Maintenance emergencies are often scary for rental property owners because no one really has a plan in place for how to handle them. Investors and property managers in Tampa, FL always talk about them like they’re scary and impossible; they say that disasters always happen at 2:00 in the morning.
You could have an entire investment career without a maintenance emergency occurring at 2:00 in the morning, but the risk is always there. So, you have to know what to do. In Tampa, there are many policies, rules and regulations about maintaining a habitable rental home, just like any other real estate market.
If you’re an investor in Tampa or thinking about purchasing a rental home in this market, you need to know how to identify and respond to maintenance emergencies.
Property Orientation with Tampa Residents
At Mynd, we are proactive with emergency maintenance by having a move-in orientation with our residents. On the first day that they move in, we go to the property with the residents and we go over everything. We want them to understand how everything in the property works. This makes them more comfortable and it helps us if there’s an emergency in the future.
This process of orienting the resident to the house works for us in a number of ways.
First, it establishes expectations. We are able to talk with our new residents about what we need and expect them to do in terms of maintaining the property. Second, it gives them the authority and the confidence to mitigate any future emergency.
For example, if it’s the middle of the night and there’s a pipe that’s gushing water, we want the residents to know how to stop the water. Because of our move-in orientation, they will know how to turn off the water at its source and save the investment property. Additional damage will not be a risk.
When there’s an emergency, you absolutely want your residents to call you. But, you also need them to stop the emergency. So, getting them comfortable with the house is huge. Don’t just leave them there and wish them luck. Water can ruin an investment property quickly, and you don’t want your residents calling you while the home continues to flood. You want to know they have stopped the bleeding before they call you. Then, we can do what we do best, which is get someone out there as soon as possible to assess and repair the damage.
Set Clear Guidelines on What Constitutes an Emergency
As an investor, if you’re self-managing your property, you and your resident may have very different ideas about what an emergency is. Make sure you clearly define an emergency in your conversations with your residents and even in the lease agreement. Put it in writing so you and your resident are using the same definition of emergency.
For example, a light bulb going out is not an emergency.
As a landlord and a rental property owner, you have a responsibility for keeping the home safe and habitable. You have to understand the property code and what it says about the legal definition of a habitable home. Residents are always going to need running water. They’re going to need electricity. Pretty much everyone will agree that a fire or a flood is an emergency.
In Tampa, you also have to think about the air conditioning. This is a health and safety issue in Tampa, even if it’s not in other rental markets like Seattle or California.
You cannot leave your residents without air conditioning when it’s 98 degrees and humid in the middle of an August day. The law dictates the timelines and course of action when something like this happens to make the home non-inhabitable.
Again – set the expectations with your resident. You know that air conditioning makes a Tampa rental property habitable, but if they call at 10:00 p.m. because the air conditioning is out, you probably won’t be able to get anyone over to the property until the early morning. Make sure your residents are prepared for this. Responsiveness is critical, but you can’t work miracles.
The reserve is easy to miss. Make sure you have some money set aside for the big emergency expenses. You don’t want to find that you need a new roof or a new air conditioning unit and you don’t have the money to pay for it. Set something aside in a maintenance budget or reserve so you’re prepared.
Maintenance Emergencies are Emotional for Residents
When you have an emergency at your rental property, it’s an emotional time for the resident. Remember this. It may be an inconvenience and an expense to you, but your resident will feel like he or she is in a crisis because there’s no water or a plumbing problem or no air conditioning.
The best thing you can do is over-communicate with them so they know exactly what’s happening.
Let them know what’s going on step by step. Emotional people don’t always do and say logical things. So, you have to remain professional and show them that you’re listening and working hard to resolve the situation. If they don’t hear from you, they’re going to assume you’re not doing anything. Make sure you communicate.
We are investors ourselves, so we understand the importance of responding to emergencies at your Tampa rental property. If you’d like to hear more about how we can help with your maintenance issues and provide property management resources, please contact us at Mynd Property Management.
We also have other opportunities to connect with us and learn more about investing in Tampa. 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.