Maintenance & Social Distancing: 5 Tips From Fellow Property Managers

April 10, 2020 Brittany Benz

We recently hosted a webinar to share the findings from our survey on How Property Managers are Responding to COVID-19. During the virtual event we had a chance to connect with participants in a Q&A session to hear how they are personally handling the situation. Many had questions related to maintenance, and how they could still maintain their properties and fulfill requests, while limiting in-person interactions. Several property managers had some great advice on this topic, here are five tips we gathered:

Tip #1: Only Take On Emergency Repairs

When asked how they are currently handling maintenance requests, the majority of property managers said they are adopting a stance of “emergency work orders only.” This means deferring any repairs that aren’t essential. How can you determine if a maintenance request is essential? Here’s a helpful list Jamie Blumenthal, President of H.E.R. Management Company shared on what she considers to be an emergency repair: 

Emergency Repairs Include:

    • Broken furnace or air conditioner
    • Ceiling or roof water leak
    • Fire or smoke damage
    • Gas smells or other noxious smells
    • Broken washing machine or dryer 
    • Leaking tub, pipe, faucet or garbage disposal
    • Continuous water running 
    • Sewage drain backup
    • Broken key in entry door
    • Burglary or forced entry into apartment
    • Mold growth
    • Stove or refrigerator not operating
    • Toilet not flushing or clogged
    • Power outage
    • No hot water
    • Leaking dishwasher 

Tip #2: Keep Your Staff & Residents Safe While Work Is Being Done

Across the board, property managers are concerned about keeping their residents and staff safe and healthy. In the event an emergency repair has to be completed they recommended taking these actions:

  • Ask residents to go for a walk or confine themselves in a separate room while a maintenance technician works on the repair.
  • Equip maintenance technicians with the proper safety gear, including gloves, a mask, protective eye gear, and antibacterial wipes.

Tip #3: Take Extra Safety Precautions When Handling Packages

Even though the majority of property managers are currently working from home, there’s still the danger of coming into contact with COVID-19 through mail and packages. Property managers from the webinar recommended taking the following steps when handling packages that contain maintenance supplies and tools:

    • Avoid direct contact with the delivery person
    • Leave the package outside for a few hours and/or spray it with aerosol disinfectant before handling
    • Dispose of all outer packaging immediately
    • Wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds or more
    • Disinfect any high-touch surfaces you had contact with after handling
    • Avoid touching your face, including your mouth, eyes, and nose

Tip #4: Provide Alternative Ways to Complete Non-Emergency Repairs

Participants from the webinar also gave some great advice when it came to providing their residents a means to complete a repair if they weren’t able to get it done. Here are a few alternative ways property managers are completing non-emergency repairs:

    • TJ Wesse, Property Manager of Pioneer Management in Oregon says he has been providing supplies and step-by-step video instructions (such as how to replace an air filter) for residents to complete the repair themselves if possible.
    • Meanwhile, Bethany Fullerton, Project Analyst of IRET said their maintenance technicians are doing video calls with residents to better understand issues and provide help remotely. 
    • Michelle McLinden, General Manager of Montana Crestview said her team is asking residents to send photos of maintenance issues, so they can assist virtually or provide tools if it’s an easy fix. 

Tip #5: Communicate with Your Residents Regularly

Lastly, as the COVID-19 situation unfolds, your maintenance policies may be changing weekly, which is why it’s important to communicate with your residents on a regular basis. Donna Block, President of Lux Communities, recently created an FAQ section on her company’s website that covers their updated maintenance policies. Not only does this make it easy for residents to find answers, but it also helps her team, as they can quickly update or add information if things change. 

Along with an FAQ page, you can also keep your residents in the loop by sending out a weekly email newsletter or bulk text messaging everyone using mobile property management software. In addition, you can give your residents the ability to submit and track the status of their maintenance requests online, and to communicate with maintenance technicians through a resident portal.

Maintenance issues will arise during this time of social distancing, however if you are able to defer non-essential repairs, communicate regularly, and provide residents ways to self-serve, you can still maintain your properties and deliver a good customer experience. By following these helpful tips you can  keep your staff and residents safe, healthy, and happy.

 

The post Maintenance & Social Distancing: 5 Tips From Fellow Property Managers appeared first on The Official AppFolio Blog.

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