Public schools have moved to online learning. Platinum-selling pop stars are performing live-stream concerts from their living rooms. An obscure conference call platform called Zoom has seemingly become the only glue holding our society together. Landlords suddenly have to think twice before performing basic maintenance tasks. We’re all adapting as best we can.
Our team at Renters Warehouse DC/NOVA has been in the business of DC property management for many years, and we’re adapting with the rest of you! If you’re a landlord wondering how to approach maintenance and repairs in the era of social distancing, we have some helpful advice and resources.
A word of caution: This blog post does not act as a substitute for medical advice or legal counsel. When in doubt, consult with your trusted attorney, property manager, and medical care provider for real-time assistance.
Maintain Open Communication
Before you worry too much about developing a specific maintenance policy, remember that it’s simply important to keep lines of communication open between you and your tenants. Let tenants know that you’re adapting to the new normal just like they are—and that you’re all in the same boat. Send out an email with any updates to your maintenance and upkeep policies, or post physical copies for tenants to read.
Communication is a two-way street, of course; make sure your tenants can reach you with any questions, concerns, or maintenance requests.
If you own a single property with only a few renters, this could be as simple as giving them your number and email address. However, if you have multiple rentals with lots of residents, you may want to consider setting up an online system where they can submit maintenance requests.
Differentiate Between Essential and Non-Essential Maintenance
Work to establish a firm definition of which maintenance tasks are essential—and which are not.
Any chores that are deemed non-essential can be deferred, but there are crucial repairs and maintenance that may need to be done—pandemic or no pandemic. Let your tenants know that essential maintenance will be taken care of. Essential maintenance typically includes vital services like a lack of heat or cooling, electrical issues, broken appliances critical to quality of life, and broken windows or doors.
In many single-family homes and duplexes, your renters are typically responsible for taking care of certain non-essential maintenance (i.e., changing light bulbs, cutting the grass, and testing smoke detectors). However, if you have an arrangement where you’re responsible for non-essential maintenance, make sure your tenants understand that these tasks may have to wait until the pandemic subsides.
Take All Necessary Safety Precautions
When an critical maintenance need arises, you or a member of your maintenance staff may have to enter a tenant’s living space to make the necessary repair.
In cases like these, it’s important to communicate openly and take all required precautions so that you, your staff, and your renters are all safe. Steps you should take before entering a tenant’s space to make repairs include:
- Working with your renters to plan ahead; schedule a time that works for all parties. Preferably, maintenance that requires entering a tenant’s space should be done when the renter is not home to minimize contact.
- In situations where you must be in your tenant’s living space while they are home, always maintain at least six feet of distance between you and your tenants.
- If you are doing the work yourself, wear a face mask and gloves when entering a tenant’s space. If you employ outside maintenance vendors, instruct them to do the same or request that they have access to proper PPE.
- When possible, hire a trained and qualified contractor to handle maintenance and repairs. Using third-party vendors reduces your liability, and gives you the peace of mind of knowing all work is done by qualified professionals.
An alternative to these options, as always, is to entrust your maintenance to your expert DC property management partner! Your property manager has the skills and connections you need to continue addressing important maintenance needs during a crisis.
Work With the Experts in DC Property Management
There are always plenty of benefits from hiring professional DC property management, but those benefits become even more clear during times like these.
Your property management team will handle all the necessary maintenance and inspections on your properties, creating a safe barrier between you and your renters. Great property managers also come with a deep roster of insured vendors on call, so there’s never a repair too serious to be quickly and safely fixed.
Of course, it’s important that you work with not just any property manager. Your property manager has your reputation to uphold—which is why you need a team of professionals who are as dedicated to your properties as you are, and who value your tenants as much as you do.
At Renters Warehouse DC/NOVA, we pride ourselves on going the extra mile to maintain and care for your property. We offer a wide range of resources to property owners for free to help them navigate such challenging times. Our favorite right now is our Collecting Rent in a Crisis Handbook, which will help you traverse the responsibilities of being a landlord in these challenging times.
Keep in mind that as of this writing, different restrictions apply to DC landlords with multiple properties compared to their NOVA counterparts when it comes to rent collection, so if you have any questions about how to best implement the material in our handbook, reach out to us!