You’ll need to know what constitutes a maintenance emergency and how to handle them. That’s the topic of our discussion today.

What Is A Rental Property Emergency?

A maintenance emergency is anything that could damage the structural integrity of your home.

This could be through water, fire, or any other major hazard. Emergencies require immediate action. Changing a light bulb isn’t an emergency situation, obviously. But, water is an emergency. If there’s a leak in the home, it can lead to a lot of damage and huge expenses. You need to figure out where the water is coming from and what kind of damage it may be doing.

Responding to Rental Property Emergencies

To effectively respond to a water emergency, you’ll need to know how to shut the water off and stop the bleeding. You need to know how to identify the issue and also how to prevent it from recurring.

When an emergency occurs, make sure your resident knows what to do and how to mitigate the damage. For example, you want your residents to know where the water shut off valve is located. If you share this information ahead of time, you won’t have to drive over to the property to shut the valve off yourself.

As an investor, this is an important lesson. Not only do you need to know where that shut off valve is yourself; you also need to communicate that to your residents before they move in. Tell them where it is and how to shut it off.

It always seems to happen that emergencies tend to occur at two or three in the morning when everyone is asleep. It’s important that everyone knows how to stop the emergency no matter what time of night or day.

Habitability Issues and Maintenance Emergencies

If a house has two bathrooms and one of those bathrooms isn’t working, then it’s not an emergency because there is another functioning bathroom.

However, if the home only has one bathroom, the property is uninhabitable when that toilet stops working. It would be considered an emergency. This is clearly stated in the property code, and you can find in the current laws. The language is clear that issues leading to unsafe or uninhabitable homes are considered emergencies

In San Diego, it may not seem like an emergency if your air conditioning is not working. But, in Arizona, a broken air conditioning unit would absolutely be considered an emergency. It’s important to understand how you define an emergency before you even get going. What an emergency is to the resident may be completely different to what it is in the property code is and what the law says.

Acceptable Emergency Maintenance Timeframes

Always check the property code for guidelines and requirements when it comes to how quickly you respond to an emergency maintenance situation.

Treat every emergency maintenance situation with a clear sense of urgency. Document when the call comes in and track everything that you do. This may be important later on if the residents try to claim that you didn’t respond to an emergency in the appropriate timeframe. You’ll want to demonstrate that you mitigated the damage and worked as quickly as possible to take care of the problem.

Develop a process and put it in writing. Then, follow it consistently every time there’s an emergency maintenance issue that requires your response.

Working with Licensed and Insured Vendors and Contractors

Make sure you’re sending the right vendors to get the job done. You want to make sure the right person is licensed and insured and specializes in the area of the emergency. Sending a general handyman over to take care of a major pipe burst is not going to help you. Rely on professionals who understand how to respond quickly and completely.

You always want to have a licensed and insured person do the job because it protects your property and provides peace of mind. There’s also a legal necessity. If you file an insurance claim, the insurance company might want to know who worked on the problem and what their qualifications are. So, maintenance emergencies are not the best time to cut corners or try to save a few pennies. Do it right, and work with good vendors who provide a valuable service.

Always work with licensed and insured contractors. Hiring just anyone because you want to save money can lead to huge financial losses. The liability and risk is huge.

If you have an emergency, make sure you can identify if it is truly an emergency. See if you can stop the emergency from getting worse, and figure out where it is coming from. As soon as you’re able to contain the problem, you’ll want to start working a solution. Evaluate what kind of expertise you need, and then call those professionals. Always be sure you’re operating within the confines of the law, and fix the situation completely.

Working with a professional San Diego property management company is an excellent way to protect yourself and your property from maintenance emergencies. A good property manager is available to your residents 24 hours a day and has a list of preferred vendors who are quick to respond and do great work. You won’t have to worry about a process or a plan, because your manager is sure to have one already.

We can be your San Diego property management resource. Contact us at Mynd Property Management to learn more.

You can also visit our Facebook group of investors, which is called Master Mynd. It’s a real estate investors’ club, where you can exchange ideas with other owners. Check out our weekly podcast as well, called The Myndful Investor. We invite leaders in real estate and property management to talk about their success and, more importantly, their failures. There’s a lot to learn from this relatable content.

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