8 Steps for Dealing With a Tenant Maintenance Issue

What Steps Should You Take?

Picture of Tenant Maintenance Request
How to Handle a Tenant Maintenance Request. Paul Bradbury/Caiaimage/Getty Images

Maintenance issues are a problem for any homeowner. For a rental property owner, these maintenance issues increase with the number of tenants you have and the number of properties you own. Even though landlords are used to hearing complaints about every maintenance issue, from leaky faucets to overflowing toilets, these complaints can still become hard to deal with.

Here are eight steps to help you handle the inevitable tenant maintenance issue:

1. Develop a Plan for Maintenance Issues

You must first develop your basic plan for addressing maintenance requests. Decide how requests will be submitted and who will respond to the request. *If you have decided to hire a property management company to address these requests, then your job will be to monitor the management company to make sure they are handling all requests quickly and competently.

2. Receive the Tenant's Request

If you have not outsourced maintenance issues to a property manager, then the next step is to receive the tenant's request based on your preferred method. This could be by phone, email, text or even written notice if you prefer. These requests should be addressed during normal business hours unless they are emergencies.

3. Determine the Severity of the Maintenance Issue

Put together a list of common issues and attach an urgency level to them: High, Moderate or Low.

  • High Urgency- Complaints should be fixed or at least looked at the same day or same hour if necessary.
  • Moderate Urgency- Complaints should be fixed within 48 hours.
  • Low Urgency- Complaints should be fixed within one week.

Examples of High Urgency Requests: Immediately

  • Structural Issues
  • Lack of Heat in winter
  • Lack of Hot Water
  • (Most) Leaks in the Property
  • Clogged Toilet
  • Smell of Gas
  • Lights Not Functioning in Common Areas and Hallways
  • Safety Issues Such as Doors or Windows that Do Not Lock Properly/Missing Locks
  • Walkways, Stairs and Driveways Needing to Be Shoveled and Salted Immediately After a Snowstorm

Examples of Moderate Urgency Requests: In a Timely Manner

  • Appliances Not Working- If it is your responsibility to supply them to your tenants.
  • Clogged or Slow Shower or Sink Drain
  • Interior Light Stops Working- Not just the bulb burning out. The actual light fixture is not working.
  • Air Conditioning Not Working in Summer
  • Large Hole in the Wall

Examples of Low Urgency Requests: Time Is Not of the Essence

  • Cracked Tile
  • Grout Coming Up
  • Damaged Flooring That Does Not Create a Walking Hazard- Tear in carpet/stain in carpet/hardwood floor needing repair/saddle coming up
  • Running Toilet
  • Small Leak or Drip in Faucet
  • Cabinet Doors Off Their Hinges
  • Interior Apartment Doors Off Their Hinges/Door Not Closing Properly
  • A Draft
  • Minor Hole in the Wall
  • Molding or Trim Needing Repair

Repairs Which You Are Not Responsible For:

  • Replacing Batteries in the Tenant’s Smoke Detector
  • Removing Garbage From the Tenant’s Unit
  • Damage Caused by the Tenant or the Tenant’s Guests- You can repair this damage, but you are allowed to charge the tenant a reasonable fee, such as the cost of the materials or the cost of hiring a contractor to do so.

    4. Determine Skill Level Needed for Maintenance Issue

    You must now determine the level of skill necessary to complete the repair. Is it something you feel comfortable doing or do you need to hire a professional? If necessary, call the appropriate individual to determine their availability.

    5. Gather Materials

    If you are performing the repair yourself, gather the appropriate materials to complete the repair.

    6. Notify Tenant

    If the repair is inside the tenant’s unit, call the tenant to determine when you will be allowed inside the unit to make the repair. Ask if the tenant wants to be there for the repair or if they feel comfortable allowing you in the unit when they are not present.

    If the repair is in a common area of the building, you can use your judgment based on the urgency of the repair as to when you will repair it.

    If the repair requires turning off water, gas, electric or similar, you must notify all tenants in the building before you do so.

    7. Complete the Repair.

    8. Get Tenant Signature on Maintenance Issue

    If you outsourced the work: Make sure the repairman provides a detailed description of the work done, the time it took and the parts needed. Make sure the repairman signs and date this statement. The tenant should also sign this statement, corroborating that the work was indeed done and that it was done in the amount of time specified.

    If you completed the work yourself: Have the tenant who made the request sign off on the maintenance request stating that the repair was done and was done to their satisfaction. Make sure they also include the date and time.