Probably the thing that scares new landlords and property managers the most is what to do when a tenant calls at 2 a.m. because water is shooting out of their pipes in all directions. This fear is so paralyzing, in fact, I’ve heard stories where people eschewed becoming a landlord just to avoid it. Some have hired a property manager instead of managing themselves for only that reason.

Indeed, hiring a manager is one option, but there will still be some oversight involved. And if you do manage yourself, there are certainly ways to deal with these problems. You just have to have a plan going into it.

Here’s how to be prepared for the inevitable emergency calls you will get.

How to Handle Emergency Maintenance

The most important thing to do right off the bat is to accept that emergency maintenance will happen. It is a fact of life. Don’t cross your fingers and hope for the best. Accept it will come from time to time and plan how to handle it.

The second is to figure out what exactly is emergency maintenance, anyway? What’s not?

If it is a fire, that is an emergency. But the resident needs to call the fire department, not you. If there was a break-in, that is also an emergency. But they need to call the police.

Regarding maintenance issues, the rule of thumb we like to use is that a tenant should not be able to expect faster service than if they were a homeowner. Even if it’s cold outside and the furnace goes out, it can probably wait until tomorrow. (Although, if that happens on Friday night, you should probably fix it on Saturday and not wait until Monday.) If there’s ice all over the roads and there is a snowstorm going on, you cannot get out there any quicker than it it was a homeowner who called an HVAC company.

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