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Last modified on May 19th, 2020
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In the past few months maintenance operations have had to shift due to COVID-19. With residents in their homes, property managers have had to rethink how they handle repairs and enact new policies to keep their residents, technicians, and vendors safe. Many property managers have also had to rely on mobile technology in order to keep their properties well-maintained and fulfill requests. We had a chance to connect with property managers to hear how they are responding to the situation and what they are doing to overcome COVID-19 challenges. Several had some great advice on this topic, here are five tips we gathered:

Tip #1: Use Mobile Tools to Communicate

As social distancing continues, your maintenance policies may be changing weekly, which is why it’s important to have mobile technology in place that allows you to keep your properties well-maintained and communicate with your residents safely. Industry expert Donald Davidoff, shared some insights on the importance of over-communicating with residents when it comes to maintenance repairs: 

“If you communicate up front, multiple times, through email, through signage, and then, individually as requests come in, and you explain why [you can’t complete a repair], the vast majority of residents are going to be understanding. So it’s always important to communicate, but in times like this it’s doubly so.” — Donald Davidoff, President of D2 Demand Solutions

With cloud-based technology, like AppFolio Property Manager you increase transparency by giving your residents the ability to submit maintenance requests and track the status using their online portal. You can also keep them in the loop on larger updates, like maintenance policy changes, through bulk texting and emailsor use the Push Notifications to Portal feature to post instructions or urgent notifications at the top of their Online Portal.

In addition, clearly communicating with your vendors and maintenance technicians is just as important. AppFolio’s all-in-one maintenance management system enables you to email vendors within a work order to quickly cancel or adjust activities. 

Here’s a quick video that shows some of the ways our customers are leveraging technology to manage their maintenance operations:

 

Tip #2: 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 

Consider bulk emailing or texting your residents and teams a PDF list of the repairs your company is currently deferring, so everyone is on the same page. AppFolio Property Manager also gives you the ability to communicate one-on-one with residents who submit maintenance requests through the Online Portal. 

In the instance a resident places a non-emergency request, you can reply back promptly to let them know their request has been seen and will be taken care of as soon as the circumstances allow. This not only improves efficiency, but ensures all residents receive a consistent and timely response. In addition, the software enables your team to text message residents within the platform, so they don’t have to field individual calls on their personal or work phones.

Tip #3: 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.

If you haven’t already be sure to share any updates to your safety policies with your residents, teams, vendors, and maintenance technicians. With AppFolio Property Manager you can share and store important documents all in one system, making it easy for everyone to access from anywhere, on any device. This is especially useful for communicating updates on your safety procedures with vendors, who may have different policies than your own.

Tip #4: Move to Virtual Inspections

With all of your residents at home and social distancing measures still in place, it can be difficult to conduct in-person inspections safely. Consider making this process digital for the short-term. Ask your residents if they would be comfortable with a live video walkthrough of their unit, so you can see the space and make any notes on damages you’d like to review later in-person. Not only is this more convenient and safe, it also prevents any bottlenecks in your normal process and saves time.

Tip #5: Provide Alternative Ways to Complete Non-Emergency Repairs

Property managers 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. 

Maintenance issues will arise during this time of social distancing, however if you have mobile technology in place that allows you to manage repairs and communicate with your residents, technicians, and vendors, 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.

 

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