Steve Rozenberg is the VP of Investor Education with Mynd Property Management, and he asked Jessy Porter, the Portfolio Manager of Atlanta Operations with Mynd to talk about some of the common issues and challenges that face Atlanta real estate investors and landlords.
Every rental property will have emergency maintenance required at some point. As an investor in Atlanta, you need to be prepared for how you will define and respond to an emergency at your rental home.
Legal Definition of Maintenance Emergency
First, you need to know what the Atlanta law requires when it comes to emergencies. Then, you need to go further than what the law requires in order to provide a high level of service to your residents. You have a responsibility to provide services for someone who is renting your home. If there’s a flood at the property or the heat doesn’t work when it’s cold outside or the air conditioning doesn’t work when it’s hot outside, you need to respond right away. If the residents only have one toilet and it stops working; that’s a legal emergency.
Other types of repair requests won’t meet the legal definition of an emergency, but they are things you should take care of immediately anyway. For example, if your resident reports that the refrigerator is broken, you can address it with the same sense of urgency that you’d address a lack of heat or water. This helps your relationship with your resident. And, if the fridge stops working on a Friday night, do you really want them to wait until Monday to have it taken care of? Legally, that’s okay, but think about the food that will be spoiled and the way your resident will feel about your responsiveness.
Customer service is different from legal obligation.
Know Your Atlanta Rental Property
It’s also important that you know your rental property. If it’s a plumbing emergency that your residents are calling about, make sure you can tell them where the shut-off valve is. You need to know where the HVAC system is located, and whether you’ll need to access it in the basement or the attic or in a cage in the backyard. If you know what you’re looking for, you can address the problem quickly. You can also give your residents a full orientation to the property when they move in. Put something in writing so they know where all the emergency shut-offs are. This will help make emergency situations less traumatic for everyone.
When you work with qualified vendors and contractors, your property will also be better protected. Those professionals can tell you the specifics of what’s going on and what it means for the short and long term. Having the right information is crucial to acting correctly. If the person who responds to your emergency doesn’t know anything about the problem and can’t figure out how to stop the bleeding, you’ll be in a worse position than you were before the emergency occurred. Make sure you’re surrounded by capable and qualified contractors.
Communicating with Your Residents
Having a good relationship in place with your residents will make emergencies far more manageable.
Communication is especially important. You’ll need an established set of rules and standards that define exactly what an emergency is – and what an emergency isn’t. A door that isn’t closing properly isn’t going to be an emergency at 1:00 a.m. unless it’s the door to the property and it makes the home unsafe to live in. Establish what qualifies as an emergency, and make sure your residents are aware of how to handle each issue as they come up.
If the house is flooding, everyone will consider this to be an emergency. Instead of waiting for you to arrive with a plumber, however, the residents can take a few steps on their own. They can shut the water off so the flooding doesn’t get worse. Have this conversation ahead of time and write up an emergency response plan so everyone understands their expectations and responsibilities.
When you and your resident sign the lease, provide something that can easily be posted on the fridge or on a wall that includes your emergency contact information and the first steps that they should take when something happens.
Emergencies Will Happen – but Not Often
It’s a good idea to remember that emergencies will happen, but they won’t happen on a regular basis. Few of the calls you get will actually require you to drop everything and rush over to the property. While you have to address things quickly, a house burning down is not something you will be called about during most tenancies.
From a legal standpoint, not a lot of repair issues are even emergencies. But, from a customer service point of view, you want your residents to know that you care about your property and you’re committed to providing a secure and comfortable place to live. Keep them safe and happy.
The habitability laws are different throughout the country. The way you deal with HVAC emergencies in Atlanta is different than the way you deal with them in Florida. If you’re working with a property management company, make sure you choose someone who understands what’s required in Atlanta. You need the local market expertise. An Atlanta property manager will know all the best air conditioning vendors to call. If you’re living in another state, trying to find a contractor at 2:00 a.m. is nearly impossible.
Emergencies may happen, and the most important thing you can do is ensure your priorities are aligned with those of your resident.
Talk to us further about Atlanta rental property maintenance and how to handle emergencies. Contact us at Mynd Property Management.
We also have other opportunities to connect with us and learn more about investing in Atlanta. 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.