How to Handle a Maintenance Emergency in your Seattle Rental Property

Published: Aug 01, 2020

In our most recent blog series, we have been talking about Seattle property management. Since we think like investors, we want to make sure that you, as a Seattle real estate investor, has all the tools and resources you need to ensure that your residents have a great rental experience.Joining us is been Enrique Jevons, who’s an expert on the subject of Seattle investment properties. Not only does he manage 850 rental properties for Mynd, but he’s also busy investing in his own real estate. Enrique owns 73 rental properties, so if you have a question about Seattle real estate investing, he’s the expert to ask.Today, we’re focusing our attention on maintenance. Property managers are charged with responding to routine maintenance issues and emergency maintenance issues. Unplanned emergencies are usually more expensive, more time-consuming, and have to be handled immediately.We asked Enrique to share what he would do to handle a maintenance emergency properly.

Preparing for Emergency Issues


All sorts of emergencies can come up. The most important thing for a owner is to be prepared. Be prepared for anything and everything. There are possible emergencies you probably haven’t even thought of yet, but you still need to have a response plan in place.For Enrique, just about everything has happened over the years that he’s rented out homes. Sadly, he’s had three different residents die while they were in his properties. That’s not something that most rental property owners prepare for; what do you do when a resident dies? What do you do with that resident’s belongings, and who do you have to call?That’s not a maintenance emergency. But it does address the absolute need to be prepared. If you are knowledgeable about what needs to be done and you have a process in place, you’ll be in good shape. These processes need to be created even if you can’t imagine a situation where you’d actually need them. Preparation will stop things from slipping out of control when the actual emergency occurs. You’ll already know what needs to be done.

Have a Team of First Responders Ready


It’s important that you have someone available 24 hours a day and seven days a week to respond to any potential emergency maintenance situation. We have found that many owners think they don’t have to worry about this. They have a single-family home that’s in great shape, and they don’t think that anything can go terribly wrong.The reality is, something can always go wrong.When a hot water tank decides to give out, you’ll need to react quickly to stop the water and minimize the damage. These things rarely happen during business hours. A water tank has never been known to wait until 9:00 a.m. on a Monday to suddenly blow. The timing is never good. So, you have to be prepared and you have to have someone available to answer the call and respond to the situation.A lot of owners may think they can handle these things on their own. Self-managing owners are more than happy to give their residents a cell phone number and be the person who is called anytime there’s an emergency at the property.But, sometimes you go to the movies and you don’t have your cell phone available to you. Sometimes, you will be out to dinner or at a cruise ship or the phone will be dead or left at the gym or in the car. You might be backpacking in the words where there’s no signal or skiing down a mountain top.You’re busy living your life.No single human being can be available 24 days, every day. This is impossible. If you’re asleep at night, even if the phone is on the nightstand right next to you, you won’t necessarily hear it when it rings. So, have someone available.People think they’ll handle on their own. But sometimes you go to the movies and you’re not available. Or you’re out to dinner or on a cruise ship or backpacking or skiing or whatever. You’re living your life. No one human being can be available 24 hours a day 365 days a year. If you’re asleep at night even if the phone is near you, it doesn’t mean you’ll wake up when it rings. So, have someone available. Even better – have a team.

Professional Seattle Property Management


A lot of owners will commonly give their residents the phone number of their handyman. Enrique admits that he did this himself when he was managing just a few units. All of his residents had the same cell phone number, and his handyman would take the calls. Usually.Again – he’s one human being. Sometimes, the cell battery would be dead and it would be a few hours before he realized it. This problem will keep happening if there’s only one person responsible for taking the emergency calls. When emergencies do happen, they are real emergencies. They usually deal with something major like water or fire or something equally as catastrophic. The resident is going to be shaken. Emergencies are a big deal, and they’re usually expensive. They get more expensive when you don’t address them immediately.That’s why you need a team.There has to be a team of people available to respond to these emergencies and take these panicked calls from residents. Maybe you’re set up to employ a call center. If you don’t have access to a call center, you might want to explore working with a professional property management company. They are usually reliable when it comes to emergency response.Even with a management company, however, make sure you’re hiring someone who has a team of people available to answer those phone calls. One person being responsible all alone can lead to endless rings, frustrated residents, and deteriorating property.Some owners are content to work with a real estate agent as a property manager. Maybe the agent who helped you buy the investment home has offered to find you a resident and manage the property. They might be licensed and capable. But, that one human being won’t be available all the time. It’s so much better to have a team of people so that no emergency phone call gets missed.Another risk in having your real estate agent manage your property is that an agent isn’t going to be as experienced as a professional property manager in all the things that can possibly occur. The list of things that can fail in a house is long. You could have a dishwasher begin leaking to the point that your entire kitchen is flooded. You could have residents lose heat in the middle of the night during one of the coldest weeks of the year. Maybe there’s a plumbing problem that went undetected for weeks or months and now it’s coming to a head, and everything is flooded and floorboards are rotting.Everything in the house has a lifespan. Property managers understand this. They spend every day of their professional lives dealing with appliances and systems and maintenance vendors and contractors. They know the law and they know what residents need in order to feel safe. A habitable home isn’t a suggestion – it’s a legal requirement.Weather can also play a role and cause emergency maintenance issues that you might not have expected. Property managers in Florida are prepared for hurricanes. Here in Seattle, we think about earthquakes. They’re not common, but they’re also not unheard of. So, it’s important for us to be prepared for earthquakes. When something weather-related happens, it’s happening to everyone. Getting a plumber to your house in the middle of the night is challenging enough. Getting a contractor to your property after an earthquake when everyone else in the region also needs a contractor is nearly impossible.This is where a property management relationship can help. As property managers, we work with the best local vendors and contractors to protect your residents and your valuable investment. When there’s an emergency and we need those vendors right away, they’re willing to respond to us. This is a benefit that not a lot of individual owners or self-managing rental property owners can access.Unforeseen circumstances are difficult to plan for, but you still have to be prepared. Have a plan in place and make sure you’ve communicated all emergency plans to your residents. When something terrible does happen, you’ll still have a mess to clean up, but you’ll also have a process to follow that makes the whole thing more tolerable.It seems simple, but if you don’t handle an emergency right away, you open yourself up to habitability issues that can turn into big fines. At the same time, you could be putting your residents in jeopardy. We can help you avoid that. If you have any questions, please contact us at Mynd Property Management in Seattle.

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