’ bottom lines, it can help yours, as well. For every service you provide, there is a fee associated with it. If you can perform each service efficiently, you stand to profit while keeping overhead costs low.
If you’re still juggling maintenance on an ad hoc basis, now might be the time to take a hard look at your services and processes, and revise your strategy to include regular maintenance checklists and a property management tool to help you organize it all.Read more on Maintenance & Improvements