The Repair Man Goofed.  What Now Property Manager?

on 20 March 2015
3 options realty Pipe Wrench

How should a residential property manager handle it when a tenant reports a recurring maintenance problem?  Do you bring back the same vendor or look for another?

 It’s a simple question but the answer is really not so simple.  If you bring back the same vendor, you must hold a high degree of trust in the contractual relationship.  Because you need the assurance of knowing that if the vendor discovers that the problem is due to its own faulty work, that that vendor will fess up and take responsibility?  In other words, is the work warranted and is there enough confidence in the relationship that they will honor their promise?   This is important because, alternatively, the vendor could try to convince you that the problem is unrelated, now expecting to get paid to repair what they themselves actually broke or failed to properly repair in the first place.

That’s why a preferable solution might be to get a second vendor to assess and perform the work.  One problem with this approach is that there is often a tendency for such vendors to overly criticize another vendor’s work quality.  In fact, the new and real maintenance issue could be actually unrelated but since the second vendor has no stake in protecting or making that first vendor look good, this new vendor might be inclined to let you think the worst.  The problem with this solution is that even if the problem was due to poor workmanship of the first vendor, the landlord will suffer paying twice for the job. 

If the second vendor is honest and responsible in assessing the first vendor’s work, and you do not give the first vendor the chance to do the repairs, it might be hard to convince that first vendor that it has some liability, especially if that vendor is not given the opportunity to check out the problem before the second vendor completes the work. 

If you do hire a second vendor only for the purpose of double checking the first vendor, the landlord will be left with paying a trip charge for the second vendor, and that might not settle well.  And you might also be opening up a debate between the vendors, delaying work completion while they sort it out.  Meanwhile you have an unhappy tenant waiting for all of this to be resolved.  One thing is for certain, the first vendor is not going to want to refund the money they received for the first repair job, whether it was done right or wrong. You might wind up in court to settle this argument.

So what’s the solution?  I have alluded to it already.  Establish trusted relationships with your vendors.  If it ever crosses your mind that you would be suspect about one of your vendors shooting straight with you about a repair job gone bad, then you probably ought to find a new vendor for that skill or trade before the inevitable happens.  Your landlord client hired you with a reasonable expectation that you will steer clear of such conundrums.

Daniel R. Wilhelm
Executive Broker
3 Options Realty, LLC., CRMC®, The Green Broker
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