Maintenance is often regarded as a necessary evil or odd stepchild to the whole rental experience. Like in a restaurant, the busboy is not high on the totem pole, yet remove or neglect the bus service and the restaurant falls into chaos and diners are not happy.
The same can be said in the apartment industry. Neglect maintenance and you will quickly find out how important maintenance is to your residents. In 2012, SatisFacts Research published an e-book that revealed the highest-ranking factor for an apartment resident’s renewal decision was “Quality of maintenance service provided”. Maintenance ranked higher than perks, parties and even the desire for more parking.
Keeping in mind that maintenance is such a great concern for lease renewing residents, successful property management teams look at maintenance providers as a valuable asset to be used in resident retention programs. Consider the cost of routine maintenance against the massive cost of a rental make-ready in the event that a resident does not re-new their lease.
List or identify the ten top routine maintenance requests in the past year. Determine if the item could have been quickly resolved by asking a few key questions such as: “Is the pilot lit?”, “Have you pushed the reset button under the garbage disposal?”, “Have you reset the GFCI button on the electrical outlet? Team up with your maintenance team or provider for a much more extensive list of simple questions that may resolve an issue while your resident is on the phone. Asking the right questions will also save on your maintenance costs. Sending out a plumber to reset a button is very expensive use of a resources and a potential time waster for your resident.
An often-overlooked aspect of maintenance is the follow up call to ensure the work was satisfactory and the work solved the resident’s issues. This a good time to practice your customer service tools and ask the resident if there is anything else they need.
Use the maintenance team as a secret weapon in the war against vacancies. Make sure the residents know who the maintenance team members are; introduce them, mention their long professional service to the community. Emphasize their maintenance proficiency and ability to perform service requests in a timely manner.
The property management and maintenance team are not separate teams. As an example, the property management & maintenance departments are very much like offense and defense teams in a football game. Both work as one team and both are critical to the success of a winning game. One makes the points and the other defends the points. One without the other spells disaster. Communication is key to a winning strategy. Both teams need to know the end goal. Treat both your management/leasing team and maintenance team as equals; they are two sides of the same coin. Use both your leasing and maintenance departments as a two-prong approach to filling vacancies and controlling resident retention. In other words; a happy resident will be a long term resident.
Buffalo Maintenance, Inc. provides comprehensive maintenance and repair solutions for the rental housing industry. Jerry L’Ecuyer is a licensed contractor & real estate broker. Frankie Alvarez is the Operations Director and has been involved with apartment maintenance & construction for over 18 years.